An interactive representation of a possibility

This picture-phone connection was not documented in the proceedings, nor was it announced in the programme. It did not crop up in any of the production schemes, but Rop Gonggrijp reports on it in his article in Hack-Tic. "A computer with a colour screen and modem was connected with a similar thing in Moscow and was used to exchange images of the audience here for images of Russians who tried very hard to look as silly as possible. In the coming days the videophone connection was mostly used to connect to some west coasters who had an amazing sense of timing: whenever our programme of the GHP could NOT use it, some vague Americans were on the line." (Gonggrijp 1989, 22). In hindsight, reading through the Personal Folders, I realise this phone connection was probably a result of the contact with the Americans who tried to set up the videoconference. They had arranged for the picture phone person to come to Paradiso and any technology that could be used, was used at the GHP.

Captain Crunch had already made contact with Moscow on the first day. So we saw letters on the screen typed by Russian guys in English (the connection was made via the Well in San Francisco). The Berlin Wall had not yet come down. There was great tension in Eastern Europe (Vaclav Havel had been sentenced to prison in Prague) and the world behind the Iron Curtain was, possibly because of the start of Perestroika, in its last ludicrous throes of power. It was great to know that we were in 'contact' with Moscow, but walking in and out of the auditorium, it was more letters on a screen. And I was happy to see Crunch was happy, and other people who all believed in the connection, were happy. We were struck; we were penetrating the Iron Curtain!

The first time that I saw an e-mail in 1982 I was shocked by the triviality of the sentence, conveyed by so much technology. The e-mail said: 'Hi, I bought new shoes'. This time, because we'd said Hi and waved to the other side of the iron curtain, I was shocked and touched. They, the tech guys, could actually go across borders; no politics could prevent people from connecting with each other anymore.

I was witnessing the mediated presence of the Russians and realized Crunch was mediating his presence to them. The audience was witnessing this exchange of mediated presences. As a producer I was really happy, as a person I was shocked because we could actually do it. I was touched because it meant we could cross over borders, in the good sense. Even though it was confusing, running from Amsterdam via the USA to the USSR, via the Well in San Francisco to Moscow? Who was playing what game? How the different interests were interwoven was not transparent. Political realities have an impact on connectivity, they did at the time and they still do today. This issue was discussed at the GHP a great deal. The connection with the Russians made it an experience for me. What actually happened and how it happened I do not know. I saw an interactive representation of a possibility.