|Type||International art-technology-philosophy group|
|Headquarters||Museumsquartier, Vienna, Austria|
Monochrom (stylised as monochrom) is an international art-technology-philosophy group, publishing house and film production company. It was founded in 1993, and defines itself as "an unpeculiar mixture of proto-aesthetic fringe work, pop attitude, subcultural science and political activism". Its main office is located at Museumsquartier/Vienna (at 'Q21').
The group's members are: Johannes Grenzfurthner, Evelyn Fürlinger, Harald Homolka-List, Anika Kronberger, Franz Ablinger, Frank Apunkt Schneider, Daniel Fabry, Günther Friesinger and Roland Gratzer.
The group is known for working with different media and entertainment formats, although many projects are performative and have a strong focus on a critical and educational narrative. Johannes Grenzfurthner calls this "looking for the best weapon of mass distribution of an idea". Monochrom is openly left-wing and tries to encourage public debate, sometimes using subversive affirmation or over-affirmation as a tactic. The group popularized the concept of "context hacking".
On the occasion of Monochrom's 20th birthday in 2013, several Austrian high-profile media outlets paid tribute to the group's pioneering contributions within the field of contemporary art and discourse.
In the early 1990s, Johannes Grenzfurthner was an active member of several BBS message boards. He used his online connections to create a zine or alternative magazine that dealt with art, technology and subversive cultures, and was influenced by US magazines like Mondo 2000. Grenzfurthner's motivations were to react to the emerging conservatism in cyber-cultures of the early 1990s and to combine his political background in the Austrian punk and antifa movement with discussion of new technologies and the cultures they create. Franz Ablinger joined Grenzfurthner and they became the publication's core team.
The first issue was released in 1993. Over the years the publication featured many interviews and essays, for example by Bruce Sterling, HR Giger, Richard Kadrey, Arthur Kroker, Negativland, Kathy Acker, Michael Marrak, DJ Spooky, Geert Lovink, Lars Gustafsson, Tony Serra, Friedrich Kittler, Jörg Buttgereit, Eric Drexler, Terry Pratchett, Jack Sargeant and Bob Black, in its specific experimental layout style.
In 1995 the group decided to cover new artistic practices and started experimenting with different media: performances, computer games, robots, puppet theater, musical, short films, pranks, conferences, online activism.
In 1995 we decided that we didn't want to constrain ourselves to just one media format (the "fanzine"). We knew that we wanted to create statements, create viral information. So a quest for the best "Weapon of Mass Distribution" started, a search for the best transportation mode for a certain politics of philosophical ideas. This was the Cambrian Explosion of monochrom. We wanted to experiment, try stuff, find new forms of telling our stories. But, to be clear, it was (and still is) not about keeping the pace, of staying up-to-date, or (even worse) staying "fresh". The emergence of new media (and therefore artistic) formats is certainly interesting. But etching information into copper plates is just as exciting. We think that the perpetual return of 'the new', to cite Walter Benjamin, is nothing to write home about - except perhaps for the slave-drivers in the fashion industry. We've never been interested in the new just in itself, but in the accidental occurrence. In the moment where things don't tally, where productive confusion arises.
All the other core team members joined between 1995 and 2006.
Grenzfurthner is the group's artistic director. He defines Monochrom's artistic and activist approach as 'Context hacking' or 'Urban Hacking'.
The group monochrom refers to its working method as "Context Hacking," thus referencing the hacker culture, which propagates a creative and emancipatory approach to the technologies of the digital age, and in this way turns against the continuation into the digital age of centuries-old technological enslavement perpetrated through knowledge and hierarchies of experts. ... Context hacking transfers the hackers' objectives and methods to the network of social relationships in which artistic production occurs, and upon which it is dependent. ... One of context hackers' central ambitions is to bring the factions of counterculture, which have veered off along widely diverging trajectories, back together again.
From its very foundation, the group defined itself as a movement, culture (referring to Iain M. Banks's sci-fi series) and "open field of experimentation". Monochrom supported and supports various artists, activists, researchers and communities with an online publishing platform, a print publishing service (edition mono), and organizes in-person meetings, screenings, radio shows, debate circles, conferences, online platforms. It is fundamental for the group's core members to combine artistic and educational endeavors with community work (cf. social practice).
Some collaborations have been rather short-lived (for example the publication of a 1993 fringe science paper by Jakob Segal, projects with the Billboard Liberation Front and Ubermorgen or the administration of Dorkbot Vienna), some have been going for many years and decades (for example with Michael Marrak, Cory Doctorow, Jon Lebkowsky, Fritz Ostermayer, V. Vale, eSeL, Scott Beale/Laughing Squid, Machine Project, Emmanuel Goldstein, Jason Scott, Jonathan Mann, Jasmin Hagendorfer and the Porn Film Festival Vienna), Michael Zeltner, Anouk Wipprecht, VSL Lindabrunn).
Monochrom supports initiatives like the Radius Festival, Play:Vienna, the Buckminster Fuller Institute Austria, RE/Search, the Semantic Web Company and the Vienna hackerspace Metalab. For a couple of years, Monochrom ran the DIY project "Hackbus" in cooperation with David "Daddy D" Dempsey (of FM4)
Since 2007, Monochrom is the European correspondent for Boing Boing Video.
Monochrom offers a collaborative art residency in Vienna. Since 2003 the group has invited and created projects with artists, researchers, and activists like Suhrkamp's Johannes Ullmaier, pop theorist Stefan Tiron, performance artist Angela Dorrer, DIY blogger (and later: entrepreneur) Bre Pettis, photographer and activist Audrey Penven, digital artist Eddie Codel, sex work activist Maggie Mayhem, glitch artist Phil Stearns, illustrator Josh Ellingson, DIY artist Ryan Finnigan, digital artist Jane Tingley, digital rights activist Jacob Appelbaum, sex tech expert Kyle Machulis, hacker Nick Farr, filmmakers Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein, writer Jack Sargeant, and others.
All former resident artists are considered ambassadors.
Johannes Grenzfurthner sees Monochrom as a community and social incubator of critical and subversive thinkers. An example is Bre Pettis of MakerBot Industries, who got inspired to create 3d printers during his art residency with Monochrom in 2007. Pettis wanted to create a robot that could print shot glasses for Monochrom's cocktail-robot event Roboexotica and did research about the RepRap project at Metalab. Shot glasses remained a theme throughout the history of MakerBot.
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