18 02 06

Netbase (1995-2006)

Felix Stalder

Yesterday, there was a party in Vienna. It was a small, at times sombre, at times
exuberant affair, fitting for the occasion. The final call for netbase, the institute for cultural technologies. Today, the doors remained closed and the website turned static. After more than a decade sailing hard against the currents, suffering countless near-death experiences, it's hard to believe that the fall of the curtain is now final. No more publicity stunts.

With the netbase, one of the last 'free radicals' of the early internet culture disappears, an institution which understood art as necessarily critical, both of the commercial hype and the old and new centers of power.

Insisting on the freedom of art, defining its value as cultural intelligence, probing alternative futures, netbase refused play along with the neo-liberal redefinition of culture into 'services' to be measured by tourism boards, economic development agencies, or ministries of education. Rather, what characterized netbase was an insistence on acting in public, engaging the public directly and on its own terms. That such an approach is ultimately doomed, particularly in a country like Austria, is hardly a surprise. Like a crash in a formula one race, it's easy to say "i saw it coming."

Even if the real surprise is probably that netbase lasted that long, witnessing its closure is a sad affair nevertheless. Particularly for those who enjoyed, at one time or another, its particular kind of hospitality in here Vienna.

Felix Stalder