Gegenort - The Virtual Mine

"Gegenort - The Virtual Mine" is a globally networked exhibition and multimedia project initiated by five media artists from the Saarland, Germany (Monika Bohr, Claudia Brieske, Leslie Huppert, Fevzi Konuk, Gertrud Riethmüller) at the site of the disused mine Gegenort in Neunkirchen-Wiebelskirchen, where it will take place in summer 2001 with the support of the Neunkircher Kulturgesellschaft (Neunkircher Culture Assosiation).

The exhibition will extend over the whole industrial site. In front of the pit building ten containers will be set up in which artistic installations from all over the world will be shown. Loosely laid cables will network the containers with the pit building serving as a headquarter. Webcams will be installed at the site feeding everything that happens at Gegenort into the World Wide Web. The whole mine will, consequently, be transformed into a modern factory erected for a limited period of time at a disused industrial site with the purpose of taking up production.

What is the concept behind this exhibition project? The basic idea the artists had in mind is that of the Gegenort mine as a place of energy production. In former times coal was produced here; the most important raw material of the industrial era. In our age of communication the primary resources are information, knowledge and imagination. They are providing the energy necessary to keep the economic motor running. Their utilization is no longer locally restricted, rather they are distributed around the globe, since knowledge and imagination are resources inherent in man himself.
The artists' intention is to continue the original purpose of the mine as a place of energy production. From here they are looking everywhere in the world for artistic ideas, concepts and suggestions or, to put it briefly, for the artistic energy of the planet. Their tool is the internet, which they use to invite artists from all over the world to send their concepts to Gegenort.

The group of artists kept closely to the original purpose of the mine and, moreover, drew inspiration from its meaningful name "Gegenort", which can be literally translated into English as "opposing place". The idea was born to look for today's raw material by creating a virtual borehole lengthening the disused shaft up to the centre of the earth. The centre of the earth constitutes the interface of five imaginary tunnels linking ten diametrically opposed places from different parts of the world with one another. These ten opposing places form a virtual mine aimed at the production of artistic energy from all over the planet. The energy will be led through the shafts of the mine to the disused industrial site near Neunkirchen.
Each of these ten opposing places constitutes the centre of a zone, which will be systematically "exploited", much the same as a coal bed. Via the medium internet the artists will carefully search the zones for artistic ideas, approach foreign artists or people interested in art from all over the planet and invite them to sent their concepts to the Gegenort headquarter.

The exhibition will make the virtual mine tangible: The main building will be the point, where the incoming ideas are collected. Here the artistic energy will come out, here it will be transported from the invisible virtual world into our reality - much the same as coal, which used to rest invisibly in the earth at our feet, until it was brought to light and consequently into our world to be made available for man. These processes will be illustrated by video projections, cables emerging from the ground etc. The cables will come out of the main building and end in the set up containers. Each zone will be assigned to one container, in which the one concept chosen from that zone will be realized and "worked on" for the duration of the exhibition. All other ideas will be presented at the site in the concept version they were sent in and will be "stock piled" until further utilization.

The visitor to the exhibition will be able to travel through the artistic evolution of the world. The invisible world of the internet will be made visible at Gegenort and the transition from the industrial era to today's information society will be made tangible by means of installations.

The project initiated by the group of artists may contribute to filling the social and economic vaccuum caused by the recession of the eighties and the nineties. The project will set a positive example: The days of stagnation belong to the past, the age of networking with the world has begun. The fact that a local tradition can give birth to something new without abandonning the experience of the past will be made obvious to the visitor. In this respect "The Virtual Mine" differs from other projects realized at former industrial sites, which use shut down plants as a spectacular setting for events disregarding the original purpose of the place concerned or reflecting its past with nostalgic transfiguration without establishing a link to the present or the future. "The Virtual Mine" could turn out to be an interesting and completely new approach to answering the question how disused industrial sites can be used again. The concept of the project can be reduced to the simple formula: Energy was produced at Gegenort, energy is produced at Gegenort. On this foundation a bridge is built between the industrial era and today's communication society.