An Unfinished Communications Revolution

Hole-in-Space (1980), networked installation by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz

I was a grad student at CalArts when Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz staged their masterwork Hole-in-Space at Century City in LA, simultaneously connecting Lincoln Center in New York. As I was explaining to Kit while preparing for his upcoming interview on the next installment of Networked Conversations, if only I had known this historic event was happening just a few miles away. His response was that no one knew, no one expected it, it was never announced. One of the earliest (if not the first) satellite art installations, Hole-in-Space, just spontaneously appeared out of nowhere.

Well before video conferencing became a common fixture of corporate board rooms and universities, and even longer before Skype upended the telephone for long distance communications, Kit and Sherrie created Hole-in-Space, a networked Happening for those fortunate enough to be there at the right time and in the right place. And much to their surprise, they ventured into, literally, a “hole in space” consisting of two large projection screens uniting participants 3,000 miles apart. Those on either side had a glimpse, most likely for the first time, of a geographically dispersed and immersive broadcast space. Those who witnessed the event, chattering across the distance, experienced an entirely new form of broadcasting that decentralized and ruptured the hierarchical paradigm of television.

I missed all of this while I was at CalArts innocently soaking up art school culture. And that is precisely what Kit and Sherrie had in mind. They were realizing something entirely new, an artistic medium in public space far from objects, galleries, museums and art schools. Here, social interaction constituted the work. Hole-in-Space is an interactive installation inviting everyday people to creatively come together in a collective narrative, where the viewer is the maker and communication is the content.

And they succeeded in opening new doors. Hole-in-Space has since become their best known work, in some ways, unfortunately, overshadowing their many other seminal projects, including the dance work of Satellite Arts ’77, and the now classic 1984 Electronic Café, which became an incubator hub in Santa Monica where Kit and Sherrie hosted networked performances, exhibitions and dialogue well into the late 1990s.

But the communications revolution they helped launch in the 1970s is far from over. Today, we can view the ubiquity of social media, Web-conferencing, Skype, and video chat as having roots in the pioneering work of Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz. By situating their tele-collaborative laboratories outside of the art world and the academy, they were able to visualize much ahead of their time just how crucial communications would become as agency for political and social transformation in the public sphere.

This is a revolution that will never be completed because there will alway be an urgent need for radical instruments of change: perhaps now more than ever.

| Kit Galloway – Networked Conversations |

Kit Galloway, co-founder of the Electronic Café with Sherrie Rabinowitz ::: Locate your time zone: Monday, April 24, 6:00pm-7:00pm (PDT) / 9:00pm-10:00pm (EDT) / Tuesday April 25, 3am-4am (CEDT) / 9am-10am (SGT) ::: Networked Conversations is hosted by Randall Packer ::: live & online via Internet chat ::: presented by the Third Space Network.