Exodus (Negev Desert, 1995)


With the discovery of the Grotte Chauvet in France at the end of last year, a fantastic discovery was made near Robion, where this year also the documentary work Flussers Fluss ([Vilém] Flusser’s current) is completed. The discovery impressively underpins Vilém Flusser's approach to multidisciplinary media research. Against this background, his comments on paleontology and paleoanthropology during the walks through Provence with Michael Bielicky, which are documented in the long version of Flusser's Fluss, are all the more astounding.

After working intensively with Flusser during the past year and successfully bringing the vision of the self-delivering human information carrier to life, coupled with the observation of the rapidly accelerating development of the Internet, the idea for Exodus arises as part of the Ars Electronica Welcome to the Wired World. While the Society for German Language chooses multimedia as the word of the year and the events and symposia of the Ars Electronica deal with the networked world, the network was still thought of as wired. One of the network projects that emerged in this context was Exodus and, inspired by Flusser, dealt with the roots of the genesis of Jewish culture and religion or Jewish deep time, which in part were already evident in the early video works and video sculptures. It is interesting to note, that Exodus was for the most part already based on wireless technology, as was Intelligent Mailman.

Exodus was nothing less than the transcendent version of Intelligent Mailmann: the project traced the route of Moses and his people out of Jerusalem using GPS technology and documented this route on a minimalist website. Since CSS is not yet very widespread in Germany, the website is characterized by the typical html-style: blue, underlined links for navigation, images falling out of frame begging to never resize the screen, the typical New York Times font. The bearer of the GPS system was no longer a single person here, but an off-road vehicle and thus suitable to transport technology that was a lot more powerful – and it needed to be more powerful: a project of this magnitude would simply not have been measurable by the consumer versions of GPS-technology at that time. The Israeli military was won over as a supporter through the University of Tel Aviv, so that the team's equipment, a portable computer including a modem, the satellite phone and the corresponding GPS transponder were the most up-to-date one could get at the time. However, the intention behind the project was not to understand the strains and hardships of migrating through Negev desert, not an artistic reenactment of the Exodus from Jerusalem. Rather, the tracing of the exodus from Jerusalem was to be understood as a parallelism, as the predecessor and prototype of the general exodus of people from a mainly material world into an immersive, ubiquitous world of the digital: an exodus of global importance that is supposed to mark the time before the network and the time after the network. So it is only logical that only an Html-archive of a few megabytes testifies to this departure into the networked age, this historical event, which can be easily copied onto any consumer USB stick – logical because this were the means of digital exodus at hand, albeit fed with transcendent content.

The GPS transponder, which is permanently installed on an off-road vehicle, is connected to a satellite phone and the portable computer. The technology was provided by the Israeli military. The localization data and documentary data in text, image and video format is stored in real time on the website and is immediately accessible to the digital world. 

Paul Kenig