ESR 10 Blog January 2022: Anna Fech

How to not think about technology

In the second year of the pandemic-dominated period, listening to conferences online has now become a routine. I am attending some of the lectures virtually at the Belvedere conference “The Art Museum in the Digital Age – 2022”[1]. I assume that anyone who starts thinking about the digital space as an isolated phenomenon will first get puzzled. As Werner Schweibenz mentions, the digital and the so called real are not oppositional couples, but they are intertwined. They are interferences that stand in mutual relationships and are characterized by their hybridity. When we look at photographs, for example, we first perceive the represented object. As a second step the photographic technique is analyzed. Without the captured image we could not talk about the medium either. Sometimes I get the impression that this is often overlooked when discussing the digital space. It cannot be grasped as such as long as it is not filled with something.

Among the speakers, Kayla Shipp comments on the topic of digital cultural heritage. She considers it a problematic assumption to reduce the digitally reproduced artifact to the digital tool consisting of a collection of codes. So, people she deals with professionally often think more about the technology than the content and what the content actually needs.

In relation to my research topic on digital networks, this is an interesting aspect. Perhaps it would be insightful to look at existing networks first and, in a second step, to see how far the digital space initiated a transformation.

In autumn last year when several countries in Europe were slowly being reclassified as risk areas in red, clubs were closed again and contact restrictions were tightened, I visited the exhibition ‘Up All night: Looking closer at Rave Culture’ at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn. The exhibition had been planned in pre-pandemic times. Nevertheless, discussing the political-poetic dimensions of the rave in such a period almost seems like a critical statement of the still ongoing politics of isolation.

In an interview, curator Kati Ilves explains that rave culture is not just simply partying, but reflects the situation in society. The rave culture in Great Britain emerged as a response to the Thatcher regime to break out of the rigid structures of class society – due to drug problems the events always walked the fine line of legality. Nowadays, it’s social distancing that pulls these parties into an illicit realm.

“(…)in Britain, raves were able to function well for some time before they were banned in 1994 and thus pushed underground. Last summer I started to hear from acquaintances in Berlin, foremost, that everyone is going to forest parties – the information about them is exchanged on WhatsApp, and the police have come to break up the gatherings. It seemed that due to the pandemic, the circle was complete: once again, the culture of raving had become illegal.”[2]

The exhibition looks at the main European venues of the rave scene, such as in England, Belgium or Germany. Only three local artists Kiwa, Tarvo Hanno Varres, and Sandra Kosorotova are featured. According to the curator, the reason for this is that there is too little artistic documentation. The catalog, on the other hand, promises a deeper insight into Estonia’s scene as well.

In fact, apart from the rave scene, Estonia and the other Baltic states have an interesting tradition of using music as protest culture. Between 1987 and 1991, a national movement emerged in the Baltics dubbed the Singing Revolution, a peaceful form of resistance to regain state independence from the Soviet Union. On August 23, 1989, a human chain of more than two million people formed more than 600 kilometers from Tallinn, via Riga to Vilnius. They met for peaceful demonstrations and sang traditional folk songs. At the time these were punishable, since all national songs that were not dedicated to the supranational fatherland of the Soviet Union were forbidden – there was a risk of job loss and even deportation.[3]

These examples from music history of forming a political solidarity community, show that the need to unite with others acts as a social phenomenon – a network of common interests. Social media may now make it possible for these gatherings to organize more quickly and with less effort, but first and foremost is the willingness to connect with others. This interest cannot be stopped even if, for example, the internet and social media are shut down by the state, as has been seen in the unrest in Iran or Kazakhstan. People still find ways of communicating to unite and stand up for their common goals.

[1] Online Conference 17th January – 21 January 2022 ‘The Art Museum in the Digital Age’,

[2] Interview with Kati Ilves by Maria Helen Känd, ‘Being at a rave is a clearly defined moment in time’. Published in (accessed 26th of January, 2022)

[3] Estonica. Encyclopedia about Estonia (accessed 26th of January, 2022)

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