Upgrade! International: D.I.Y.


December 1, 2006 - January 6, 2007

Upgrade! is an emerging, global network of international artists’ groups united by art, technology and a commitment to bridging cultural divides. From November 30 - December 3, 2006, international Upgrade! organizers and artists converged in Oklahoma City to present art and ideas to each other and the community during the second annual international symposium. The exhibit at [Artspace] at Untitled featured Multimedia works from Montreal, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Sofia, Lisbon, Seoul, Belgrade, and Oklahoma representing Upgrade's 2006 theme: DIY (Do-It-Yourself).

In 1962, the United States Department of Defense, responding to increased tensions with the former Soviet Union, launched an initiative to investigate how they could maintain control of their warheads after a thermo nuclear attack. It was deemed necessary to establish a decentralized network that could withstand a devastating attack on one or more of its cities. Five years later, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was formed linking four nodes: The University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford University, The University of California at Santa Barbara and The University of Utah. Paradoxically, this “war time” initiative formed during a period of imposed governmental isolationism shaped the first working model of what is now referred to as the World Wide Web.

Thirty years later, in hopes of forming a community of artists interested in the exploration of electronic media, Yael Kanarek launched an initiative in New York that would eventually materialize into the Upgrade! network. Upgrade! has grown tremendously since its inception; the network currently covers twenty-one international cities and bridges numerous cultural divides. It is difficult to imagine that the Cold War gave rise to the Internet and that the Internet produced a technological infrastructure capable of launching Upgrade!.  

2006 marks the second annual physical gathering and celebration of the Upgrade! network. Oklahoma City was selected as a site to host this unique consortium of international artists.  Each year, a theme is selected for the event that represents both the demographics of the hosting city and current priorities of the Upgrade! International Network.  This year, the Upgrade event will be characterized by the theme, Do-It-Yourself (DIY). Adopted by the Upgrade nodes as an empowering term, DIY operates as a starting point to discuss the intersecting relationships that exist among the relatively recent historical formation of the State of Oklahoma, art history, artistic practice, and technology.

The planning of the 2006 International Upgrade! symposium has truly been a DIY undertaking! The catalogue has been produced and assembled by the collective of Upgrade! nodes. The Upgrade has contributed to the Oklahoma art community in several unexpected ways.  The Symposium planning committee has united many individuals and art organizations including Untitled [ArtSpace], Oklahoma Visual Artists Coalition, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Central Oklahoma, Individual Artists of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.  Not only have these organizations provided space and financial resources, but valuable hard work and personal support.  Special thanks to Julia Kirt, Laura Warriner, Joe Daun, Brian Hearn, Jeff Stokes and Brent Goddard for their commitment to this project; without their help, this DIY project would not have been possible!

Kate Armstrong, Mushon Zer-Aviv and Dan Phiffer, Symbiotic Media Group