A text written in Italian is similar to a Zen exercise to an emigrant. The concentration comes when you write by hand, at the back of a printed paper. English keeps your mind busy, your brain is mixed up with the sounds of a long travel: Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian and Dutch, just as familiar to me as Milanese is. Paper and pen are magic, basic and fundamental tools. The evocation flows peacefully through the “normal subject”, a “me” whoever. As history is always someone’s history and personal acts tickle and pierce.
A written text is a subjective path to the memory as well as a free association game. It isn’t a complete and thorough report, but the symptom of a reflection. Romania is a curious country. Not only for the charm of the Gipsy community, coming from India and settled here a millennium ago. And nor even exclusively for vampires, Dracula and Transylvania . Romania represents even Communism, and the beginning of the Revolution, exploded precisely in Timisoara .
An image of this country, as an icon, has taken shape in my head I don’t know how many years ago, a very sunny meadow, with a grass and a particularly vivid sky, such as Super8 children films some years ago. Almost in the middle of the image three subjects walk from the right to the left: a man, a woman and a squat horse. The lady carries a heavy burden on her head, wrapped in a sort of fabric jar, arms stretched to avoid counter blows. Sat astride the beast, wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect him from the sun, the Man sits gracefully, the nose is red and his belly is full of wine. The lady moves forward, not according to dictates of chivalry, but to thwart with her body possible mines. Silence.
Romania : Latin cultural matrix, harsh humour, irreversibility feeling of reality, sometimes portray Eastern countries. I remember a trip to Timisoara in 1999, by bus, with an English boy with the name of a Comics’ hero. We never crossed the border. The bus abandoned us during the night in the Midlands, and we decided to set off northward hitchhiking for Budapest . British people were warmly welcomed, this is my experience.
After seven years, I suggested the idea of the Eclectic Tech Carnival in that same city. This time, I would have gone there alone. I had been travelling for more than a month, facing, with sandals and my rucksack, the blazing hot Europe of the end of July. Freedom suddenly recovered, the pleasure of solidarity. Last destination or almost, Romania . My relationship with women, the female sex I mean, has been, during summer, to say the least, dramatic. I have seen rows, beers fly and I was even left alone one night.
Hidden in the desert outskirts of Milan, where sidewalks, according to the ancient tradition of marble workers and grave robbers, are filled with gravestones, I walked thoughtful with Ubiq, which ejected excrements near fake dead men, dead men in exposition just as manikins. Till, after having paid a visit to Hackmeeting , I took the first flight Milano-Timisoara.
Big economic interests bond the Italian North-East to Romania , and the connections between those two countries prove it. All my travel mates represented some product, such as laminated plastic. No one could understand why my concept of work didn’t include the selling of something. In the airport, when we landed, three coloured lines marked that you were entering the country, near the check in: a red, white and a green one. I decide to make some questions.
I take my passport and I queue up in the “EU residents” row. The employee shows me smiling the Non-EU row. I’m sorry, but I must insist to demonstrate my belonging to this community. That’s it: I’m in Romania , in Timisoara . I forget my legal identity, now I am X name .
I will meet women coming from other places, with similar and different stories. Fragments of space thrown in the air such as they were confetti. You can approach a nomad carnival through a passage, a trip. The transit time, everyday life suspension, the passage in places and non places works as a ritual mask, lays bare the subject and opens the relationship with Alterity, the transformation. According to Rosi Braidotti, the “nomadic” style is the one which better lends itself to the research of feminist representations. “In my work on Nomadism as philosophic concept I focused on the differences between conditions of mobility -chosen or imposed- such as for the case of emigration, and other figurations of subjectivity such as exile, precariousness of workers within the market of the so-called flexible job or nomadism.” [Nicotra, Mary ( 14 July 2002 ) -Philosophies of our time: interview to Rosi Braidotti].
The Eclectic Tech Carnival is a meeting of women and technology. A nomad carnival devoted to “technical” activities. The project, conceived by Gender Changer , is organised by an international collective of women. The gender-changer is a device which changes the sex of a connector and allows two extremities of the same type to fix in such a way as to communicate. The Gender Changer Academy is a non profit organisation managed by women and meant for women, whose first goal is to boost the development of knowledge within the IT-technological sphere.
This group, born in Amsterdam in 2000 around the hacker cafe’ ASCII (acronym for Subversive Centre for the Interchange of Information of Amsterdam ) is characterize by a specific attention to the hardware basis for didactic methods directed to solve problems of any kind. The Eclectic Tech Carnival first took place in 2002, in Pula , Athens , Belgrade and Graz . The fifth edition was settled in Romania , in Timisoara , from the 4 th to the 8 th of September.
The event was organised in collaboration with D MEDIA , a non governmental organisation promoting free access and production of information, and H.arta , a space handled by the artists Maria Crista, Anca Gyemant and Rodica Tach , who, from 2001, have been proposing shows and events in Timisoara .
The organising event took place on June in Rome , hosted by Feramenta , active hacker female collective whose birth has its roots back in the enthusiasm of 2005 ETC. This year, for the first time, the event opened two days to the Male Spectator. In Rome I exposed my reasons in favour of this mixing up. First of all, I am not a woman, or, what does define me such?
I didn’t mean sexual orientations, Queer ideology or chirurgical genetic mutations. I referred to the complexity of reality, to identity as constant deformation. To the difference you can perceive in the relation and in its nuance. Last year, in Graz , I perceived this separatism as destabilizing, I felt deprived. I had lost my points of reference.
And yet, on my way back, after seventeen hours of train Graz-Amsterdam, I reconciled with a man, Staying among women is good, I thought, because in fact I desired it very much. We laughed. I hadn’t been sleeping for days. He didn’t perceive my desperation. “Now I understand, now we understand…”
Ok. But, when? I felt that the distance could to be filled up just with another distance. Or with fusion. What men will ever understand? And, especially, who are they? How little do we know about them? The distinction exists, and it is important to recognise it. Genetic, historic and social distinction. Maybe even psychological, if psychology makes any sense. And yet the frontier is instable. We are floating. We are subject who draw different cartographies. Our modalities of construction and position found on non unity, the flow and movements. And the movement is not only the physical shifting but identity migration, metamorphosis and recognition too.
In Rome we have defined separatism as an experimentation space. Not like a goal, or a substantial and ideological difference. I proposed the concept of Floating Gender and we have come to reflect on the minorities and groups. They say there are seven women for each man, yet, the woman is a minority in the system of social forces. Minor and major are complex signs. We can be many without having any value. Curious.
According to the ‘Gender Changer’ vision, women have a different approach to learning than men. I do not agree. If I had to define the fundamental difference between man and woman, I would use a reflection, among the one I heard and thought about so far. Women live in a cyclic time, a never ending bend: the sinusoidal spiral. The time of men is instead linear and directional: the vector time.
As far as teaching is concerned, there is a basic pre-concept compared with roles and the idea of machine. Machine is a tool -of hunt and not of gathering- planned by men. So, we think man is naturally more capable and socially destined for such a use. But which type of sexual being are we, human, facing a machine? Defining sexuality as “Floating gender”, system of positions and mutant as well as mutable roles, what happens when we face the “Animated” of the machine? It isn’t a question of the sex of the machine or of the life within it. The reflection regards the identity we can assume when we enter in relation with technology, media and prothesis.
The space machine is an environment of auto-definition, of slipping. For this reason, especially in the field of technology, I find insisting on a rigid separatism not very productive. The exclusively feminine environments have always existed and it is now that I think it is more interesting imagining the erasure of the gender frontiers. Ubiquity disfigures the space of the net, actions are achieved by the distance and gender can be auto-determined.
The IT environment breaks the binomial man versus woman, female and male, introducing a third element of transformation and confrontation, it is possible to hide behind, or find yourself or just lose yourself (I extend the concept of machine to the Artificial Intelligence one). And compared with it you can be Other.
Anyway, women have lived and still live limitations in their relationship with technology. They are often denied the access to machines, and many professional environments are prevalently masculine. When I was six, I wanted to touch a computer (my brother had the permission to do it), and I was answered girls need “that machine” when they have to write their thesis. And I have undergone, instead, years of classical music lessons.
You need courage to learn, courage to manifest an interest, to ignore everything on that matter. The courage to go wrong, or to be unable. Sometimes the idea you could learn from another woman generates trust.
Etc 06 is a stimulating event, rich in many points of view. We have taught different subjects, with a specific attention to open source and free software issues, and a certain awareness of the structures lacks within the environments in which this knowledge was broadcast from. There was a reflection on the computer as a tool of expression and enunciation, but even as possibility of emancipation and independence. Those possible magic wands turn lead to gold, or, using less esoteric words, they allow a woman to have a job, earn a living and depend on nobody.
There was a lot attention on the needs and on the level of the woman present. Feramenta girls have prepared a practical guide for surviving the different platforms, a list of tricks in order to use at their best the resources on any type of system. Beyond the classic HTML, CSS and Hardware, there were distance courses, such as UpStage, a program which allows you to handle in real time performances through the net.
There was a demonstration of mapping with GPS, and an introduction to the intelligent buy in an IT shop. The audiovisual section was appreciated a lot, from the basis of digital audio, to the use of the mixer and the tracks superimposition. The concept of layer, or level, was the point of suture between sound manipulation and the visual one. Gimp, Audacity and any other non linear editing program use a system of stratification of meaning and content which is a key point in order to understand how to move in this field.
The intent was to promote a general comprehension of machines and workings and creation processes, which can serve as a plot to a wholesome process of auto-learning. It is teaching how to learn, giving the basis to knowledge and the necessary reflective stimulus. Make the apprentice master himself, this is the key.
Moreover, teaching means learning too, it is an interchange, a point of passage with not well defined limits. This year I felt a sensation of ease, widespread calm and wellbeing during this female gathering. I have understood the value of cultural and experience confrontation among women. In this supranational economical state the world is, it is very important that minorities, “different”, the local realities maintain the communication open among them and raise their voice. The knowledge passage among women is therefore interesting not because the learning method is substantially different, but because of the complicity within relationships and for the social consequences the contact with women generates. Knowledge isn’t a list of data or a dynamic list.
Knowledge is a fluid. During ETC audiovisual afternoons, there was a moment in which my eyes were misted, I felt the sugars in my blood end, and my body sliding under my conscience. It wasn’t the bite of a vampire. And yet something was going on: I had passed my thirst, my passionate curiosity and my addiction to machines to other women. I had opened some cracks and instilled the seed of desire which can’t be satisfied.
“Can we stop here five minutes? I’ll go take a breath of fresh air, but sunlight hurts my eyes.