Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) is an interdisciplinary collaborative group working collectively and individually on the invention of new digital forms and the development of what Greg Ulmer, the group theorist, refers to as electrate thinking in artistic production. Electracy is to information technology what literacy is to alphabetic writing. Over the past eight years the FRE has used Internet collaboration to produce numerous exhibitions, books, articles, CD-ROMs, DVD-Data, videos, lectures, panel discussions and websites.
Barbara Jo Revelle, photographer/videographer.
John Craig Freeman, digital media artist.
Will Pappenheimer, digital media artist.
William Tilson, architecture/urban design.
Gordon Bleach, Sadly, artist Gordon Bleach passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a brain tumor in 1998. He was at the height of his career and a valuable participant in the FRE. This web site has recently been reconstituted in his honor.
Soft Wishing Y Monument
Through these various projects, FRE has developed a unique interdisciplinary collaborative method, which we refer to as choragraphy. The term choragraphy can be defined as the intersection of place, histories, biographies, community formation, politics and the eternalized psyche. We have applied this method in a number of locations around the world, which are characterized by public policy dilemmas. Known to the group as Problem Zones, these sites have included the Miami River, the Merrimack Valley, the Niagara River, Appalachia, Alaska, Africa and Lower Manhattan after 9/11.
We use tourism and divination as interface metaphors. Drawing on the accounts of the ancient Greek theoria, which was a group of trust worthy experts, who were dispatched to distant lands to dispel myths, rumors and lies, choragraphy attempts to update this practice for digital culture. One thing the theoria did when they arrived at the place that they were sent to investigate, was to get together with a local community and visit all the remarkable sites. These sites included any local oracles, with whom they consulted. The theoria would return to Athens to report the truth of the situation in a public forum. The word theoros is a Greek word meaning to observe or partake. It is the root of the word theory and the word tourism. The idea is that the user, or querent, consults the choragraphic interface as if it were an oracle. The problem zone becomes a site of identification, in which the visitor, who is asking questions about the situation, is also asking questions about the self and how to proceed. Choragraphy attempts not only to document and give form to these public policy dilemmas, but also to provide yet another encounter with the problem zone, which in this case is a virtual oracle.
We have successfully mapped these choral spaces into digital and theoretic forms. It has been the group's long standing interest to develop a robust interactive and open Internet application, which would allow users to participate in the expansion of the choragraphic method and the body of work it generates. The development of this Internet application is currently underway. It will make extensive use of avatar technology allowing people who visit the site to embody a character from the zone and populate the on-line choragraphic space. Communication between visitors will occur in real-time with chat technology.
Although the FRE was founded in Florida, its members are distributed across the country, from Florida to Brooklyn and Boston. We make extensive use of Internet technologies to conduct our collaboration. In fact we often only meet together as a group once a year. All of our work is developed on-line. We use email, discussion list, the World Wide Web, file transfer protocol, video chat and videoconference technology.
The Florida Research Ensemble (FRE) was formed a decade ago by a group of colleagues at the University of Florida in the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, and Architecture, brought together by a common interest in electronic technologies. Unsatisfied with the existing channels for delivering our knowledge to institutions outside the academy, we decided to explore the possibilities of alternative means of delivery. In the 1980s our focus was on public access television, and in the 1990s this interest has shifted to the internet. We realized that the new medium required a new form with which to represent our disciplinary insights, and even a new methodology of research, in order to break with the limits that were isolating Arts and Letters knowledge and practices from the other disciplines and from the community at large. Our name reflects some of the features of the new direction that we set for ourselves: