Bologna Intergalactic Conference Report

The Association of Autonomous Astronauts' second Intergalactic Conference was held on the 18th and 19th of April in Italy. Groups from all over Europe descended on the zodiacal city of Bologna under the auspices of consolidating their plans for community-based space exploration.

Most of the delegates stayed in a villa overlooking the city on the first night. It turned out to be the location where Pasolini shot his infamous 120 Days of Sodom. Fatigue prevented us from re-enacting out favourite scenes from the film, with the notable exception of one member of East London AAA who partied with a vengeance until the early hours (but the less said about that, the better).

We spent a pleasant morning in the grounds of the villa, getting to know each other better and taking it all in. After a huge lunch that had been prepared by Andrea MU B we got to the Link Centre and began our preparations. The Link is an old chemical storage warehouse that now contains studios, infoshop, café and so on.

The conference poster was a large glossy affair with AAA texts in Italian on the reverse. Wall displays were put up, including Disconaut AAA's rather wonderful A-Z of space flight. We constructed a stall selling AAA texts, t-shirts and records by the registration table, and also displayed some artwork and other material.

Some Luther Blissetts showed up at some point in the afternoon, and we discussed the controversy surrounding "their" latest book Lasciate che i bimbi in which "they" expose the hysteria behind a recent Satanic Ritual Abuse trial in Bologna which saw two people falsely imprisoned after the usual bogus accusations of child abduction, etc. Luther is now being sued for libel and is starting a campaign of solidarity.

The Conference officially began at 4 PM with registration. This saw some of Italy's finest arriving at the Link with tales to tell and questions to ask. A 28-page conference reader had been prepared by Bologna AAA which included Italian translations of the Conference texts.

Riccardo Balli of Bologna AAA Introduced the proceedings and compered the event.
John Eden (Raido AAA) laid down some basic ideas on how to become an autonomous astronaut.
Lola Chanel (AAA Wien) spoke on the (tiny and tokenisitc) role of women in governmental space exploration programmes, illustrating her talk with examples from Time magazine.
Ewan Chardronnet (Rosko AAA) expounded the latest strategies for elliptical action.
Andi Freeman (Oceania AAA) presented an excerpt from his work "On filming large objects in the sky" which tore into post-modern fluffiness and proposed a way forward without it.
Next up was a representative of Rome's Men In Red (MIR) group - an ultra-left grouping that had stormed the stage of a ufology conference the week before. The talk put forward their ideas about joining with aliens to demolish capitalism, but degenerated into sniping at the AAA and our supposed escapism and reformism. This met with a certain amount of amusement and irritance from the Italian AAA delegates and a heated debate ensued. The non-Italian speaking delegates proposed that the argument be continued later (and also translated).
After the scheduled break, Neil (Disconaut AAA) presented a summary of political, cultural and scientific events in the space race since the last conference.
Konrad Becker (Wien AAA) talked on Harry Houdini, magick and lock-picking the future.
Jason Skeet - (Inner City AAA) gave us a psychogeographical update on the progress of the Grub Street launch site.
Andreas MU B - (AAA Trento) critiqued the dominant scientific paradigm.
Finally Patric O'Brien (East London AAA) rounded off by telling us about the forthcoming Reclaim The Stars event and the Giordano Bruno connection.

The debate with the Men In Red then recommenced in earnest. Riccardo did his best to translate in what was a fairly hectic situation. Essentially MIR's position seems to be that humanity is tarnished with "micro-fascism" and will simply take this into space unless capitalism is destroyed beforehand. Their priority is to join up with aliens and fight the revolution on earth. To which the obvious responses are:

i) Why wait for aliens to arrive when we can build our own spaceships and go and find them?
ii) Why assume that some "other" type of creature needs to help us when we can liberate ourselves? (And why assume that aliens will have ideas identical to the Italian autonomist movement?)
iii) Why bring noxious ideas like "micro-fascism" into the debate, which just sound like the Christian idea of Original Sin?

The Men In Red, like all politicos, want us to stay firmly on planet earth until the time is "right". In this they are exactly the same as state agencies like the church (who want us to behave until we get to "heaven"), government (who need us to pay taxes), or army (who want us to spectate as they destroy not only this planet, but also the rest of the galaxy).

In astronomy, a revolution is what occurs when an object returns to its point of origin. Back to square one. The AAA is not content with the rhetoric of the past. We wish to move beyond it, into an arena where everything is possible, where we move in several directions at once to create a life based on possibilities rather than constrictions. As part of this process we expect to develop new ways of social interaction that will suppress capitalist relations.

One of MIR's problems is that they treat the AAA as a single thing. If we were some kind of cult where everyone shared exactly the same sort of viewpoint this might be a worthwhile pursuit (it works with a lot of other groups). However, the AAA revels in contradiction and a diversity of trajectories. To accuse us of escapism is missing the point entirely. There are far too many people on this planet pissing their lives away waiting for the "glorious day" or dreaming up new ideological straitjackets that prevent them from opening even their front door. That, for us, is the real escapism. We offer a practical way forward.

We would like to make it clear that it isn't our intention to zip off into space to form some kind of hippie dropout commune. Our trajectories must be open to all. Our message to the Men In Red remains: Revolutionaries ­p; one more effort to become autonomous astronauts!

[Editor's note: Later on the waters were further muddied by rumours that the Men In Red were actually nothing of the sort. We have been unable to confirm or deny the story that they are really transvestites satirising the Italian left, but this does present some interesting contradictions to be examined in the future. We know that you can learn more from wearing a dress for a day than a spacesuit for a year. Either way, we wish them well in their efforts to introduce class consciousness to the foggy world of ufology. But their positions on autonomous space exploration are incoherent.]

The rave in space training commenced at midnight. There were three spaces for music, and many others for discussion, drinking or other merriment.

The Rave In Space Room catered for the most extreme of tastes. Parisian AAA DJs Overkill, Lo Lascar, Golgoth and The Liner whipped up the crowd into a frenzy with their abrasive dance sets. There was also a live Amiga-core frenzy inna 8-bit stylee from Xkvate.
London was well represented by The Society of Unknowns with a selection taking in drum 'n' noise and tech step. There was also a surprise guest slot by Boris Karloff and DJ Jackal who took the chance to play some extracts from their forthcoming Hammer House of Horror box set.

Bologna AAA hosted the Anti Ambient Area and span experimental techno, speedcore and electro with guest act Space Oddities - Cyber Zombie 200 (Wien AAA) who mashed the place up with their accelerated beats.

The Jump-Up room (hosted by Mix The Lot) was dismissed by some of the delegates for being "too commercial". However, it did provide a critical mass of people ready for take off, and it made a change from being pummelled by the frequencies in the other rooms.

Many trainees defied gravity as part of the evening's proceedings. At 7 o'clock in the morning, those remaining on planet earth looked like they had had a rough time during re-entry. Over 1000 people had attended and the night was considered a great success by all.

We stayed in a secret chamber of a local astronaut's flat.

When we regained consciousness later in the day, the conference had already re-commenced.

Oceania AAA were continuing their Radio Free Earth Project on the roof of the Link Centre:

"A Trillion Channels And Nothing On

The current failure of the SETI project is unsurprising. Loaded with technical and existential assumptions it represents an icon of cold war mentality. The recent development of the trillion channel SERENDIP IV listening supercomputer (of which three are to be made. One of them is to be deployed in Bologna.) represents an opening up of this field as teams outside of the SETI mentality get access to the equipment. However, the AAA is not prepared to simply to sit, listen and wait. We propose an active programme of attempts to communicate with other planets.

PROJECT: 'Postcards For 51 Pegasus'

Radio Free Earth began its narrowcasts into new spaces on June 23rd 1997. As part of its summer season of broadcasts to the stars ('100 light years of entertainment') RFE intends to point its data transmitters to 51 Pegasus as part of the AAA's 2nd Galatica Confrenza in Bologna."

Images and sounds that had been collected prior to the conference were zapped into outer space by the Oceania delegation. Give the enormous distances involved, it is perhaps to be expected that no responses have been received as yet. Further information, technical details and updates are available from Oceania AAA.

The game of 3-sided football was well attended despite the uncharacteristically cack weather. A certain Inner City AAA delegate managed to surpass his long record of downright sneakiness (yeah, OK - he conned me) by switching sides on at least 5 occasions. A few passers-by were encouraged to join in, but this wasn't too successful because of the weather and language difficulties.

A discussion followed the game, along with coffee and ice cream. Some of us talked about pushing the 3-sided football thing forward by using it in contexts that appealed to people less confident (or physically capable) of football. There was concern about the AAA being overly identified with hardcore music - a broader approach was hoped for at future events. Which brought us nicely to the question of where to hold future conferences. As yet nothing is certain, though locations in London, Brittany and Kazakhstan are being looked into.

Several delegates left that night to go to Vienna in time to participate in the Information Terror event organised by Public Netbase.

The conference was very successful on many levels. The concept of a period of consolidation has so far proved far less difficult than many had thought. Despite moving in several directions at once, those present were able to agree on a number of key issues, and get on socially. We established many new contacts, firmed up links with existing ones and left Italy full of ideas for the future.

We are focused on intensifying our 5 year programme to establish a world wide network of local, community based groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. We are now well over the "half way" mark and our success has exceeded the imaginations of even the most lucid dreamers amongst us. We will not stay on planet earth and be restricted to its narrow possibilities for existence. We want to forge new paths, new ways of living. The development of autonomous zero gravity communities is only the beginning. The AAA is bored of the city and, realising that real life lies elsewhere, has set the controls for the heart of outer space.

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