Van Gogh TV: Piazza Virtuale (1992)

Mostly on-site
Pushing some boundaries
Dive in deep
Hardly any tech
You had to be there

Piazza Virtuale was an interactive media experiment led by Van Gogh TV – an art collective founded by Mike Hentz, Karel Dudesek, Benjamin Heidersberger and Salvatore Vanasco. The experiment took place during documenta IX in 1992.

The aim of this experiment was to reinterpret the relationship between broadcaster and viewer that is traditionally associated with television. Lasting for 100 days, Piazza Virtuale invited visitors to documenta IX in Kassel to beam themselves via videophones and cameras, to the television ‘audience’.

“There were no presenters, no announcements, no explanations. In fact, no show at all. Instead, you could call a telephone number that was displayed on the TV screen. And if you were lucky and got through, you were suddenly on air and could speak to the world via TV. Up to four callers found themselves in a strange, random community, could chat with each other or give a speech to mankind. Many callers were so startled that they hung up immediately. Others managed little more than “Hallo”. Some tried to make conversation with the other callers. Others made farting noises until they were thrown off the line.”

Tilman Baumgärtel and Julian Weinert “Van Gogh TV’s Piazza Virtuale.”
Diagram illustrating the different “access paths” to the Piazza

The audience consisted of visitors to a series of different piazettas – micro-studios set up across many cities in Germany and additionally in other European countries and Japan. Visitors to the piazettas also contributed to the experiment, joining discussions, making artwork together and moving the positioning of the camera in Kassel.

Piazza Virtuale exhibits a deep level of hybridity, enabling remote audiences to connect and communicate with each other in real time. It also brings the agency of participants into consideration, taking away power from ‘the broadcaster’ and placing it in the hands of the audience.


  • Concept: Van Gogh TV (founded by Mike Hentz, Karel Dudesek, Benjamin Heidersberger and Salvatore Vanasco)
  • Production: Ponton/Van Gogh TV