Lectures on Gramsci

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Lectures on Antonio Gramsci by Bob Jessop | Gramsci’s relevance to the arts, humanities & social sciences

Originally posted on Bob Jessop:

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This module introduces the work of Antonio Gramsci and its relevance to the arts, humanities and social sciences. It deals with the life and work of Gramsci, outlines the principal influences on his intellectual and political analyses, and some key concepts deployed in his work.

At the end of the course, participants will have gained a basic understanding of the nature and significance of the work of Antonio Gramsci and his place in twentieth-century thought and politics. They will be able to identify and interpret some key influences on Gramsci’s work and its historical context; to define the key concepts in his intellectual and political analyses; and to assess the significance of his work for their chosen field of research.

Session 1: The Life and Work of Gramsci 

This is a general introduction to Gramsci and his life and is intended to set the scene for later sessions.


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DIWO (Do-It-With-Others): Artistic Co-Creation as a Decentralized Method of Peer Empowerment in Today’s Multitude.

Introduction.

Furtherfield originally created the term DIWO (Do It With Others) in 2006, to represent and reflect its own involvement in a series of grass root explorations. These critical engagements shift curatorial and thematic power away from top-down initiations into co-produced, networked artistic activities; it is now an international movement and it has grown into something much larger than we imagined.

The practice of DIWO allows space for an openness where a rich mixing of components from different sources crossover and build a hybrid experience. It challenges and renegotiates the power roles between artists and curators. It brings all actors to the fore, artists become co-curators alongside the curators, and the curators themselves can also be co-creators. The ‘source’ materials are open to all; to remix, re-edit and redistribute, either within a particular DIWO event or project, or elsewhere. The process is as important as the outcome, forming relationally aware peer enactments. It is a living art, exploiting contemporary forms of digital and physical networks as a mode of open praxis, as in the Greek word for doing, and as in, doing it with others.

This study investigates why these critically engaged activities were (and are) thought of as essential nourishment not only for ‘individual’ artists, but also as an effective form of artistic collaboration with others, and to a wider culture. It explores the differences between ‘collaborative’ trends initiated by established art (mainstream art) and design institutions, the creative industries, corporations, and independent projects. It examines the grey areas of creative (idea) control, the nuances of power exchange and what this means for independent thinking artists and collectives working within collaborative contexts, socially, culturally and ethically. It also asks, whether new forms of DIWO can act as an inclusive commons. Whereby it consists of methods and values relating to ethical and ecological processes, as part of its artistic co-creation; whilst maintaining its original intentions as a de-centralized method of peer empowerment in today’s multitude?

DIWO and New Media Art Culture.

“…the role of the artist today has to be to push back at existing infrastructures, claim agency and share the tools with others to reclaim, shape and hack these contexts in which culture is created.” [1] (Catlow 2010)

In music and art culture, artists have been defining their autonomy against the dominance of mainstream culture for years. Furtherfield’s and DIWO’S own history began with experimental sound and music, with pirate radio stations and collaborative street art projects in the late 80s and early 90s. A Present-day example where we can see artists carving out their own mutual spaces of independence, is in the contemporary Indie Music scene. In her study ‘Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music (Music Culture)’, Dr. Wendy Fonarow [2] investigated the UK’s ‘indie’ music scene and its culture from the early 1990s to present day. Below, Fonarow presents the different values between mainstream music and the independent music scene.

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On the left-side on the diagram there are similar themes and values DIWO also draws upon, as part of its grounded ideas and relational connections with others. DIWO as a practice is different than the Indie Music scene, yet its core values also involve self-governence. The Indie music scene views itself as oppositional to the mainstream music world, viewing it as “corpulent, unoriginal, impersonal, and unspecialized” [3]. Out of these shared values vital signifiers are formed demonstrating peer empowerment. Like the tribal and anti-establishment elements of Punk, it is a deliberate side-step away from what is seen as the trappings of commercial culture, and its limitations on creative expression. The continuing growth and interest in independent music as it manages to survive separately from the mainstream, is evident. We only have to view recent revenue making web sites such as emusic, with its international audiences buying Indie music and experimental sounds on-line; a good example of a grass root, networked economy based around social differences in contrast to mainstream dominance. The large site consists of an abundant amount of independent artists selling their work as well as independent record labels.

Even though the values presented by Fonarow also exist in DIWO. In essence, DIWO relates to a varied set of practices still finding its place in the world. This overall field is Media Art, an umbrella term for various ‘art and technologically’ related practices. Born out of art and electricity, it connects to common people through the Internet and as yet, not officially prescribed as a valid form of artistic expression by the art establishment (mainstream art world). Media Art’s historical canons and critical dialogue; no matter how artful, highly skilled, informative, extravagant, original and critical; have been manipulated out of the ‘official’ picture. For years, Media art practice has found itself in the wilderness as wandering nomads, upstarts and outsiders. And even though much of the art work and its consistant and thriving dialogue is ‘up to date’ and contemporary; it is at odds with the mainstream world’s prescribed script of what the dominating art market expects ‘art’ to be. Norman Klein, in his essay “Inside the Stomach of the dragon: The victory of the Entertainment Economy,” writes “We all essentially live in the stomach of the ‘entertainment’ dragon. As a result, it would be near impossible to generate an avant-garde strategy in a world that feels increasingly like an outdoor shopping mall, what I call a scripted space.” [4] (Klein 2005)

Media art certainly does not fit easily within Klein’s description of ‘scripted space’. One could also be forgiven for thinking it is perceived as too clever, or too cheeky for its own good. The field is always experimenting, adapting, re-inventing and expanding with a multitude of social and cultural narratives alongside its use of technology. [5] (Blais & Ippolito 2006). The general view is that it’s just too complex and too fast for traditional art critics, galleries and institutions to catch up with. On some part, this is true – with its intrinsic connectedness, its ‘fluent’ networks – its multiple contexts – its critical, social and political dialogues – its adaptive behaviours when using code (an international language) – the ability to cross over into different practices, with verve. Yet, it is a contemporary art practice offering significant rewards when engaged with and explored further. Christiane Paul, in her essay “Challenges for a Ubiquitous Museum” writes, “Nethertheless, its integration is in museums’ own best interest: new media art constitutes a contemporary artistic practice that institutions cannot afford to ignore. It can also expand its notion of what art is and can be.” [6] (Paul 2008).

Arguably, it is the most ‘contemporary’ art practice. But, it still defies acceptance and dedicated integration from the mainstream art establishment. In September 2012, Claire Bishop wrote an article on Art Forum’s web site, asking “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO DIGITAL ART?” [7] Bishop argues, there are no signs of digital art being represented in the contemporary art world by artists themselves, and asks why so few contemporary artists engage with “the question of what it means to think, see, and filter affect through the digital, [and] reflect deeply on how we experience, and are altered by, the digitization of our existence?” [ibid] Bishop says there seems to be a nostalgic nod by artists towards analogue technology “The continued prevalence of analog film reels and projected slides in the mainstream art world seems to say less about revolutionary aesthetics than it does about commercial viability.” [ibid]

Bishop’s article focuses on artists who do not engage with the questions she raises. By doing this Bishop introduces a telling blind spot; where there (really) should be a more in depth survey, analysis and discussion on the thriving discourse and practice of digital art and media art culture. Bishop bypasses, discussing the relevance of ‘media art’ as part of contemporary art culture, and relegates it into what she terms as a ‘specialist sphere’. Her distance from the ‘actuality’ of media art practice epitomizes a common failing where academics and critics, not directly engaged with the art they discuss, end up misrepresenting its deeper contexts and real values. This is noticeable when Bishop only includes commercially known artists, and not emerging media artists. An effective tactic in keeping others down whilst proclaiming there are ‘no others’, a highly effective mechanism exploited by the art elite. Whether Bishop is aware of this or not, the background story here is that thousands of artists and their livelihoods are threatened by ill-informed, perceptions. The result is that artistic emancipation is given a wide birth, or seen as a threat whilst authorized, and marketable art brands are given greater resonance and representation above others. The art elite, and its hierarchies dependent on their brands, stand strong against (other) art and is treated as a threat to their own, economic based franchises.

This is not to say those not included in Bishop’s article are not seen by many others – thankfully, they are. If we move our (distracted) gaze away from (mainstream) art establishment eyes, a less restrictive vision begins to unfold. Artists, audiences, writers and curators engaged with media art culture are thriving and are gaining recognition and impetus, in spite of top-down, processes of commercialized, methods of filtering and institutionalized denial. Media art practice carries on regardless with its social and cultural diversity and its naturally transdisciplinary initiatives. Exploring beyond a ‘scripted’ art world and its reductive ‘marketed’ mythologies. The audience has played a significant role in bringing about this change. Everyday people are choosing to find their own examples of what they consider to be art, rather than just reading approved promotions by the mainstream art press. There are countless examples of contemporary, media art works being seen in galleries, on the Internet and different types of spaces, by artists such as, Annie Abrahams, Julian Oliver, Thomson and Craighead, Mary Flanagan, Genetic Moo, Kate Rich, Dominic Smith, Sarah Waterson, and Heath Bunting (the list goes on). All these artists are experiencing recognition as ‘contemporary artists’ in the ‘wider’ art world and extended, cultural communities.

“Museum curators are sometimes surprised to discover that more people surf prominent Internet art sites than attend their own brick-and-mortar museums.” [8] (Jon Ippolito)

The strange contradiction of being told that something is different to what one actually knows through ‘grounded’ experience creates a situation of distrust. This awkward state of affairs brings to notice that other forces are at play. Pre-post-modern questions relating to ‘authenticity’ come to the fore; as well as critical enquiries asking, on whose ‘authority’ such decisions are made? Naturally, realisations escalate with concerns that art is rarely considered on its merits, and it is more about conforming to strategies in-line with top-down, market led appropriation, this is – what creates the divide. We are then left with an art culture where artists are merely consumer brands, representatives and ambassadors of conventional taste, no matter how radical the contemporary art world or academic wisdom tries to pretend it is. “The more art meets the demands of business, governments and the super-rich, the more the promise of that freedom falters.” [9] (Stallabrass 2011)

This refusal of allowing other art for a more marketable set of franchises moves into totalitarian forms of enterprise, where production of culture is issued through mechanisms of marketing defaults rather than intuitive investigation and wider societal inclusion. We are presented with a spurious version of art-reality, a false consciousness dedicated to the embodiment of a class where a filtering out of difference creates a homogeneity in which we are forced to see art much like merchandise in a shopping mall. Celebrity, genius and scarcity become the main selling points in established art venues and traditional art magazines. In America, individuals such as Cory Archangel are presented above others whilst those who openly critique culture in their art work are less recognised. Some may feel that it is a positive step that Archangel is currently successful in these institutional frameworks. That, if particular individuals are selected as worthy of mainstream acceptance and support it will have a ‘Trickle Down’ effect, where other artists will also be included and experience similar accolades in time, and “If the rich do well, benefits will “trickle down” to the rest.” [10] (Blair)

But, what if these artists prefer by choice to be part of an art world less based on hegemony; and are more interested in being closely connected with their grass root art cultures, and are less interested in art celebrity culture? What if the art itself consists in its make-up similar values to those musicians in the Indie Music scene? What if this art is asking important questions that deserve a dialogue which goes deeper than marketable products, and proposed celebrity genius? Gregory Sholette explores this subject further in his book “Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture” [11], proposing that art thrives in the independent and non-commercial sectors and the material produced by unrepresented artists, feeds the mainstream to sustain a few artists within the art world elite. He sees those ‘left out’ of the branding exercises prescribed by the corporate run, contemporary art world, as ‘Dark Matter’. Sholette borrows the term “Dark Matter” from the science of cosmology, which refers to the immense quantity of non-reflective material that we cannot see out there, in the universe. In theory, this invisible matter makes up most of the universe, and is estimated to constitute 84% of the universe and 23% of it is mass energy. [12] (Hinshaw 2010) “Like its astronomical cousin, artistic Dark Matter makes up most of the cultural universe in contemporary, post-industrial society. Yet, while cosmic Dark Matter is actively being sought by scientists, the size and composition of artistic Dark Matter is of little interest to the men, women and institutions of the art world.” [13] (Sholette 2011)

Media Art, can be considered to be a part of this Dark Matter. Yet, there are examples where artists using technology have found ways to survive using their technical skills, by becoming innovative. This ambigious territory of artists moving into the creative industry field, where artists act as entrepreneurs, is complex and based on survival. Because the mainstream art world has not given these artists the overall recognition in an uncertain world from suffering recession, unless your lucky enough to be some of the few receiving an inherited income, survival is the main issue. The powers of neoliberalism continue to advocate a program of mass privatisation, deregulation, and marketisation, and the breaking down of educational funding world wide, producing mass global and local poverty. “Meanwhile, the same system imprisons everyone’s creativity in the prism of brutal economic “necessity.“ Today’s Van Goghs are working at McDonalds. Tomorrow’s Mary Shelleys are graduating owing a fortune in student loans.” [14] (Haiven 2012)

There is a demand for artists to introduce themselves as ‘New’, and ‘exciting’, as technicians feeding the creative economy, as in what Haiven terms as ‘creative capitalism’. In part, it creates extra confusion for media art culture, which has helped in the establishing a schizm, the term ‘New Media Art’. And yes, technology combines all of these different digital art processes and its ever widening, interrelated disciplines. Yet, when using a simple word such as ‘New’, it proposes as part of its meaning that it’s all about the ‘New’, as in, use of ‘New technology’ as an outright goal or a means to an end. This is a misleading term, and does not acurately reflect a field of practice incorporating crossovers and transdisciplinary understandings, uniting our engagement and experimentation with technology at a ‘variety of levels’, which also include ecological tendencies as well as social interpretations. Out of this, arrives a filtering process whereby assumptions and prescribed definitions reflect upon those who pragmatically abide with the dominating rules, or just so happen to fit into this reductionist gauge. In one sense, this relates to a form of top-down ‘cultural’ curating and then moves into other modes of standardization, initializing ‘extra-loaded’ mono-cultural themes prompting domination. This instigates conditions where on the whole artists working with technology become valued not because of their content or ideas, but mainly by the technological innovation itself.

And yes, innovation and invention is an imaginative means to explore, proceed and develop as a race. But, innovation as technology is ‘one’ factor, a segment which all too often distracts us from a bigger story. Emphasis on the ‘New’ bound up with ‘innovation’ falls into a paradox where technological determinism, ‘is’ the course of reason, fitting closely alongside an invasive, market driven ideology. The values then become purely measured by economics as a finite, a singular function that belies the intricacies of the ecologies needing attention within the art’s wider multi-relational contexts. Andrew Feenberg in his paper “Ten paradoxes of Technology” writes “Under capitalism control of technology is no longer in the hands of craftsmen but is transferred to the owners of enterprise and their agents. Capitalist enterprise is unusual among social institutions in having a very narrow goal—profit—and the freedom to pursue that goal without regard for consequences.” [15] (Feenberg 2010)

The Media Art field’s use of open networks has introduced an autonomy that has brought about a deeper understanding of the medium, and how to exploit it creatively. Appropriation of the software and the hardware has shaped how artists interact with each other. Peer critique and shared ownership of ideas have enabled small groups and communities to learn and initiate projects together. These networks have worked as doorways to connect people with other cultures, outside of their own nation states, museums, institutions and government focused ideologies. A constant dialogue and the swapping of knowledge, files and projects, peer collaboration, all nurtured by curiosity, generosity and shared interests. This has loosened the hard-edged, fabric of centralization.

A willingness to transform our ideas and intentions not soley based on ‘proprietorial’ dependencies, and a fetish for the ‘New’, allows space for ‘different versions of the new’ and ‘old’ dialogues to evolve. This enables the embracing of holistic gradations and interactions with others, which also include differences; possibilities and diversities connecting with ecology and a variant of creative expressions. James Wallbank in his essay for ISEA in 2010 wrote “Creativity transforms value. Defining a four-year-old computer as “obsolete” does not speak to the utility of the object (it’s still a powerful production and communications platform) but indicates its user’s unwillingness or inability to continue to be creative with it.” [16] (Wallbank 2010) Taking control of the media we use does not mean being buying the latest gadget, it means that we are aware of our responsibility to be more informed about the technology we use.

In his article “Open Source Art Again“, Rob Myers writes “Software is used to achieve many different ends within pluralistic society. Its use is as widespread and diverse as the written word was following the invention of the printing press. Free Software can therefore be understood historically and ethically as the defence of pluralistic freedom against a genuine threat. It is an ethical issue, a matter of freedom. This is very different from being a new method of organization or a more efficient means of production.“ [17] (Myers 2006) Control over one’s tools of creative production is now, as significant as having control over one’s creative ideas. And, media art as an art practice, has gained various attributes which allow processes of self-autonomy. There is something about working with technology and the Internet that changes our perception of the world, and how we operate in it. The world becomes less definable as nations and states. It evolves into a way of engaging and understanding other things, other worlds, other possibilities; touching on aspects of being able to re-edit ‘source’ materials, whether it be hardware, software or code, and bringing this knowledge with its learned experiences into, real-life situations.

DIWO History and its Context.

Within media art culture, DIWO has cultural and historical links with Net Art and Tactical Media. DIWO includes other influences, such as Fluxus and Situationism. It owes much of its awkwardness and anti-establishment values to one particular movement in music culture, which is punk, drawing upon its D.I.Y attitude as inspiration. DIWO is playful re-interpretation and fruition of some of the principles, and reasons why Furtherfield was originally founded, back in 96-97. We experienced first-hand, as artists in the 80s and well into the 90s, a UK art culture mainly dominated by the marketing strategies of Saatchi and Saatchi. Even now, British art culture is dominated by and large, a commercially orientated, uncritical and non-reflective hegemony. Inequalities and gate-keeping are a standard behaviour, justified by spurious and romantic notions of genius, within tightly controlled, mono-cultural frameworks.

“Furtherfield’s roots extend back through the resurgence of the national art market in the 1980s, to the angry reactions against Thatcher and Major’s Britain, to the incandescence of France in May 1968, and back again to earlier intercontinental dialogues connecting artists, musicians, writers, and audiences co-creating “intermedial” experiences.” [18] (da Rimini 2010)

When examining these hierarchies we notice the social divisions are a throw back from a very traditional period of British culture; bound in a colonial history of nationalism and imperialism. Of course, such historical traits are not bound only within the borders of the United Kingdom. It took an insightful American, John Dewey, who in spring 1932 gave a series of lectures at Harvard University, on the Philosophy of Art, to open up this issue. Out of these lectures grew his 1934 publication Art as Experience. He says “It erects these buildings and collects their contents as it now builds a cathedral.
These things reflect and establish superior cultural status, while their segregation from the common life reflects the fact that they are not part of a native and spontaneous culture.” [19] (Dewey 1934)

“From adolescence I had visited the Tate, read the Art books and generally pulled a forelock in the direction of the cult of genius, on cue relegating my own creativity to the Victorian image of the rabid dog. We know well enough that this was how it was supposed to be. The historical literature on ‘rational recreations’ states that, in reforming opinion, museums were envisaged as a means of exposing the working classes to the improving mental influence of middle class culture. I was being innoculated for the cultural health of the nation.” [20] (Harwood 2012)

In 2001, Graham Harwood [21] received the first online commission from Tate Gallery London for the art work “Uncomfortable Proximity”. “This work forced me into an uncomfortable proximity with the economic and social elite’s use of aesthetics in their ascendancy to power and what this means in my own work on the internet.” [22] (Harwood 2006) The first section of work maps high society rituals of tastefulness and its inherent hypocrisy. The second, representations and histories of different people such as friends, family and others, who are unseen in terms of the institution’s remit of tastefulness. To do this he used the historically respected paintings (on-line images) on the Tate web site by artists such as Turner, Hogarth, Hamilton, Gainsborough, Constable and others.

garrett_2Graham Harwood. Hogarth, My Mum 1700-2000.

Viewing the visual images/collages created by Harwood, reminds one of the moment when Lord Henry, in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’[23] views his constantly changing, disfigured self portrait. The facade of greatness is revealed to be less attractive, less honourable and deeply disturbing. Harwood’s approach in offering the viewer to click on the image to see what lies them behind shows the people he represents, to be seen as lurking secrets, as ghosts, mutants, lepers and outsiders.

“Tate Britain stands on the site of Millbank penitentiary incorporating part of the prison within its own structure. The bodies of many of the inmates remain concreted into the foundations of the building. The drains that run from the building to the Thames, a stones through away, bleed this decay into the silt of the Thames.”[24](Harwood 2006)

Dewey’s writings and Harwood’s art work “Uncomfortable Proximity”, explore how we are still governed by the same elite structures, informing (or appropriating) our perceptions and engagement in art culture today. DIWO’s intentions reflect Furtherfield’s own critical and practicle approach, in challenging aspects of art culture where false credence is given to a few individuals over many others, which is usually based either on personality alongside depoliticized artworks. Recently, in an article by John A. Walker on the artdesigncafé web site, discussed how art culture is still haunted by the power of Charles Saatchi.

“Arguably, as an art collector Charles Saatchi has become a brand in his own right—when he buys art works they and the artists who created them are immediately branded.“ [25] (Walker 2010)

garrett_3The Charles Saatchi branding iron is a limited edition
work of art conceived by John A Walker.

BritArt’s dominance of the late 80s and 90s UK art culture dis-empowered the majority of British artists, dominating other artistic discourse and fuelling a competitive and divisive attitude for a shrinking public platform for the representation of their own highly marketed work. This resulted in many artists replicating this art in order to be accepted into mainstream galleries and art magazines. This tactic of domination through market forces and elite friends in high places created what we know as BritArt. Stewart Home proposes that the YBA movement’s evolving presence in art culture fits within the discourse of totalitarian art.

“The cult of the personality is, of course, a central element in all totalitarian art. While both fascism and democracy are variants on the capitalist mode of economic organisation, the former adopts the political orator as its exalted embodiment of the ‘great man,’ while the latter opts for the artist. This distinction is crucial if one is to understand how the yBa is situated within the evolving discourse of totalitarian art.“ [26] (Home 1996)

Whoever controls our art – controls our connection, relationship and imaginative experience and our discourse around it. The frameworks and conditions where art is accessed, seen and discussed are significantly linked to representation and ownership. Socially and culturally, this process of abiding by specific rules and protocols, defines who and what is worth consideration and acceptance. For art to be accepted within these ‘traditional’ frameworks a dialogue reflecting its status around a particular type of function kicks into place, it must adhere to certain requirements. Whether it is technological or using traditional skills (which may not necessarily be digital) the art or artist must in some way conform to specific protocols before it can be allowed into the outer regions of officially condoned culture. This process adds merit to the creative venture itself and feeds a systemic demand based around innovation in a competitive marketplace. This closes down possibilities for a wider, creative dialogue. When we experiment beyond the limits of assumed notions of ‘excellence’ or ‘genius’, and challenge the mechanisms and mannerisms of mainstream culture and its dominant values something else emerges and evolves, an imaginative exploration of engagement opens up new forms of art, but also new, shared, connected and potentially critically informed values.

The term DIWO OR D.I.W.O, “Do It With Others“ was created in 2006 [27] (Garrett 2006), on Furtherfield’s collaborative project ‘Rosalind’. [28] An upstart new media art lexicon that Furtherfield built with others, born in 2004.

“(or Diwo’s, or Diwo groups) Expanded from the original term known as D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself). D.I.W.O ‘Do It With Others’. Is more representative of contemporary, collaborative – art practice which explores through the creative process of using networks, in a collective manner.” (Garrett ibid)

DIWO (Do It With Others) is inspired by DIY culture and cultural (or social) hacking. Extending the DIY ethos with a fluid mix of early net art, Fluxus antics, Situationism and tactical media manoeuvres (motivated by curiosity, activism and precision) towards a more collaborative approach. Peers connect, communicate and collaborate, creating controversies, structures and a shared grass roots culture, through both digital online networks and physical environments. Influenced by Mail Art projects of the 60s, 70s and 80s demonstrated by Fluxus artists’ with a common disregard for the distinctions of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.

The Mail Art Connection & DIWO’s Infrastructural Tendencies.

“It is in the use of the postal system, of artists’ stamps and of the rubber stamp that Nouveaux Realisme made the first gestures toward correspondence art and toward mail art.“ [29] (Friedman 1995)

Mail Art is a useful way to bypass curatorial restrictions for an imaginative exchange on your own terms. With DIWO projects we’ve used both email and snail mail. Later, we will return to the subject of email art and how it has been used for collective distribution and collaborative art activities; but also, how it can act as a collaborative, remixing function or tool, and be an art piece in its own right, on-line and in physical environments.

 “[...] many Fluxus works were designed specifically for use in the post and so the true birth of correspondence art can arguably be attributed to Fluxus artists.” [30] (Blah Mail Art Library)

Many consider George Maciunas was to Fluxus, what Guy Debord was to Situationism. Maciunas set up the first Fluxus Festival in Weisbaden in Germany, 1962. In 1963, he wrote the Fluxus Manifesto in 1963 as a fight against traditional and Establishment art movements. In a conversation with Yoko Ono in 1961, they discussed the term and meaning of Fluxus. Showing Ono the word from a large dictionary he pointed to ‘flushing’.

    ““Like toilet flushing!“ he said laughing, thinking it was a good name for the movement. “This is the name“, he said. I just shrugged my shoulders in my mind.” [31] (Ono 2008)

“The purpose of mail art, an activity shared by many artists throughout the world, is to establish an aesthetical communication between artists and common people in every corner of the globe, to divulge their work outside the structures of the art market and outside the traditional venues and institutions: a free communication in which words and signs, texts and colours act like instruments for a direct and immediate interaction.“ [32] (Parmesani 1977)

Maciunas’s ambitions were strongly based on an art that was free for all by replacing it with Fluxus; a creativity which could be realised anywhere and anyhow. Art with autonomy was the whole point of Fluxus, to “promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art”. [33] (Corris 2009) Maciunas’s refusal to have any Fluxus works signed was a critique on the concept of genius, scarcity and ownership. This made things difficult for dealers and collectors to brand the works in accordance to ‘genius’ and ‘personality’ for economic value; they were gifts, acts of imaginative generosity. These acts of generosity were part of a broader critique of capitalism during the 60s and 70s, they were gifts of resistance.

DIWO is a gift of resistance in the 21st Century, exploring relational and hybrical realizations. It is socially informed, constantly adapting, intuitive and grounded. It can collide with mainstream culture but also exist deeper in the networked shadows, in accordance to the needs of who ever participates at any given time. It is creativity with a radical adge, asking questions through peer engagement, as it loosens up infrastructural ties and frameworks. It is a contemporary way of collaborating and exploiting the advantages of living in the Internet age. By drawing on past experiences with pirate radio, historical inspirations from Punk, with its productive move towards independent and grass roots music culture, as well as learning from Fluxus and the Situationists, and peer 2 peer methodologies; we transform ourselves into being closer to a more inclusive commons. We transform our relationship with art and with others into a situation of shared legacy and possible moments of active emancipation.

“[...] art has become too narcissistic and self-referential and divorced from social life. I see a new form of participatory art emerging, in which artists engage with communities and their concerns, and explore issues with their added aesthetic concerns“ [34] (Bauwens 2010)

The infrastructural tendencies that occur when ‘the many’ practice DIWO; informs us we are in a constant process which redefines the role of the individual, and our notions of centralized power and behaviour. This process also reevaluates concepts of art as scarcity. It moves us away from an attachment with socially engineered dependencies, usually centred around consumer led desire, by changing the defaults. If we change the defaults we change the rules, opening up possibilities for more agency involving relational contexts.

“The network is designed to withstand almost any degree of destruction to individual components without loss of end-to-end communications. Since each computer could be connected to one or more other computers, Baran assumed that any link of the network could fail at any time, and the network therefore had no central control or administration (see the lower scheme).” [35] (Dalakov 2011)

Even though the Web and DIWO possess different qualities they are both essentially, forms of networked commons. They both belong to the same digital complexity, each are open systems for human and technological engagement. DIWO rests naturally within these frameworks much like other digital art works or platforms but have key differences. If we consider the structures of Facebook, Google, MySpace, iTunes and now Delicious, they are all centralized meta-platforms, appropriating as much users as possible to repeatedly return to the same place. In contrast to the original function and freedom of the Internet and its seemingly infinite networked nature, these meta-platforms are closed systems. Not, necessarily closed as in meaning ‘you cannot come in’, but closed to others in respect of core values, exploiting human interaction and their uploaded material, and openly ‘given’ data-information. These centralized meta-platforms close choices down through rules of ownership of personal data, as well as introducing more traditional standards of hierarchy.

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron saw this curious dichotomy way back in 1995. Where on one hand we had the dynamic energy of sixties libertarian idealism and then on the other, a powerful hyper-capitalist drive, Barbrook and Cameron termed this contradiction as ‘The Californian Ideology’. “Across the world, the Californian Ideology has been embraced as an optimistic and emancipatory form of technological determinism. Yet, this utopian fantasy of the West Coast depends upon its blindness towards – and dependence on – the social and racial polarisation of the society from which it was born. Despite its radical rhetoric, the Californian Ideology is ultimately pessimistic about real social change.“ [36] (Barbrook and Cameron 1995)

With these contexts in mind DIWO, is not an absolute ‘technological determined’ factor, but a thing of many things, a social activism with a commons spirit going as far back as The Diggers.

“The Diggers [or ‘True Levellers’] were led by William Everard who had served in the New Model Army. As the name implies, the diggers aimed to use the earth to reclaim the freedom that they felt had been lost partly through the Norman Conquest; by seizing the land and owning it ‘in common’ they would challenge what they considered to be the slavery of property. They were opposed to the use of force and believed that they could create a classless society simply through seizing land and holding it in the ‘common good’.” [37] (Fox)

Three elements pull DIWO together as a functioning whole, and it can mutate according to a theme, situation or project. These three contemporary forms of (potential) commons mainly include; the ecological – the social – and the networks we use. By appropriating these three ‘possible’ processes of being with others; combined, they introduce and enhance potential for an autonomous and artistic process to thrive, further than the limitations of any single or centralized point of presence. It brings about small societal change; as long as we are conscious of the social nuances for a genuine and critically engaged mutual collaboration.

“Collective doings are motors of change transforming how people create (art, software, learning situations, community gardens, journalism) until the point that solitary production seems anachronistic and somewhat joyless. These motors can drive more radical change, as people collectively place their bodies into contested zones (reclaiming the streets, university occupations, climate camps) forcing struggles into public awareness.” [38] (da Rimini 2010)

DIWO works by the same principles functionally as a p2p infrastructure, and requires the following “set of political, practical, social, ethical and cultural qualities: distribution of governance and access to the productive tools that comprise the ‘fixed’ capital of the age (e.g.: computing devices); information and communication systems which allow for autonomous communication in many media (text, image, sound) between cooperating agents; software for autonomous global cooperation (wikis, blogs etc); legal infrastructure that enables the creation and protection of use value and, crucially to Bauwens’s p2p alternatives project, protects it from private appropriation; and, finally, the mass diffusion of human intellect through interaction with different ways of feeling, being, knowing and exposure to different value constellations.” [39] (Garrett and Catlow 2012)

“Online creation communities could be seen as a sign of reinforcement of the role of civil society and make the space of the public debate more participative. In this regard, the Internet has been seen as a medium capable of fostering new public spheres since it disseminates alternative information and creates alternative (semi) public spaces for discussion.“ [40] (Morell 2009)

Ecological media artworks turn our attention as creators, viewers and participants to connectedness and free interplay between (human and non-human) entities and conditions. The foundations of the Do It With Others art context, that privileges FLOSS skills sharing and commons-based peer produced artworks and media over the monitored and centrally owned and controlled interfaces of corporate owned social media. This is the spirit of DIWO, if it’s centralized and controlled by a corporate entity, it ain’t DIWO.

DIWO References
DIWO – Do It With Others: Resource Page

http://furtherfield.org/projects/diwo-do-it-others-resource

Do It With Others (DIWO): contributory media in the Furtherfield Neighbourhood by Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett, Furtherfield. From Coding Cultures, 2007. Editor: Francesca Da Rimini. Published by d/lux, Lilyfield NSW Australia. http://www.dlux.org.au/codingcultures/handbook.html

Do It With Others (DIWO) – E-Mail Art in Context by Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett, 2008. Curediting, Vague Terrain. http://vagueterrain.net/journal11/furtherfield/01

DIWO (Do-It-With-Others): Artistic co-creation as a decentralized method of peer empowerment in today’s multitude by Marc Garrett, 2013, published by SEAD: White Papers. http://bit.ly/1d9EDRA

DIWO: Do It With Others – No Ecology without Social Ecology, by Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett. From Remediating the Social, 2012. Editor: Simon Biggs University of Edinburgh. Published by Electronic Literature as a Model for Creativity and Innovation in Practice, University of Bergen, Norway.

http://bit.ly/1fVGdbA

Paper References:

[1] Can Art do Technology and Social Change? Ruth Catlow. October 2010.

http://www.axisweb.org/dlForum.aspx?ESSAYID=18115

[2] Wendy Fonarow, PhD, is a Los Angeles based Anthropologist specializing in live music, ritual, and performance. Her expertise is in the area of the culture of indie music and American holidays. She is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Glendale College. http://www.indiegoddess.com/

[3] Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music (Music Culture). Dr. Wendy Fonarow. Wesleyan; annotated edition edition (July 10, 2006) P66-67.

[4] Norman Klein. “Inside the Stomach of the Dragon: The Victory of the Entertainment Economy”. In Eyebeam Journal: Dissecting Art and Technology (January 2005). http://www.eyebeam.org/reblog/journal/archives/2005/01/inside_the_stomach_of_the_dragon.html (web page now missing).

[5] At the Edge of Art.  Joline Blais , Jon Ippolito. Thames & Hudson (Mar 2006).

[6] Christiane Paul. Challenges For a Ubiquitous Museum: From White Cube to The Black Box and Beyond. New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art. Christiane Paul (Editor). (2008) P. 74.

[7] DIGITAL DIVIDE: Claire Bishop On Contemporay Art And New Media.

http://artforum.com/inprint/issue=201207&id=31944

[8] Jon Ippolito. Ten Myths of Internet Art.

http://www.nydigitalsalon.org/10/essay.php?essay=6

[9] Julian Stallabrass. Contemporary Art’s Pyrrhic Triumph. ‘The Hollow Triumph of Contemporary Art’, The Art Newspaper Magazine, June 2011, pp. 7-8.

[10] Trickle-down Economics and Ronald Reagan. Jim Blair (last visited 25/9/12) http://www.bigissueground.com/politics/blair-trickledownreagan.shtml

[11] Gregory Sholette. Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press (January 4, 2011)

[12] Hinshaw, G. F. (29 January 2010). “What is the universe made of?“. Universe 101. NASA/GSFC. Retrieved 2010-03-17.

[13] Gregory Sholette. Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press (January 4, 2011)

[14] Privatizing creativity: the ruse of creative capitalism. Max Haiven on October 10, 2012.

http://artthreat.net/2012/10/privatizing-creativity/

[15] Andrew Feenberg. “Ten Paradoxes of Technology,“ Technē, vol. 14, no. 1, 2010. (Last viewed 01/09/2012) http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/paradoxes.pdf

[16] Life on the Trailing Edge: Ten Years Exploring Trash Technology. James Wallbank. (2010). (Last visited Aug 2012) http://www.isea2010ruhr.org/de/conference/tuesday-24-august-2010-dortmund/p17-media-politics-of-the-local#Wallbank

[17] Open Source Art. Rob Myers. September 2006. https://github.com/robmyers/open_source_art

[18] Francesca da Rimini. Socialised Technologies, Cultural Activism, and the Production of Agency. Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities and Social Sciences 2010. P 194.

[19] Art as Experience John Dewey. Perigee Books (24 Sep 2009) P.336

[20] Graham Harwood. http://www.gold.ac.uk/cultural-studies/staff/g-harwood/

[21] http://www2.tate.org.uk/netart/mongrel/collections/default.htm

[22] Tate BricABrac. Graham Harwood. http://mongrel.org.uk/node/14

[23] The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/174/pg174.txt

[24] Museums and Prisons. Graham Harwood. http://mongrel.org.uk/node/9

[25] Charles Saatchi branding iron : Order now! “You are nobody in contemporary art until you have been branded.” John A. Walker. September 2010 http://www.artdesigncafe.com/Charles-Saatchi-brand-iron-Walker

[26] THE ART OF CHAUVINISM IN BRITAIN AND FRANCE by Stewart Home. Published in everything # 19, London May 1996. (Last checked 30th Oct 2011). http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/2art.html

[27] DIWO term on Rosalind By Marc Garrett – 08/11/2006

http://www.furtherfield.org/lexicon/diwo

[28] Rosalind, an upstart new media art lexicon, born in 2004.

http://www.furtherfield.org/get-involved/lexicon

[29] Friedman, Ken. 1995. “The Early Days of Mail Art: An Historical Overview.” In Eternal Network. A Mail Art Anthology. Chuck Welch, editor. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press. Pp. 3-16.

[29] Artist of the week 26: George Maciunas. Jessica Lack. Last visited 20th Aug 2012.

[30] BLAH LIBRARY: IDENTITY IN THE ETERNAL NETWORK.

http://reocities.com/soho/5921/identity.html

[31] SUMMER OF 1961 by Yoko Ono. April 2008.

SUMMER OF 1961

[32] Loredana Parmesani, text under the entry “Poesia visiva”, in “L’arte del secolo – Movimenti, teorie, scuole e tendenze 1900-2000″, Giò Marconi – Skira, Milan 1997

[33] Michael Corris. Fluxus. From Grove Art Online © 2009 Oxford University Press. http://www.moma.org/collection/theme.php?theme_id=10457

[34] An interview with Michel Bauwens founder of Foundation for P2P Alternatives. Furtherfield. By Lawrence Bird 2010. http://www.furtherfield.org/interviews/interview-michel-bauwens-founder-foundation-p2p-alternatives

[35] Georgi Dalakov. “Paul Baran”. History of Computers web site. Retrieved March 31, 2011. http://history-computer.com/Internet/Birth/Baran.html

[36] THE CALIFORNIAN IDEOLOGY. Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron (August 1995). http://www.alamut.com/subj/ideologies/pessimism/califIdeo_I.html

[37] 1642-1652: The Diggers and the Levellers. A history of the radical movements the Diggers and the Levellers which sprung up around the English Civil War. Jim Fox. From Revolutions Per Minute. http://libcom.org/history/articles/diggers-levellers-1642-52/

[38] Francesca da Rimini. Socialised Technologies, Cultural Activism, and the Production of Agency. Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities and Social Sciences 2010. P 200.

[39] Remediating the Social. DIWO: Doing It With Others. Marc Garrett and Ruth Catlow. P 69. Published by Electronic Literature as a Model for Creativity and Innovation in Practice. University of Bergen, Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies PO Box 7805, 5020 Bergen, Norway. Editor: Simon Biggs. University of Edinburgh. 2012.

[40] “Online creation communities for the building of digital commons: Participation as an eco-system?” Contribution to the panel on “Organizational principles and political implications” of the International forum on free culture – Barcelona October 30 2009. Online creation communities for the building of digital commons: Participation as an eco-system? Fuster Morell, Mayo (2009) Pdf. P12. http://www.onlinecreation.info/?page_id=27


Presentation: Furtherfield and Contemporary Art Culture – Where We Are Now

Untitled

De Montfort University image 2012, image 2

The two above images are from a presentation at De Montfort University (UK) in 27th Nov 2012. There is also a video here http://t.co/2gU4WtDvDI that they kindly produced. About 40 minutes, slightly cut short due to battery running out! So, unfortunately the Q&A session is not there which was very interesting.

The paper was an early draft of what is now called Furtherfield and Contemporary Art Culture – Where We Are Now.

Summary

Marc Garrett reflects on Furtherfield’s role and direction as a rhizomatic arts collective. He argues that the mainstream art world is becoming less relevant in contemporary life. He presents a selection of artworks, projects and events shown in their public gallery in Finsbury Park over the past 2 years and discusses Furtherfield’s new lab space, the Furtherfield Commons. This presentation was given at the ICA, London and to students at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester.

Here is the Introduction. To read the rest visit here – http://bit.ly/IQuuAK

For over 17 years Furtherfield has been working in practices that bridge arts, technology, and social change. Over these years we have been involved in many great projects, and have collaborated with and supported a variety of talented people. Our artistic endeavors include net art, media art, hacking, art activism, hacktivism and co-curating. We have always believed it is essential that the individuals at the heart of Furtherfield practice in arts and technology and are engaged in critical enquiry. For us art is not just about running a gallery or critiquing art for art’s sake. The meaning of the art is in perpetual flux, and we examine its changing relationship with the human condition. Furtherfield’s role and direction as an arts collective is shaped by the affinities we identify among diverse independent thinkers, individuals and groups who have questions to ask in their work about the culture.

Here I present a selection of Furtherfield projects and exhibitions featured in the public gallery space, we have ran in Finsbury Park in North London for the last two years. I set out some landmarks on the journey we have experienced with others, and end my presentation with news of another space we have recently opened (also in the park) called the Furtherfield Commons.

Running themes in this presentation include how Furtherfield has lived through and actively challenged the disruptions of neoliberalism. The original title for this presentation was ‘Artistic Survival in the 21st Century in the Age of Neoliberalism’. The intention was to stress the importance of active and open discussion about the contemporary context with others. The spectre of neoliberalism has paralleled Furtherfield’s existence, affecting the social conditions, ideas and intentions that shape the context of our work: collaborators, community and audience. Its effects act directly upon ourselves as individuals and around us: economically, culturally, politically, locally, nationally and globally. Neoliberalism’s panoptic encroachment on everyday life has informed Furtherfield’s own motives and strategies and, in contrast with most galleries and institutions that engage with art, we have stayed alert to its influence as part of a shared dialogue. The patriarch, neoliberalism, de-regulated market systems, corporate corruption and bad government; each implement the circumstances where us, everyday people are only useful as material to be colonized. This makes us all indigenous peoples struggling under the might of the wealthy few. Hacking around and through this impasse is essential if we are to maintain a sense of human integrity and control over our own social contexts and ultimately to survive as a species.

“The insights of American anarchist ecologist Murray Bookchin, into environmental crisis, hinge on a social conception of ecology that problematises the role of domination in culture. His ideas become increasingly relevant to those working with digital technologies in the post-industrial information age, as big business daily develops new tools and techniques to exploit our sociality across high-speed networks (digital and physical). According to Bookchin our fragile ecological state is bound up with a social pathology. Hierarchical systems and class relationships so thoroughly permeate contemporary human society that the idea of dominating the environment (in order to extract natural resources or to minimise disruption to our daily schedules of work and leisure) seems perfectly natural in spite of the catastrophic consequences for future life on earth (Bookchin 1991). Strategies for economic, technical and social innovation that fixate on establishing ever more efficient and productive systems of control and growth, deployed by fewer, more centralised agents have been shown conclusively to be both unjust and environmentally unsustainable (Jackson 2009). Humanity needs new strategies for social and material renewal and to develop more diverse and lively ecologies of ideas, occupations and values.” [1] (Catlow 2012)

It is no longer critical, innovative, experimental, avant-garde, visionary, evolutionary, or imaginative to ignore these large issues of the day. If we as an arts organization, shy away from what other people are experiencing in their daily lives and do not examine, represent and respect their stories, we quite rightly should be considered as part of an irrelevant elite, and seen as saying nothing to most people. Thankfully, there are many artists and thinkers seriously taking on these human themes in their work in various ways, on the Internet and in physical spaces. So much so, this has introduced a dilemma for the mainstream art world regarding its own relevance, and whether it is really contemporary anymore.

Furtherfield has experienced in recent years a large-scale shift of direction in art across the board. And this shift has been ignored (until recently) by mainstream art culture, within its official frameworks. However, we do not only need to thank the artists, critical thinkers, and hackers and independent groups like ours for making these cultural changes, although all have played a big role. It is also due an audience hungry for an art that reflects and incorporates their own social contexts, questions, dialogues, thoughts and experiences. This presentation provides evidence of this change in art culture, and its insights flow from the fact that we have been part of its materialization. This is grounded knowledge based on real experience. Whether it is a singular movement or multifarious, is not necessarily important. But, what is important is that these artistic and cultural shifts are bigger than mainstream art culture’s controlling power systems. Make no mistake, this is only the beginning and it will not go away. It is an extraordinary swing of consciousness in art practice forging other ways of seeing, being, thinking, making and becoming.

Furtherfield is proud to have stuck with this experimental and visionary culture of diversity and multiplicity. We have learned much by tuning into this wild, independent and continuously transformative world. On top of this, new tendencies are coming to the fore such as re-evaluations and ideas examining a critical subjectivity that echo what Donna Haraway proposed as ‘Situated Knowledges’ and what the Vienna based art’s collective Monochrom call ‘Context Hacking’. Like the DADA and the Situationist artists did in their time; many artists today are re-examining current states of agency beyond the usually well-promoted, proprietorial art brands, controlling hegemonies and dominating, mainstream art systems.


Hack Value (Draft 2013)

Hack Value

Hack Value

(Draft of Hack Value – In the process of updates and edits)

“We must allow all human creativity to be as free as free software”[i] (Steiner. 2008)

Introduction To Hack Value.

The term hacking has been around for a long time and is wisely used. I almost hesitate to use the word. However, until another word replaces and transcends it’s meaning in ways that offer equivalent nuances and possible conditions of emancipation, I will continue to use it. This paper examines different fields of creative thought, acts of agency and critical practices combining art and hacking. The intention is to investigate fresh ways of looking at and thinking about hacking and how art practice can learn from these studies, and open up the conditions to venture beyond the word hacking itself while challenging current mainstream hierarchies dominating art culture.

This study investigates contemporary art and cultural activism in terms of Hack Value. It explores artworks, innovative projects and hacking tendencies with and without technology. It argues that hacking has been with us a long time before our use of computers. A characteristic all hackers share whether it is legal or illegal is to break into or through machined and walled up systems. Indeed, it could be argued that resistances, rebellions, uprisings and revolutions share similarities to hacking. They are all social and cultural hacks against, closed, dominant and reigning systems. By examining social and cultural hacks, technical and non-technical, and observing the similarities shared to overturn existing concepts and established modes of representation.[i] We can ensemble a set of processes not specific to technology alone, but towards a creative and ecological context that informs a flexible, contemporary and trans-disciplinary art practice.

Hack Value can be a playful disruption. It is also maintenance for the imagination, a call for a sense of wonder beyond the tedium of living in a consumer, dominated culture. It examines crossovers between different fields and practices, in relation to their achievements and approaches in hacking rather than as specific genres. Like in other chapters some of the artworks and projects exist in their own right, and within and outside of a museum or gallery context. Other examples either play with or disrupt situations through cultural enactments of communication with others; these include publications, farming, food distribution and public heritage sites. All the projects and works studied are social. Some are political and some are participatory. This includes works that use digital networks and physical environments as well as printed matter. What binds these examples together is not only the adventures they initiate when experimenting with other ways of seeing, being and thinking. They also share common intentions to loosen the restrictions, distractions and interactions dominating the cultural interfaces, facades and structures in our everyday surroundings. This relates to our relationship with food, tourism, museums, galleries, our dealings with technology, belief systems and community ethics.

By looking at the social settings, connections, intentions and the spirit of these hacks, we will get closer to what we can call Hack Value. It examines different instances of hacking that contest the general assumption that hacking is about technology alone. It asks what it means to transfer hacking skills and its connected values of free and open culture into physical environments, and investigates what this looks like. How would it change our perceptions and understanding of art and does it effect the relationship with the public experiencing this kind of art? What impact would it have on society and the systems dominating contemporary art culture?

In The Curious world of Art and Hacktivism, I refer to Richard Stallman’s[ii] playful display of the term hacker at a lunch with GNU fans in Korea.[iii] Where instead of using two chopsticks he managed to use three in his right hand and successfully picked up a piece of food and placed it into in his mouth. This was demonstrated as Hack Value.[iv] Stallman’s hack with simple chopsticks illustrates to us that it is not always necessary to use technology to hack. At its core, it is about how we approach things.

This study comprises of technological and physical forms of hacking. It also includes aspects and actions of: agency, skill, craft, disruption, self-education, social change, activism, aesthetics, re-contextualising, claiming or reclaiming territories, independence, emancipation, relearning, rediscovering, play, joy, being imaginative, criticalness, challenging borders, breaking into and opening up closed systems, changing a context or situation, highlighting an issue, finding ways around problems, changing defaults, and restructuring things.

Art can produce, distribute and represent aspects of spirituality, aesthetics, and philosophy, social and political life that we cannot grasp in other ways. It can bring us to a point where human agency is its raw material. With this in mind how can we get close to reaching the challenge laid down by Guy Debord, where he proclaimed that art could “cease being a report about sensations and become a direct organization of more sensations. The point is to produce ourselves rather than things that enslave us.”[v] (Debord 1958-69) The struggles the Situationists engaged with in their time still matter now. Even though we are living in the 21st Century; like the Situationists we are experiencing critical questions on art, activism and politics, but under different conditions. The networked society we live in adds a complexity the Situationists did not have to contend with. An agenda worth reemphasizing at this juncture is the same question I asked in the introduction of An Imaginative Dissent: Art, Technology and Social Change:

How can artists and artists’ groups maintain control over their own imaginative ideas, and fulfil their individual and collective intentions, whilst maintaining critical positions; within the context of a globalised culture where prevailing attitudes fashioned on austerity measures and the economic crisis are now part of our everyday lives?

This study examines different approaches around and through these dominant, neoliberal structures with an attention to networks, and examples of ‘being and doing’ with art and hacking, alongside critical ideas involving activism. All the projects, artworks and instances featured possess particular qualities that are disruptive and subversive. The models, instances and actions included in this text are not to be judged as stylistic or only as political, but as critically motivated expressions demanding something better and deeper, where a connection with our everyday life consists of a heightened sense of humaneness, possessing grounded, social and philosophical sensibilities. It leans towards a radical form of emancipation. One cannot fully cover the range of diverse contributions by groups and movements that enrich and inform this writing, such as DADA, the Situationists and Tactical Media. However, it is necessary to include their influences accordingly.

What separates DADA, the Situationists and Tactical Media from other art and their traditions is their common intent to transform and reclaim through art, cultural situations that challenge aspects of society. Societal context is an integral part of their art practice itself and linked directly with everyday life. The Dadaists deplored what they saw as the dehumanization of humanity through forms of industrial mass production and the rise of mass consumerism. And rejected notions of ‘art for arts sake’, and incorporated an, ‘anti-art’ position where they proclaimed art was inseparable from everyday life: “the implicit question the Dadaists posed for themselves was how to reimagine artistic practice in this age of media and technological warfare.”[vi] (Dickerman 2005)

The Situationists shared a “common commitment to devising innovative forms of art which couldn’t be recuperated by secret police agents, rich collectors, bourgeois critics or cultural bureaucrats.” In essence, Situationism and Tactical Media[vii] owe much to DADA, and Hack Value owes much to all of these critically engaged art practices. Tactical Media and Situationism both include critical theory and engage in strategic thinking. They cross over into academic fields to “expose the complacency and superficiality of much contemporary thought, jump through the same intellectual loop holes and stand up to academic scrutiny.”[viii] (Plant 1992)

Like Tactical Media, Hack Value has no central core or institution defining its purpose or role in culture. It exposes rather than is exposed. It preserves within its kernel the behaviour and strategy of experimentation with alternative technologies in line with nomadic, autonomous and rhizomatic tendencies, while investigating how to find routes into physical and digital spaces. Tactical Media and Hack Value both consist of artists, coders, activist and theorists who are exploring different aspects of hacking. Although, to explore Hack Value one does not need to be involved in Tactical Media practice or its culture. Hack Value argues that the noble hacker tradition that has given free reign to curiosity and digital freedoms can exist in everyday life situations. In the age of neoliberalism much of the debate around hacking in mainstream media and nation states falls into classing hackers as threats to national security, thus labelling them all in one easy term as terrorists. We now need to move beyond the digital to explore and build different networks of resistance, where the dialogues include non-hackers, the public and communities. And yes, it is necessary to continue the struggle against the oppressive digital networks growing that are designed to restrict political and creative freedoms. However, Alexander Galloway puts it well when he says, “The goal is not to destroy technology in some neo-luddite delusion, but to push it into a state of hypertrophy, further than it is meant to go.”[ix] (Galloway 2004)

This study also draws upon what Mary Flanagan terms as Critical Play. What Flanagan’s ideas bring to Hack Value, is an understanding of human experience in games culture, where social context is a crucial part of her academic research, alongside a 21st century, contemporary feminist critique as an artist, theorist and games practitioner. Her dedication for emancipatory situations to occur are prevalent in all her games, where their design from the beginning and their formation, with and without technology include processes and strategies where the participants themselves critique the status quo as part of the game play. Flanagan sees this as playing critically, rather than conforming to the traditional game tropes produced by the patriarchal and mainstream hegemonies dominating games culture. When playing these thought provoking games made by the group Tiltfactor founded by Flanagan; people are invited to ask questions that reflect on their own social conditions and personal experiences in everyday life. “Critical play means to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.”[x] (Flanagan 2009) And, “Critical play is characterized by a careful examination of social, cultural, political, or even personal themes that function as alternatives to popular spaces.”[xi]

There is a presumption that everyone is connected to the Internet when in fact many are still not. This needs to be readdressed. Not by connecting even more people onto the Internet or kitting them out with new technologies. Sure, sharing technological resources to support indigenous and local infrastructure is a honourable ambition. However, teching up environments where it may not be necessary more reflects a western viewpoint. Where the binary of ‘having and not having’ is a prominent condition. Sharing tools with others who do not have them is potentially ethical, sensible and emancipatory. Yet, pushing our own technological templates onto indigenous people’s lives may not be in accordance to their own grounded social contexts, nuances, long histories, beliefs and local systems. In this sense, common people of the world share significant traits and dispositions where hegemony and imperial structures have positioned, top-down ideologies via bureaucratic and political economies, onto already richly formed communities. This commodification of life as Bookchin puts it, “is vitiated by the association of needs with consumption for the sake of consumption…”[xii] (Bookchin 1995) just because our societies value these technological breakthroughs does not mean it works for others.

“When one of the Buddha’s disciples came to tell him, after a long voyage in the West, that miraculous things, instruments, medications, methods of thinking, and institutions had transformed people’s lives since the time the master had retreated into the Mountains, the Buddha stopped him after a few words. Have they wiped out sadness, sickness, old age and death? he asked. No, replied the disciple. Then they might as well have kept still, thought the Master. And he plunged back into contemplation, without bothering to show his disciple that he was no longer listening.”[xiii] (Castoriadis1964-65)

This study also draws upon earlier struggles going back to the 1700s in England when everyday people such as Gerrard Winstanley and others forged a movement known as the Diggers also known as the True Levellers, to reclaim and claim common land from the gentry for communities. All examples and contributions will be argued in the context of hacking, whether from the 1700s, recent history and the present day. If this were a larger study it would include the influential Florentine of the 1600s Niccolo Machiavelli. He believed humans were essentially selfish and his own political tactics and writings have influenced many politicians and even hackers, especially his theory of statecraft. However, this investigation is about the inclusion of those not heralded as officially accepted within a political, cultural hegemony and traditional, mainstream art canons. Some of the individuals and groups referenced may now be well known. But their ideas, work and activities speak in terms that relate beyond supporting hermetically sealed and dominating power systems.

The aim is to introduce a discourse that pulls together innovative tactics and ideas where social and technical forms of disruption are not caught within oppositional conditions, and or situations of violence. On one hand this study considers the reasons for revolutionary actions, desires and related tendencies, on the other it advocates non-violent processes and outcomes by studying alternative possibilities as intuitive, technical and physical forms of contextual and cultural hacking.


[i] Christopher Kelty. Two bits: The cultural significance of free software. Durham: Duke University Press. (2008) P. 94. (Referred to by Johan Söderberg. Free Software to Open Hardware: Critical Theory on the Frontiers of Hacking.

Department of Sociology University of Gothenburg. Geson Hylte Tryckt, Göteborg 2011.)

[ii] Richard Stallman. In September 1983, launched the GNU Project to create a free Unix-like operating system, and has been the project’s lead architect and organizer. With the launch of the GNU Project he initiated the free software movement. In October 1985 he founded the Free Software Foundation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

[iii] GNU Operating System. http://www.gnu.org/

[iv] Richard Stallman. On hacking. http://www.stallman.org/articles/on-hacking.html#cracker

[v] Guy Debord. Theses on Cultural Revolution. (1958-69) Situationist International Anthology. Revised and Expanded Edition. Edited and translated by Kenn Knabb. 2006. P.53.

[vi] Leah A. Lievrouw. Alternative and Activist New Media. Digital Media and Society Series. Polity Press. 2011. P. 32.

[vii] “Tactical Media are what happens when the cheap ‘do it yourself’ media, made possible by the revolution in consumer electronics and expanded forms of distribution (from public access cable to internet) are exploited by groups and individuals who feel aggrieved by or excluded from the wider culture.” David Garcia and Geert Lovink. From Alex Galloway’s book, Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization. From a chapter called Tactical Media. The MIT Press. 2004. P.175.

[viii] Sadie Plant. The Most Radical gesture. The Situationist International in a Postmodern Age. Routledge. 1992. Preface Page 1.

[ix] Alexander R. Galloway. Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization. The MIT Press. 2004. P.206.

[x] Mary Flanagan. Critical Play: Radical game design. The MIT Press. 2009. Chapter 1. P.6.

[xi] (Ibid) P.6.

[xii] Murray Bookchin. The Ecology of Freedom: The emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy. Black Rose Books. Reprinted 1995. P. 69.

[xiii] The Castoriadis Reader. Chapter: Marxism and Revolutionary Theory (1964-65*): Excerpts. Marxism:A Provisional Assessment. The Historical Situation of Marxism and the Notion of Orthodoxy. Edited by David Ames Curtis. Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1997. P.169-70.


Selected Curated & Co-curated Exhibitions and Events

Exhibition. Shu Lea Cheang and Mark Amerika. August. October 2013

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/shu-lea-cheang-and-mark-amerika

Event. Seeds Underground Party. Shu Lea Cheang. August 2013
In conjunction with Shu Lea Cheang and Mark Amerika exhibition.

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/event/seeds-underground-party

Movable Borders: Here Come the Drones! 1 – 26 May 2013.
Artworks and projects by Bureau of Inverse Technology (US & AU), Lawrence Bird (US), Patrick Lichty (US), Dave Miller & Gavin Stewart (UK), The Force of Freedom (NL) and Dave Young (NL).

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/movable-borders-here-come-drones

Movable Borders: The Reposition Matrix Workshop – with Dave Young. May 2013.

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/event/movable-borders-reposition-matrix-workshop

Glitch Moment/ums. June – July 2013.
Curated by Rosa Menkman & Furtherfield. Featuring Alma Alloro, Melissa Barron (US), Nick Briz (US), Benjamin Gaulon (FR), José Irion Neto (BR), Antonio Roberts (UK) and Ant Scott (UK).

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/glitch-momentums

WWW: World Wide Web. October -December 2012.
Featuring: Paula Crutchlow & Helen Varley Jamieson (UK & NZ/DE), Andy Deck (US), Mary Flanagan (US), Genetic Moo (UK), Dominic Smith (UK), and Sarah Waterson (AU) -  http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/www-world-wild-web

Invisible Forces. June-August 2012.
Featuring: Class Wargames (UK), Kimathi Donkor (UK), The Hexists (UK), Laura Oldfield Ford UK), IOCOSE (IT), Dave Miller (UK), Edward Picot (UK), Olga P Massanet (ES) and Thomas Cade Aston (CA), and YoHa (UK).

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/invisible-forces

Being Social. February-April 2012.
Featuring: Annie Abrahams (NL/FR), Karen Blissett (UK), Ele Carpenter (UK), Emilie Giles (UK), moddr_ (NL), Liz Sterry (UK) and Thomson and Craighead (UK).

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/being-social

Free Yourself? Collection curated for Electronic Village Hall (a University College Falmouth, project). 2011.
Featuring artwork by Rob Myers, Karen Blissett, Moddr, and Newstweak (Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev) (Furtherfield).

http://evg.dematerial.org/collection/free-yourself

Made Real – Scott Kildall (US) & Nathaniel Stern (US) – May-June 2011.

http://www.furtherfield.org/programmes/exhibition/made-real

REFF – REMIX THE WORLD! REINVENT REALITY! – Art is Open Source (IT). February-March 2011
http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/reff-remix-world reinvent-reality

In the Long Run – IOCOSE (IT) -November 2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/long-run/index.shtml

If not you not me – Annie Abrahams (NL/FR) – February-March 2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/if-not-you-not-me

Feral Trade Café – Kate Rich (UK/AU) – June-August 2009

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/feral-trade-cafe

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. January-March 2009.
Doron Golan (IL) and Michael Szpakowski (UK) –

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/whereof-one-cannot-speak-thereof-one-must-be-silent

The Jeremy Bailey Show – Jeremy Bailey (US) – September-October 2008

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/jeremy-bailey-show

Open Source Embroidery: Craft and Code – Ele Carpenter (UK). May – June 2008
Also featuring Paul Grimmer, Tricia Grindrod, Jake Harries & Keith o’Faoláin, John Keenan, Trevor Pitt, Clare Ruddock, James Wallbank, and Lisa Wallbank.

http://www.furtherfield.org/http%3A/%252Fwww.http.uk.net/exhibitions/OSE/index.shtml

Zero Gamer. October – November 2007
Featuring: Axel Stockburger (DE), TheGhost, Corrado Morgana (UK), Ziga Hajdukovic (SI), Progress Quest and JODI (UK).

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/zero-gamer-sometimes-we-just-watch

Game/Play July-September 2006
Artists featured Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern / Jetro Lauha / Julian Oliver (UK) / Kenta Cho / Mary Flanagan (US) / Low Brow Trash / Paul Granjon / Simon Poulter (UK) / Giles Askham / Jakub Dvorsky / Long Journey Home/PRU/Q Club / Furtherfield / Tale of Tales.

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/game-play

Urban Eyes-Marcus Kirsch and Jussi Angesleva-June-July 2006

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/urban-eyes

Open Vice/Virtue: The Online Art Context-Andy Deck– March-April 2006

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/open-vicevirtue-online-art-context

Spio: a de-generative installation – Lucas Bambozzi -March-April 2006

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/spio-de-generative-installation

Abuse of the Public Domain – Stanza UK) -December-January 2006

http://www.furtherfield.org/exhibitions/abuse-public-domain


Selected Radio Interviews 2010-2011

Summary

Interviews By Marc Garrett on Resonance FM, for Furtherfield between 2010-2011.

These critically acclaimed broadcasts on Resonance FM, ran from 2010 – 2011. The live weekly series were an hour long. These interviews featured people working at the edge of contemporary practices, in art, technology, and social change; discussing events and controversies, exhibitions, artworks and their aesthetic and social contexts. Also showcasing music and noise. Regularly joined by a rolling team of co-hosts, Ruth Catlow, Irini Papdimitriou, Jonathan Munro & Charlotte Frost.

The links below are to individual pages, with details about the interviews with mp3 downloads.

Rob Myers & Katrin Baumgarten – 30/03/11

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/300311-rob-myers-katrin-baumgarten

Penny Travlou & Karsten Schmidt & Daniel Hirschmann – 23/03/11

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/230311-penny-travlou-karsten-schmidt-daniel-hirschmann

Jake Harries & Felicie d’Estienne d’Orves – 16/03/11

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/160311-jake-harries-felicie-destienne-dorves

Simon Poulter & Ellie Harrison – 09/03/11

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/090311-simon-poulter-ellie-harrison

Stanza & Stuart Bowditch – 02/03/11

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/020311-stanza-stuart-bowditch

Eleonora Oreggia aka XNAME & Christian Kerrigan – 23/02/2011

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/23022011-eleonora-oreggia-aka-xname-christian-kerrigan

Art is Open Source (AOS) & Monica Biagioli – 16/02/2011 (not on this program but edited questions & compiled music)

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/16022011-art-open-source-aos-monica-biagioli

Elisa Rose & Gary Danner from Station Rose & Madi Boyd – 09/02/2011

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/09022011-elisa-rose-gary-danner-station-rose-madi-boyd

Mute Magazine and Jonathan Munro, Gareth Goodison and Parag K Mital – 15/12/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/15122010-mute-magazine-and-jonathan-munro-gareth-goodison-and-parag-k-mital

University for Strategic Optimism and Genetic Moo – 8/12/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/8122010-university-strategic-optimism-and-genetic-moo

John Wild and Olga Panades Massanet & Vincent Van Uffelen – 1/12/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/1122010-john-wild-and-olga-panades-massanet-vincent-van-uffelen

Class Wargames and Tine Bech – 24/11/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/24112010-class-wargames-and-tine-bech

Joseph Young and sketchPatch – 17/11/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/17112010-joseph-young-and-sketchpatch

IOCOSE and Owen Bowden – 07/11/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/07112010-iocose-and-owen-bowden

Mary Flanagan & Anna Dumitriu, Tom Keene and Dr Simon Park – 27/10/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/27102010-mary-flanagan-anna-dumitriu-tom-keene-and-dr-simon-park

Deena DeNaro and Hellicar & Lewis – 20/10/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/20102010-deena-denaro-and-hellicar-lewis

Stuart Home & Richard Wright – 25/05/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/25052010-stuart-home-richard-wright-live

Jon Thompson & Alison Craighead, Corrado Morgana – 11/05/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/11052010-john-thompson-alison-craighead-corrado-morgana-live

Jim Prevet & Kassia Molga – 4/05/2010
4/05/2010 – Jim Prevet & Kassia Molga (Live)

Pete Gomes & Nick Lambert – 20/04/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/20042010-pete-gomes-nick-lambert-live

Lottie Child & Space Makers Agency -13/04/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/13042010-lottie-child-space-makers-agency-live

Danja Vasiliev, James Wallbank & Steve Withington From Access Space – 06/04/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/09032010-douglas-dodds-va-sophie-macdonald-sally-northmore-mztek

Douglas Dodds (V&A), Sophie Macdonald & Sally Northmore (Mztek) -09/03/2010

http://www.furtherfield.org/radio/09032010-douglas-dodds-va-sophie-macdonald-sally-northmore-mztek


Selected interviews on art, technology & social change by Marc Garrett

via Selected interviews by Marc Garrett.

A selection of interviews by Marc Garrett between 2010-2013, with people involved in art, technology & social change.


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