January 25th, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nike throws in the towel
...and withdraws case against European art project
In December there was still uncertainty about the final outcome of the
lawsuit filed by Nike International against Public Netbase for producing
0100101110101101.ORG's art project "Nike Ground -- Rethinking space".
For several weeks, the fate of the renowned Vienna-based net culture
platform hung in the balance, its continuing existence threatened by the
court action. But we can now confirm that the sportswear company has
yielded under the pressure of international public and media attention
generated by the action.
"We won! -- declares satisfied 0100101110101101.ORG spokesman Franco
Birkut, -- and our victory is proof of at least one thing: the famous
"Swoosh" logo belongs to the people who actually wear it every day.
These commercial giants think they can beat anyone who annoys them, and
they're unable to distinguish an artistic or critical project from
unfair competition or commercial fraud. Nike was not the target of our
performance, they are just one amongst the many tools we use to make our
point. We were not against them, but they reacted in such a hasty and
unseemly way, with no style at all. In the end it was a pleasure to play
with Nike: the bigger they are, the harder they fall!"
"It was worth the risk in order to insist on the right to free artistic
expression in urban spaces -- Public Netbase director Konrad Becker
declares -- The intimidation attempts of this company known for its
sneaky marketing strategies have turned back against them". The
worldwide interest generated by the project can also be explained by the
fact that it emphasized the importance of a cutting-edge artistic
practice that employs the real means of production of a society
increasingly determined by the media and technology. Becker: "The
project drew attention to important issues such as the globalized
dominance of economic interests over cultural symbols and gave rise to
controversial perspectives and contentious interpretations".
In mid September 2003, 0100101110101101.ORG started a surreal art
project called Nike Ground ( http://www.nikeground.com
), a "hyper-real
theatrical performance" built around a fake guerrilla marketing
campaign: Nike was supposedly buying streets and squares in major world
capitals, in order to rename them and insert giant monuments of their
famous logo. A 13 tons hi-tech container was installed in Vienna, the
first city to host a "Nike Square", as part of the action.
Nike wasted no time: "These actions have gone beyond a joke. This is not
just a prank, it's a breach of our copyright and therefore Nike will
take legal action against the instigators of this phoney campaign". On
October 14th, Nike released a 20 page injunction requesting the
immediate removal of any reference to copyrighted material, and that any
activity related to Nike cease immediately. Failure to comply with this
request would mean that Nike would claim 78,000 Euros for damages.
"When they started legal action against us -- says Franco Birkut -- they
knew perfectly well that we were not a competitor and that they were
dealing with an art project, but they continued legal proceedings in
order to crush us and erase any trace of the work. We didn't allow them
to intimidate us, we ignored their ultimatum and went on with the
performance till the end of October, because this was our initial idea".
The international press reacted badly to Nike's legal action:
"Regardless of the outcome of the trial -- wrote Cathy Macherel in Le
Courrier -- their action will have been success: hasn't operation Nike
Ground shown the public the other side of the "Swoosh" corporation
advertisement? Far from being a free symbol integrated in the public
sphere, here Nike reveals itself as a humorless multinational that has
lost all sense of play as soon as someone touches its interests".
The Commercial Court has rejected Nike's plea for a provisional
injunction on formal grounds. After this refusal Nike didn't take
further legal action. The match is over: Nike threw in the towel.
Nike Ground is the latest surreal action by the European art group known
as 0100101110101101.ORG, a band of media artists who use non
conventional communication tactics to obtain the largest visibility with
the minimal effort. Past works include staging a hoax involving a
completely made-up artist, ripping off the Holy See and spreading a
computer virus as a work of art.