Influential Activism

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Survival Research Laboratories, Amsterdam, 2008 (Photo by Boris VanHoytema)

The word "influencer" is most often used by marketing strategists to refer to cool people to whom other consumers turn to for fashion and food advice. But the organizers of The Influencers, an annual "culture jamming and guerrilla communication fest" brandish this word like a weapon in the fight against the corporatization of culture. On February 5-7, the artist groups d-i-n-a and Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) will present their fifth festival "dedicated to exploring unconventional weapons of mass communication." Their approach grows out of a classical perspective on détournement but is updated by an understanding of networked infrastructures and new forms of mobility and social organizing that effect protest strategies in digital culture. In addition to talks, workshops, and impromptu interventions, the festival's events will revolve around eight commissioned works by Survival Research Laboratories, Ztohoven, BLU, Improv Everywhere, Julius von Bismarck, Wu Ming, Swoon, and Wolfgang Staehle. This is an eclectic group, to say the least, whose work ranges from graffiti to pyrotechnics to comedic group performances to poetic video installations. The group's diversity serves to illustrate the wide reach of commercialism's impact and the wide range of people interested in fighting back in support of the liberties that become threatened by corporate encroachment onto public space and public speech. One goal of the festival will be to map out how these alternative voices can infiltrate the hardlined frontier between public and private, so these artists were thus selected for "their taste for risk, the impulse that moves the authors of these projects to build dangerous machines, act politically incorrectly, use anachronous technology, or simply to defy common sense." It sounds both fun and challenging, but if you can't make it to Barcelona, visit their site and follow the path to their archives, which feature "more than 25 hours of video with the artists, activists, and media-freaks invited to The Influencers since 2004." - Marisa Olson