Occupy the Internet

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This essay was originally published in N+1's Occupy! An OWS-Inspired Gazette

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images via The Big Picture

A Tumblr of user-submitted handwritten signs with bleak personal testimonies first captured the internet’s attention. Presented are the lives of real people, unmistakable hardships, ready to reblog and retweet. But implied—by the faces, the faces, the faces —is that to sympathize you must show up. This time a Facebook “like” is not enough. 

There is something twisted and belittling about the momentary act of tapping on Tumblr’s like button — a heart icon — when you are looking at the face of someone who has itemized his debt in magic marker for you to calculate. How much we have and what we owe is what we are typically raised never to discuss openly in polite company. These images of persons denuded of financial mystery request from the viewer something just as human; not a thoughtless mouse click. To properly commiserate with the enormity of this curated series of individual misfortunes, one must in person participate.

Around the globe, the “99 percent” sloganing rings effortlessly. This is a generation accustomed to encapsulating arguments into 140 character messages. It is also a generation experienced in negotiating private entities for public means. Zuccotti Park’s tenuous standing as a privately owned public park seems an inevitable metaphor for the questions of free speech, assembly, and property rights posed by so many virtual spaces. Brookfield is like Facebook, Bloomberg like Zuckerberg: their threatened park closure is like the ever-present possibility that Facebook will suspend activist accounts and group pages used to plan rallies and activities, for vaguely specified reasons.

"We must occupy real and virtual spaces,” Reuters’ Anthony De Rosa tweeted, quoting an occupier at the second Washington Square park General Assembly. Without one there couldn’t exist the other.

 

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Snapshots of Occupy Wall Street

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Reuters/Eduardo Munoz via The Atlantic In Focus

On a quiet night, Zuccotti Park feels more like a LARP than a demonstration. Everyone deep in character with a specific task. Extemporized librarians, scanning books. The media team inside a cat’s cradle of crisscrossing wires, barricade by the discarded boxes of donated devices. The scent of detergent from a block away as the sanitation unit mops the pavement. 

What should we be? "Tactical beekeepers!" my friend Melissa suggested; a joke on the state ban on face covering that police were enforcing, accounting for the absence of Guy Fawkes masks and bandanas. But actually my role there was as tourist, which anyone could tell whenever I checked my phone for text messages or turned the device horizontally for snapshots of witty posters.

In what would be the shadow of the World Trade Center, and at the heart of both a neighborhood traumatized and city district that represents financial power the world over; the psychogeography of Zuccotti Park will inspire theoretic naval gazing for years to come. But every Occupy Wall Street march in New York seems to poetically incorporate the history and semiotics of the city. Times Square marchers in Milton Glasner's "I (Heart) NY" t-shirts, waving sparklers in the air, singing show tunes along with a brass band behind the TKTS booth while tourists feverishly snapped photos, as they would any other urban spectacle. Another photo op: the wall of riot cops beneath the Washington Square arch, the Empire State Building gleaming directly north, lights piercing the night sky. After the General Assembly meeting disassembled for the midnight curfew, it seemed like anyone out on Bleecker Street that Saturday night could have been part of it. 

This movement was built on unforgettable images.

 

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Art Intervention Planned Friday in Response to Strict Cuts to Cultural Funding in the Netherlands

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On Friday the 24th June at noon local time, we need you to join this initiative in shrouding art locations across the world incoloured smoke. This visual act will be a sign of resistance against the growing disdain for the arts within societies and governments worldwide, and a sign of support for colleagues who face major cutbacks. Now is the time to act to show your appreciation and the necessity of the arts!

ARTBOMB is a peaceful art intervention initiated in The Netherlands. The Dutch Government is about to cut 40% of all cultural funding. This will result in the disappearance of a multitude of organizations that excel internationally in their field. This loss will be felt not only by the Dutch public but by the international community.

One signal, one moment, one act to show support. You can contribute visual ammunition against the disproportionate cuts to the arts budget. This visible intervention will rise up around the world where people value the arts and want to express their support for artists and cultural organizations.

Everybody who joins the ARTBOMB intervention will become part of this chain reaction and is invited to upload the photos and films of their own intervention to the website www.artbomb.nl as a token of solidarity and a symbol of strength.

WHAT IGNITE COLOURED SMOKE AND DOCUMENT THE EVENT

WHEN 12 NOON LOCAL TIME, FRIDAY 24th JUNE

WHERE ART LOCATION OF YOUR CHOICE

AFTER UPLOAD YOUR IMAGES/FOOTAGE TO www.artbomb.nl

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RECOMMENDED READING: Hans Ulrich Obrist In Conversation with Julian Assange II, e-flux

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HUO: Do you think the Western world as a whole is being Putinized?

JA: The Western world is slowly being Putinized. It has progressed the most in the United States. But there is a rivalry with the banking sector, and it’s not clear who is going to win. It’s not even clear, as time goes by, that these will even be two separate, rival systems. Rather, the privatization of the national security sector means that, as time goes by, the connections between Wall Street and the national security sector are starting to disappear, because you have shared ownership of, say, Lockheed Martin or Boeing. And then you have cross investments and portfolios and credit default swaps, and so forth, on the functions of these intelligence contractors and military contractors. So, they are actually starting to merge at critical points. But, looking at the behavior of the White House, it’s clear that still within the White House—and in influences upon the White House—that there are still some distinctive differences between these two groups. Obama’s backers are from Wall Street. They are from his banking sector, his big money. And he does not actually have a handle on the intelligence and military patronage network. So it’s like he’s sitting on some cake mix, which is this military intelligence patronage network. As it grows stronger, he just has to sort of rise up with it as it moves in a particular direction. He has to move with it, because he doesn’t have a handle on it. He doesn’t have any spoon he can stick into it to move it around, because his family doesn’t have anything to do with this system. They’re not meshed with the system, so he can’t control it, whereas Hillary has significant connections within that system. And we can look at something like when it was announced that Knopf had signed an 800,000 dollars deal for my book to be published in the US, and I stated that I would use a portion of this money to keep WikiLeaks afloat. Peter T. King, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee—a powerful position in United States Congress—wrote to Timothy C. Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, and personally asked him to add Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as an organization to the US Specially Designated Nationals List, which is the US embargo list. So in the way that Cuba is embargoed from all economic interaction with any US citizen under penalty of criminal action, I, personally, would be embargoed from any economic interaction with any US citizen, and so would WikiLeaks. Timothy C. Geithner then smacked this request back within 48 hours and denied it. It’s very unusual. Geithner is right from the elite of the Wall Street patronage network. And as US Treasury Secretary, he’s remained there. In terms of a diplomatic signal, that was very interesting. As a purely technocratic response, Geithner could have sat on it for two, three weeks, to then reject or accept it for technical reasons. To knock it back so quickly is to say, no, we’re deliberately sending a signal that we don’t want that to happen. And it’s very easy to understand, because the national security, government, and private sector in the United States flourishes from its lack of accountability, from its secrecy. That’s how it’s able to gradually increase its power. But WikiLeaks is holding that power to account. To generate or to encourage the adoption of a position where publishing or revealing information about the national security sector is illegal—or will result in being added to the US Specially Designated Nationals List—is to foster the power and expansion of that national security patronage network at the economic and power expense of the Wall Street network.

— EXCERPT FROM "IN CONVERSATION WITH JULIAN ASSANGE, PART II BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST, E-FLUX JOURNAL. Assange also responds to questions posed to him by artists Goldin+Senneby, Paul Chan, Metahaven (Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk), Martha Rosler, Luis Camnitzer, Superflex, Philippe Parreno, and Ai Weiwei. (Part I)

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RECOMMENDED READING: Hans Ulrich Obrist In Conversation with Julian Assange, e-flux

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Metahaven

JA: ... We have never unpublished something that we have published. And it’s all very well for me to say that, but how can the public be assured? They can’t. There are some things that we have traditionally done, such as providing cryptographic hashes of the files that we have released, allowing for a partial check if you have a copy of a specific list of cryptographic hashes. But that’s not good enough. And we’re an organization whose content is under constant attack. We have had over one hundred serious legal threats, and many intelligence and other actions against us. But this problem, and its solution, is also the solution to another problem, which is: How can we globally, consistently name a part of our intellectual history in such a way that we can accurately converse about it? And by “converse” I don’t mean a conversation like we’re having now, but rather one that takes place through history and across space. For example, if I start talking about the First Amendment, you know what I mean, within this current context of our conversation. I mean the First Amendment of the United States. But what does that mean? It’s simply an abstraction of something. But what if the First Amendment was only in digital form, and someone like Nadhmi Auchi made an attack on that piece of text and made it disappear forever, or replaced it with another one? Well, we know the First Amendment is spread everywhere, so it’s easily checkable. If we are confused in our conversation and unsure of what we’re talking about, or we really want to get down to the details, it’s in so many places that if I find a copy, it’s going to be the same as the copy you find. But this is because it’s a short and very ancient and very popular document. In the cases of these Nadhmi Auchi stories, there were eight that were removed, but actually this removal of material as a result of political or legal threats, it’s happening everywhere. This is just the tip of the iceberg. And there are other forms of removal that are less intentional but more pernicious, which can be a simple matter of companies going under along with the digital archives they possess. So we need a way of consistently and accurately naming every piece of human knowledge, in such a way that their name arises out of the knowledge itself, out of its textual, visual, or aural representation, where the name is inextricably coupled to what it actually is. If we have that name, and if we use that name to refer to some information, and someone tries to change the contents, then it is either impossible or completely detectable by anyone using the name...

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DIS Magazine's "Labor Issue"

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DIS Magazine are killin' it again with their newly released "Labor Issue" which examines work in the culture industry in an unstable, recession-ridden world. Jenna Sauers recounts how her modeling career kicked off her descent into debt, W.A.G.E share some of their propaganda, Marco Roso's photo essay shows how one can travel if a "fetishized commodity," Paul Mpagi Sepuya documents Chelsea gallery receptionists, and much more.

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The Resurrection of Piss Christ (2011) - Anonymous

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A consciously derivative work, The Resurrection of Piss Christ is a direct response to the destruction of the original. Duplicating the same fate as its star subject, Immersion (Piss Christ) is subjected to the artificial immortality we now wield through the Internet. Our interconnectedness now transforms an act of destruction - through communication and distribution - into an act of preservation.

As a statement against fundamentalism, The Resurrection will fuel it.

As a statement against the commercial value of an intentionally contentious work, The Resurrection will feed and inflate it.

I denounce any act that attempts to silence an individuals thought or speech or expression. Simultaneously, I question the integrity of a work that provokes so ineloquently.

The Resurrection flaunts its infinite reproducibility. Coupled with my anonymity, it ignores the archaic mechanism upon which the art market balances itself.

The Resurrection exists beyond the marketplace. Do what you want with it.

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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Terminal Convention Takes Flight

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Exterior of the Cork International Airport (Credit: Mike Hannon Media)

What is an airport? There are few buildings as strictly controlled, commercially exploited and emotionally embedded in the contemporary word. Junctions of humanity, they are sites of equal boredom and threat. Airports are dynamic spaces, with flows of people and capital yet they are as susceptible to the effects of socio-economic and political changes as they are to extreme weather changes. Filled with ubiquitous surveillance, continual identification and suspicion, what happens when they loose this function and just become buildings again?

Terminal Convention was a contemporary exhibition and symposium housed in the decommissioned terminal building of Cork International Airport in the Republic of Ireland. The old terminal stands in the shadow of its new, bright, open and airy, off-the-shelf 21st century airport successor, and the decommissioned terminal has remained a virtually untouched unknown wonderland for international artists to transform.

What is striking about this particular airport ex-terminal is its friendly persona, at times more akin to a bizarre extended living room than an airport, with its fireplaces and fish tanks in the baggage reclaim area. Striped of its function and control, the space is deadened and immobile without the continuous hums and flows of international travel. The description ‘decommissioned’ implies something more than simply the staff moving out and locking the door – the building has been stripped of all its symbolic authority. The new freedom to roam, unchecked, through the once tightly controlled spaces provides a small thrill, the ‘no entry’ signs remain in place, but are now rendered obsolete.

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David Wojnarowicz's A Fire In My Belly at the New Museum and HIDESEEK.ORG

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David Wojnarowicz "A Fire in My Belly" Original from ppow_gallery on Vimeo.

In protest of the Smithsonian's decision to pull David Wojnarowicz's A Fire In My Belly from the "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery after pressure from the Catholic League, Rhizome's sister organization, the New Museum, will screen the work in the lobby until January 23, 2011. Many other museums, galleries and universities around the country (and world!) are following suit. Check HIDESEEK.ORG for a full listing of screenings of A Fire In My Belly organized in response to the controversy.

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Required Reading

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We do not think that taking a stand for or against WikiLeaks is what matters most. WikiLeaks is here to stay, until it either scuttles itself or is destroyed by opposing forces. Our point is rather to (try to) assess and ascertain what WikiLeaks can, could — and maybe even should — do, and to help formulate how “we” could relate to and interact with WikiLeaks. Despite all its drawbacks, and against all odds, WikiLeaks has rendered a sterling service to the cause of transparency, democracy and openness. As the French would say, if something like it did not exist, it would have to be invented. The quantitative — and what looks soon to become the qualitative — turn of information overload is a fact of contemporary life. The glut of disclosable information can only be expected to continue grow — and exponentially so. To organize and interpret this Himalaya of data is a collective challenge that is clearly out there, whether we give it the name “WikiLeaks” or not.

-- EXCERPT FROM "TWELVES THESES ON WIKILEAKS" BY GEERT LOVINK AND PATRICE RIEMENS

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