Randall Packer
Since the beginning
Works in WASHINGTON, District of Columbia United States of America

PORTFOLIO (2)
BIO
Since the 1980s, multimedia artist, composer, writer and educator Randall Packer has worked at the intersection of interactive media and live performance. He has received international acclaim for his socially and politically infused critique of media culture, and has performed and exhibited at museums, theaters, and festivals throughout the world. Packer is also a writer and scholar in new media, most notably the co-editor of Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality and the author of his long running blog: Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge. He holds an MFA and PhD in music composition and has taught multimedia at the University of California, Berkeley, Maryland Institute College of Art, American University, CalArts, and Johns Hopkins University. He is currently a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he teaches the art of the networked practice. Most recently, he developed Open Source Studio (OSS), an international project exploring collaborative online research and teaching in the media arts. Packer is also an artist educator at the Museum of Modern Art: his online course received an award from Museums and the Web as the best educational site of 2014. Packer works and teaches remotely from his underground studio bunker in Washington, DC.
Discussions (89) Opportunities (1) Events (1) Jobs (0)
DISCUSSION

Review of CAE's Marching Plague by Randall Packer


+Commissioned by Rhizome.org+

Review of Critical Art Ensemble's Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and
Global Public Health (Autonomedia, 2006), by Randall Packer

In May of 2004, Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) member Steve Kurtz was
arrested for possession of alleged illegal bio-medical materials.
This event, coupled with the tragic death of his wife Hope, triggered
a response of outrage from the arts community when it was determined
that accusations made by the FBI suggested the artist was engaging in
terrorist activity. Like many at the time, I wrote a letter of
support for Steve. The following is an excerpt:

"Steve's commitment to social inquiry, particularly in the area of
bio-technology, is internationally renowned. Steve is an artist and
scholar of extraordinary depth of knowledge and perspective. Behind
the actions and projects of CAE is a profound understanding of 20th
century avant-garde practice and its impact on contemporary thought.
If in fact it is the role of the artist to shed new light and vision
on the issues that confront us today... the defense of Steve Kurtz is
vital to the defense of the artist, whose role is to function as a
mediator between our strange hostile world and the human spirit."

Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health, Critical Art
Ensemble's latest book, functions as a profound account of the
artistic struggle to challenge the political status quo in times of
crisis. The task of writing the book was indeed a heroic one. After
the original material was confiscated by the FBI, CAE went through
the painstaking task of reconstructing the research, a slow and
tedious process made more difficult with Kurtz's defense of his legal
case.

Nevertheless, Marching Plague was completed, albeit in a revised
form, documenting the CAE argument that the government's use of funds
for germ warfare research is suspect, and is based primarily on
deceptive reports and scare tactics. They contend that the military's
research in bio-terrorism is a tremendous waste of public funds that
diverts money from the more urgent need to "defeat diseases such as
malaria and HIV that prematurely end of the lives of millions of
people each year."

CAE carefully builds its argument as to the limited military
effectiveness of harmful germs such as smallpox, anthrax, plague,
etc. They cite the history of their use, the relatively small number
of fatalities, and the few incidents of successful implementation.
They provide abundant evidence that collateral damage and the
complexity of discharging the toxins into the environment underscores
their claim that germ warfare is a "a burning excess that in the end
does little more than terrorize a nation's own citizenry."

Bolstering their case against the false threat of germs as a
biological weapon, CAE makes the interesting point that the
terrorists are not the "Legion of Doom" or "deranged humans," as the
government would have us believe, but rather, they are highly
tactical in their political agenda. So why would they employ
biological materials given the extreme difficulty of implementation?
The reasons are contradictory. While the government maintains its
position that bio-weapons in the hands of terrorists would cause
millions of deaths, CAE maintains that the extreme difficulty of
implementation would primarily result in the death of those who
attempt to use them, which they refer to as the "boomerang effect."

CAE then takes on the larger ramifications of the politics of fear,
discussing the government's propaganda campaign to promote
unnecessary, costly defense and security systems in the so-called
"war on terror." They equate the Bush Administration's declaration,
"we are winning the war on terror," with the Orwellian reversal of
its meaning: that is, we, "the state," are winning as declaration
that they are seizing authoritarian control over their citizenry.
They give as an example the US Government's Department of Homeland
Security threat advisory system, a wildly inaccurate and manipulative
system that was "religiously reported by the news media whenever the
government gave the call."

They go on to say that the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans
was the result of the government's obsession with the war on terror.
After the misguided appointment of Michael Brown, "FEMA developed a
new 'all hazards' plan suitable only for the many types of terrorist
attacks that the agency could dream up." They point out the political
crisis inherent in this misguided policy, such that when civilian
interests must compete with the military, the military always takes
precedence.

What is particularly prescient about the timing of Germ Warfare and
its critique on the war on terrorism is how it dramatically makes
light of the fact that the US Government's obsession with the threat
of terrorism has overshadowed more pressing problems, such as global
warming, world hunger, AIDS, etc, that in the end are killing
millions of people. CAE offers as a rationale the Bush
Administration's consistent yielding to the needs of corporate
America. Just as energy policy is based on the oil industry's need to
maximize its profits, so too, the vast bio-medical industry has
capitalized on the fear of germ warfare as a weapon of mass
destruction, resulting in costly research to defend the nation
against a largely hypothetical attack. In the public health sector,
funds to fight disease have been redirected to fight the war on
terror due to the Pentagon's nightmare scenario of germ warfare - a
tragic waste of public tax dollars.

Overall, CAE's argument against the viability of germ warfare is a
timely critique of the war on terror and the government's effort to
perpetuate the crisis for reasons that are suspect, thus draining
precious resources from the public good. This critique becomes all
the more poignant in light of Kurtz's own personal predicament. The
big question CAE asks is, "couldn't they see that Critical Art
Ensemble's work is art?" Is it really possible that the government
can't distinguish between an artist and a terrorist? In the US, there
is very little understanding among the general public, let alone the
government, that a critical role of the artist in society is to
examine and dissect contemporary cultural conditions. We can only
stand in horror that Steve Kurtz, an internationally renowned
political artist and university professor, could have his work
confiscated and be treated as a dangerous threat.

But like the case of Joe Wilson, whose controversial investigation of
nuclear activity in Niger sent shock waves through the US government
all the way up the top, we see echoes of this in the prosecution of
Steve Kurtz. Marching Plague is a powerful critique exposing the
Government's use of germ warfare as a false scare tactic, and for
this reason, we can understand why they have taken Kurtz to task. It
is a frightening scenario, one that could happen to any artist or
citizen who challenges the government in times of crisis. This book
is an important testament to the fragility of free expression in a
nation gripped by fear and uncertainty.

DISCUSSION

Mark Amerika : Digital Personas


New Media Arts Lecture
Presented by the Department of Art | Multimedia
American University
Washington, DC

Mark Amerika
"Digital Personas"

Time: Monday, April 10th, 4:00 pm
Location: Abramson Family Recital Hall
Katzen Arts Center, American University
Lecture is free and open to the public

Mark Amerika will present his work composed over the last 15 years, a
mix of personal narrative, philosophical inquiry, spontaneous
theories, and cyberpunk fictions, locating the emerging spaces where
new media artists operate when distributing their digital personas.

Mark Amerika, who has been named a "Time Magazine 100 Innovator," has
had four retrospectives of his digital art work. He is a Professor of
Art and Art History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His net
art, DVD surround sound installations, and VJ performances have been
exhibited and featured all over the world including the Whitney
Biennial, the ICA in London, and the Walker Arts Center. He is the
author of two novels, has edited three published anthologies, and is
the Founder and Publisher of the Alt-X Online Network, a net art and
new media writing site started on the Internet in 1993
(www.altx.com). His forthcoming book of artist writings, entitled
META/DATA: A Digital Poetics, will be published by MIT Press later
this year. Mark Amerika is currently directing his first
feature-length film, entitled MY AUTOEROTIC MUSE.

For more information:

Department of Art | Multimedia
American University
Randall Packer
http://multimedia.american.edu
rpacker@zakros.com

DISCUSSION

Orf's Immolation Closes Mardi Gras, New Orleans


US Department of Art & Technology
Washington, DC
http://www.usdat.us

Office of the Press Secretary: press@usdat.us
For Immediate Release: February 16, 2006

ORF'S IMMOLATION
A RITUAL ACT OF PROTEST AND PURIFICATION
Mardi Gras, New Orleans - February 28, 2006
http://www.usdat.us/immolation

WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary-at-Large Randall M. Packer announces ORF'S
IMMOLATION, a ritual act of protest and purification, presented by
the US Department of Art & Technology (US DAT) as the closing event
of Mardi Gras, New Orleans, February 28, 2006, 11:00 pm - 12:00 am
CST. ORF'S IMMOLATION will be executed by Los Angeles tenor Charles
Lane.

US DAT is leading an ambitious artistic response mobilization at
Mardi Gras to confront deteriorating social and political conditions
in America that have led to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. US DAT
will stage the spectacular immolation of Orf at Jackson Square
following a one hour multimedia walk-through from the Marigny
Triangle to the French Quarter. Images of the hurricane and its
aftermath will be projected on the caped figure of Orf while he sings
classic American songs of defiance, catharsis and rebirth. The US
Department of Art & Technology is vigilant in its efforts to recover
and reclaim what is sacred and what is at risk, what is fragile in
the unique culture of New Orleans.

ORF'S IMMOLATION is part of the ongoing project A Season in Hell (for
perilous times in post-apocalyptic America), launched on January 20,
2005 upon the Death of the Nation (Inauguration Day). At that time,
Secretary-at-Large Packer declared the entire nation a disaster area.
Since then, the full arsenal of artistic and technological resources
and capabilities of US DAT have been directed to assist and protect
those citizens who have born the brunt of this national catastrophe.
The Department is working closely with state and local artists to
assess damage, identify critical needs, and bring about forms of
artistic mediation that ensure new models and new possibilities for
social and political transformation.

We know people are suffering, and we are trying to overcome the
enormous collapse of humanity posed by the actions of the United
States Government.

ORF'S IMMOLATION Operations Team: Steven Allen (costume design), John
Anderson (video), Teague Clare (photography), Phyllis Hecht
(Eurydice), Charles Lane (Orf/tenor), Carolyn Mallory (photography),
Fernando Mares (costume design), Randall Packer (concept, direction,
music) Yauger Williams (photography)

******

The US Department of Art & Technology
http://www.usdat.us

The US Department of Art and Technology is the United States
principal conduit for facilitating the artist's need to extend
aesthetic inquiry into the broader culture where ideas become real
action. It also serves the psychological and spiritual well-being of
all Americans by supporting cultural efforts that provide immunity
from the extension of new media technologies into the social sphere.

*****

# 01-150

Warning: You are entering a virtual United States Government System,
which may be used only for artistic and socially motivated purposes.
The Government may monitor and critique usage of this system, and all
persons are hereby notified that use of this system constitutes
consent to such monitoring and critical analysis. Unauthorized
attempts to upload information and/or appropriate information on
these web sites are encouraged and are subject to review under the
Computer Art and Aesthetics Act of 1986 and Title 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001
and 1030.

DISCUSSION

America's Grave Opening at American University


AMERICA'S GRAVE
A multimedia installation by Randall Packer
In collaboration with John Anderson
http://www.usdat.us/grave

Presented by the US Department of Art & Technology
http://www.usdat.us

On view at the American University Museum
Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC
AU Art faculty show: From the Studio

January 18 - March 12
Artists Reception: Saturday, January 21, 5 - 8 pm

DISCUSSION

Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge of Crawford Texas


US Department of Art & Technology
Washington, DC

Office of the Press Secretary, press@usdat.us
For Immediate Release: August 25, 2005

REPORTAGE FROM THE AESTHETIC EDGE OF CRAWFORD TEXAS
SITUATIONAL TOUR COMPLETED

AUGUST 18 - 25, 2005
http://www.usdat.us/secretary

CRAWFORD, Texas - The US Department of Art & Technology announces the
completion of the SITUATIONAL TOUR, Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge
of Crawford Texas, August 18 - 25, now on view at the Department Web
site - http://www.usdat.us/secretary

US DAT Secretary-at-Large Randall M. Packer, accompanied by Under
Secretary of the Bureau for Transformation, Yauger, traveled to the
Texan flatlands to report on the ongoing saga of America's Mom, Cindy
Sheehan, and her challenge to the President. However, when Sheehan
departed, the Department re-tooled its mission and focused its
critical eye on the dusty little town of Crawford, where battle lines
have been drawn and a War declared on the Left.

The SITUATIONAL TOUR surveys the surreal landscape of the President's
Home Town, where a counter-offensive to the Sheehan Camp has been
staged - the planting of the first cross at Fort Qualls, the new
Republican stronghold. Gary Qualls, backed up by a legion of fired-up
locals on horseback, a posse of Christian bikers who ride for the
President, and a tolling Liberty Bell flanked by the Ten
Commandments, defiantly declared, "how dare you bring your pitiful
and unjust protest into my backyard of Texas and the front yard of
President George W. Bush."

US DAT employed its state-of-the-art communications system to provide
complete multimedia coverage of the Civil War that has emerged in
Crawford. The SITUATIONAL TOUR, Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge of
Crawford Texas, is a segment in the ongoing series, "A Season in
Hell" the Department's declaration of these perilous times in
post-apocalyptic America.

Visit the US DAT Web site to view the Secretary-at-Large's
Blog-Chronicles; the Media Deconstruction Kit, live manipulation of
Fox News; Scorched Audio, weekly, podcasted sonic commentary; and the
Revolution of Everyday Life, cellular reportage, in which the
revolution is being forged constantly in the everyday clandestiny of
acts and dreams.

US Department of Art & Technology
A Season in Hell
http://www.usdat.us/secretary

******

The US Department of Art & Technology
http://www.usdat.us

The US Department of Art and Technology is the United States
principal conduit for facilitating the artist's need to extend
aesthetic inquiry into the broader culture where ideas become real
action. It also serves the psychological and spiritual well-being of
all Americans by supporting cultural efforts that provide immunity
from the extension of new media technologies into the social sphere.

*****

# 01-148

Warning: You are entering a virtual United States Government System,
which may be used only for artistic and socially motivated purposes.
The Government may monitor and critique usage of this system, and all
persons are hereby notified that use of this system constitutes
consent to such monitoring and critical analysis. Unauthorized
attempts to upload information and/or appropriate information on
these web sites are encouraged and are subject to review under the
Computer Art and Aesthetics Act of 1986 and Title 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001
and 1030.