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Re: <nettime> Call for support: why?
Florian Cramer on Sun, 7 Dec 2008 14:41:07 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Call for support: why?


On Saturday, December 06 2008, 21:42 (+0100), Felix Stalder wrote:
 
> I agree. The concept of artistic freedom seems tied to the notion
> of art as an autonomous, i.e. distinct, sphere. 

...which literally means its confinement to exhibition spaces and a
predefined art context, a point also made by Arthur C. Danto in his book
"The Transfiguration of the Commonplace". While art movements from
Futurism to Fluxus have attempted to break out of those spaces, these
attempts mostly remained symbolic gestures, ultimately contained by
remnant objects and documents [such as Johannes Baader's Dada pamphlets
or Fluxus event scores and photographs] that preserved the intervention
and safely brought it back to art exhibition spaces.

The quality of interventions by ubermorgen, the YesMen and now the
Pirates of the Amazon (although the students themselves never intended
to act in such a position and legacy, being quite intimidated by the
news media attention their project received) lies exactly in the fact
that they are not confided to these safe spaces. To use Calin's
terminology, the "relational" aesthetics is not just aesthetic, often
even hardly recognizable as aesthetic, but intervenes straight into the
actual economic and political systems, thanks to the fact that social
and economic structures have been coded into software and thus are also
prone to be disrupted by software that finds a clever crack in the
symbolic system. (The YesMen's ReamWeaver and ubermorgen's
voteauction.com are more such examples.)

> Again, I cannot but agree, which makes me wonder why it was closed    
> down so quickly (though, it's always easy to criticize others for not 
> taking the heat).                                                     

It was the learning experience for the students themselves that it takes
so little to go from a more safeguarded space of artistic and school
experimentation to headline news. I think it needs to be respected if
they do not want to take the heat, and it's my responsibility as their
teacher and mentor to support them in this respect.

> Rather, it seems to reveal how much the "free    
> culture movement" (if there ever was such a thing) has been reshaped  
> as "web2.0" and how much it is now happy with this niche of "user     
> generated content" or "amateur creativity".                          

[...]

> Projects like the "Pirates of the Amazon" blur this distinction       
> and threaten to undo the last couple of years of work of building     
> respectability for the CC and YouTube set. This, I think is why the   
> reactions on digg.com and other web2.0 sites are so hostile.          

Yes, I couldn't agree more, Felix! But it even goes further than that.
The hostile reactions were not only to be found on the web2.0 sites,
but also on sites like torrentfreak. What the "Pirates of the Amazon"
revealed is that even the p2p file sharing community is happy with its
niche, and eager to keep it like that. Amazon and The Pirate Bay are two
parallel systems that don't bother each other very much [although their
media content is quite similar]. In interfacing the two sites, the
plug-in violated a taboo for Amazon.com as much for the P2P "pirate"
community which was afraid that, through the plug-in, their niche could 
be discovered by the mainstream and consequently shut down. 

This why I think the students are absolutely right in characterizing
their plug-in as parodist. Kristoffer's hint to Bataille and Klossowski
is helpful here indeed - I am also reminded of Kurt Kren's 1967
experimental short film "20. September", a montage that directly
connects eating mouths to urinating penises and defecating anuses. The
seemingly "perverse" link between Amazon and the Pirate Bay states a
similarly simple truth that the cultural mainstream (whether Amazon
customers, Web 2.0 amateurs or P2P downloaders) does not enjoy to be
reminded of.

-F

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