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<nettime> roadkill - the art, physical and virtual realities of leaks
Neal White on Thu, 29 Jul 2010 15:09:40 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> roadkill - the art, physical and virtual realities of leaks


I have been lurking sometime, but feel I might be able to add to this discussion wiith respect to wikileaks.

In November 09 I curated and participated in an exhibition called Dark Places. The project I developed for this, and that I am working on with Office of Experiments (an independent collaborative research and contemporary art structure) is called the Overt Research Project. The project uses experimental techniques, fieldworks and GPS technology to create a database that maps secret and intelligence space in the UK (Dark Places), and that that visually documents them on the ground (photographs), turning the technology and the gaze back on its developers. As part of my research for the first phase of the project I acquired a collection/archive of documents, that amongst other things, contains formerly classified documents of over 30 years of experiments undertaken on the public (and with US Military) at Porton Down - a secret chemical and bio-chemical warfare research facility in Wiltshire in the UK.

The archive, researched and donated to the Office by independent researcher and activist Mike Kenner was given in digital form and then printed out so that it can be accessed - in person only - at sites or by agreement. Documents were largely obtained through official lines with Cabinet Office and through FOI requests. Whilst the work has a different level of classification from the documents obtained by wikileaks and Assange (who according to the Guardian received no payments for materials for publication...? and for more on Secrecy and Classifications subtleties see work of Dr. Brian Balmer - UCL Sciene and Technology Studies), these were nonethless suitably sensitive that the physical route for access seemed to be the best way to control and regulate access. This Archive has been digitised at source by Mike, and then catalogued and ordered by OOE before being 'facsimilied' -  and can be loaned out for display in physical space, or perhaps as part of a mobile library. It is
  the founding archive of what we are calling our 'ARC' - Autonoumous Researcher Collection, for archives and collections of researchers unlikely to enter into conventional institutions. (anyone with ideas on other resources please let me know)

However, what is most interesting to me about this archive, in light of wikileaks, is the way in which Mike Kenner himself has become what Dr. Gail Davis at UCL has termed 'roadkill' (term roadkill from a paper by Mike Michaels). So it happens that now, any person who is now interested in getting info from Porton Down, is now given Mikes telephone number - he has been co-opted, without permission. His status has shifted and he has had to change his perception of himself and how others see him. Working with Mike (who is also a 'news' source), and seeing how he operates, through online networks and in encounters with Security Services, is to get a glimpse into a grey world of course, but it is clear and he acknowledges this, that it requires some roadkill. Here we have collisions between real and physical space. For me this throws up some very significant cultural and theoretical questions, about divisions in what could be the physical/virtual divide, but which is also has a te
 mporal and spatial dimension for artists. How we mediate leaks or inormations, how we either perceive or can become 'roadkill', and what we imagine this roadkill constitutes, and its relationship to truth and liberty,  as well as perosnal and collective identity, is of course the function of media practitioners, artists and activists, alike to question and interrogate - these are the contemporary aesthetics of every day life.

I look forward to following this ebb and flow of data, as in my experience, it is not the material or objects that we should be observing, but the ways in which it is suppressed and revealed. I have learned from Mike, it is in rumour and counter rumour that this behaviour throws up a broader patterns of events - to refer back to Virillio, the speed and the interval of the traffic we need to navigate, and which sometimes leads to roadkill.

If you are interested in knowing where Mike Kenner Archive will be exhibitied next, or in Dark Places database, please send me an email at info {AT} o-o-e.org

Neal White

Soon to be updated websites...

Office of Experiments - www.o-o-e.org
Neal White - www.nealwhite.org

Associate Professor
Art and Media Practice
The Media School
Bournemouth University
Tel: 0044 (0)1202 961452
whiten {AT} bournemouth.ac.uk


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