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<nettime> Tactical Media Connections - A public research trajectory trac
Eric Kluitenberg on Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:08:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Tactical Media Connections - A public research trajectory tracing the legacies of Tactical Media and its connections to the present.

dear nettimers,

In the first weekend of July we intend to begin a new public research
trajectory that attempts to connect the knowledge and experience
gained through the past twenty years of Tactical Media and its progeny
to current forms of critical practice at the intersection of art,
media, political activism and technological experimentation.

The first public activity as part of this will be the public debate
"Art and Political Conflict" at the new cultural centre Tolhuistuin
in Amsterdam on Sunday July 6, 14.00 - 17.00 hrs - join us if you
can or follow our blogs to keep track of this 'public research'. The
trajectory will continue till the end of 2015.

More info on the public debate can be found here:

This trajectory is developed in relation to the on-going documentation
activity (since 2008) via the Tactical Media Files online platform,
which will also receive a thorough upgrade. www.tacticalmediafiles.net

More details below.

Best wishes,

David Garcia & Eric Kluitenberg


Tactical Media Connections

A public research trajectory tracing the legacies of Tactical Media and its connections to the present

Under the working title 'Tactical Media Connections' the editors of
the Tactical Media Files, David Garcia and Eric Kluitenberg have
begun an extensive public research project that seeks to trace and
develop the connections between the phenomenon of Tactical Media as
it was identified in the early 1990s, not least through the renowned
series of Next 5 Minutes festivals and conferences on Tactical Media (
www.n5m.org - organised four times between 1993 and 2003), and current
critical practices operating at the intersection of art, media,
activism, technological experimentation and political contestation.


As initiators and organisers of the Next 5 Minutes in the 1990s, we
never felt entirely comfortable with the naming of 'Tactical Media'
as a 'movement'. Nonetheless this designator did allow for a certain
mutual recognition. It had become clear that a specific constellation
of art, experimental media, and political activism was being practiced
by large numbers of groups and individuals around the world to
such an extent as to suggest that a relatively stable cultural
compound had emerged which required a distinctive category. Some of us
preferred to regard Tactical Media as an evolving cluster of practices
developed out of the desire and need to insert ourselves into the
cracks appearing in the edifices of broadcast media, (information)
technology, and mainstream culture. In the process important new
spaces emerged for dissenting views and dissident life styles,
politics, and aesthetics.

The need for another 'global' edition of the Next 5 Minutes seemed to
dissipate in the early 2000s with the arrival of 'mass self-mediation'
through the proliferation of mobile devices that put 'the camera'
(as a metaphor for appropriated media and technological tools) not
just in the hands of a select group of artists, community organisers
and political activists, but literally in the hands of anyone who
cared enough to make a statement in the media sphere. However, we
continued to follow the destinies of these artist-activist desires
through the changing media sphere. Our principal platform for this
process of gathering and documentation was the Tactical Media Files
(www.tacticalmediafiles.net), an online resource started in 2008.
We have subsequently held intermittent public gatherings connected
to this resource such as the Media Squares symposium at De Balie in
Amsterdam, September 30, 2011.

Pressure to revisit these issues in a more substantial and
comprehensive way began to build with the onset of a series of 'global
events' which started to take shape in the course of 2010, quite
independent of the people and organisations originally involved in the
Next 5 Minutes or identifying with the notion of Tactical Media. These
events significantly shifted its context, giving it both new urgency
as well complicating the political, cultural and wider public context
in which the concept of Tactical Media operates.

Arguably this started with the release of the Collateral Murder
video by WikiLeaks (April 2010), which suddenly seemed to renew the
potency of media as a tactical tool, enabling apparently powerless
actors to turn the tables on the powerful, cutting right across all
the distinctions between mainstream, alternative, professional and
self-produced media, mitigating the usual chasm between internet-based
media and mass media such as print, broadcast, satellite television,
and beyond. Though its origins were deeply rooted in internet and
hacker cultures this intervention was certainly not limited to them.
The ability of WikiLeaks to cut across these highly differentiated
domains made it not only very effective in terms of public impact, but
also (for us at least) instantly recognisable as 'Tactical Media'.

One year on, however, WikiLeaks already seemed a distant and vague
memory in the media-avalanche that was unleashed by the deeply media
saturated massive popular protests in different countries in North
Africa and the Middle East, mirrored increasingly in other protests
in Southern Europe against the disastrous austerity/ precarity
policies that threatened to exclude an entire generation from a proper
participation in societal life. This, of course in turn was followed
by the wave of #Occupy protests in the US and their progeny elsewhere.
If Tactical Media seemed to have disappeared in the maelstrom of
YouTube trivia by early 2010, it was back with a vengeance a year

This resurgence of mediatised contestation does not mean that the
current context can be easily understood in terms of what has
previously been learned from over twenty years of Tactical Media.
In 2011 we saw that despite all the standardisation, simplification
and attempted normalisation, the media applications rolled out by
the corporations could be still be used molecularly to express
highly singular utopian ambitions of equality, reform and even
regime changes. They could be used for the self-organisation of
demonstrations and occupations as well as tactical irruption in
the mainstream media (TV, press). But this time, they were used on
a massive scale. At the same time, the especially strong Spanish
Indignados and US Occupy movements showed that new DIY inventions are
still entirely possible. So tactical media reveals itself NOT to have
been an Amsterdam invention and not merely a curatorial concept as one
might have surmised in, say, 2005. Instead, it really names an epochal
phenomenon which continues to evolve (in Brazil in the lead-up to the
World Cup, for instance).

The massive scale of the popular protest waves around since 2011
has also not meant that contested political, economic, material
conditions, and cultural and ideological conflicts are now en route
to being resolved. If anything the political and cultural landscape
looks increasingly fragmented. Political changes filled with hope
have turned around bitterly (Egypt), and in some cases protests have
descended into nightmares (Syria).

The very efficacy of media intervention (and popular protest along
with it) has been called into question. Most notably the hope of
using the interconnected distributed communications structure
of the internet as a space of relative autonomy has been dashed
by the on-gong revelations that broke with the Snowden / NSA
files disclosures - the situation seems worse than 'our' darkest
expectations. Is it true, as many a pundit has claimed, that 'the
internet is broken'? Beyond repair?

Preliminary Research Questions:

This situation sketch leads us to a number of preliminary research

How can we evaluate the relationship between these remarkable
developments in the last few years and the eternal questions of
engagement in public culture and the formation of new politics giving
voice to the voiceless, in pursuit of a more open and equitable

And more specifically for those of us who have 'lived through'
the experience of Tactical Media in the 1990s, how can we connect
the invaluable knowledge and experience from that time to current
generations of activists, artists, thinkers, theorists, researchers,
media tacticians, out in the streets and the networks?

How robust and comprehensive do the definitions of Tactical Media
proposed in the 1990s appear in retrospect today? Were some aspects
missed or distorted by the classic definitions? And how do they speak
to the present?

To take stock, discuss and debate, and begin a more collective
appreciation of these questions is what this meeting is meant for and
we are deeply grateful to all of you for being willing to join us in
this exploration.


We want to give focus to these questions and the exploration we intend
to undertake through two tightly interconnected instruments:

First by developing this public research trajectory, which will result
in a number of small-scale and highly focussed research meetings in
the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015. The trajectory is
started with a first exploratory meeting July 4-6, and a public debate
on 'Art and Political Conflict' at cultural centre De Tolhuistuin in
Amsterdam, July 6 (14.00 - 17.00). These research meetings will lead
up to a number of public gatherings and events later in 2015 in the UK
and in The Netherlands, organised with a variety of partners.

In combination with this public research trajectory we want to develop
the plan for a collectively written/edited anthology of Tactical Media
that intends to address the questions above and many more, and mark
this significant moment in time in the 1990s when the concept was
first identified and its vigorous resurgence in the 2010s.

Editorial Notice:

This text, as a starting point for the intended public research
trajectory, has been written by Eric Kluitenberg and David Garcia in
close consultation with Brian Holmes.

Online Resources:

For updates on the Tactical Media Connections public
research trajectory please refer to our blogs:
http://blog.tacticalmediafiles.net http://new-tactical-research.co.uk

Documentation of the evolving practices of Tactical Media is collected
at: www.tacticalmediafiles.net

Further materials are collected in the website of
Brian Holmes' 'Tactical Media Generation' project:

Tactical Media Connections is supported by the e-culture program of
the Creative Industries Fund NL.

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