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[Nettime-nl] The Buggers #3
Anneke Auer on Fri, 7 May 2004 13:13:02 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] The Buggers #3


On 9 April 2003 the systematic destruction of effigies of Saddam Hussein by
Anglo-American troops culminated in the pulling down of a 20 ft bronze
statue in Firdus Square, Baghdad. This event, widely covered by the press,
was presented as the final collapse of Hussein's regime and was supposed to
mark the end of the war in Iraq. Almost two months later, on 29 May 2003, a
new statue was unveiled in Firdus (=Paradise) Square, by that time a
military zone renamed Freedom Square. The statue of Saddam Hussein had been
replaced by a 23 ft semi-abstract sculpture which, according to the press,
represented Œa mother, father and child holding a crescent moon, symbol of
Islam, around a sun, symbol of the Sumerian civilization¹. The artists'
collective Najeen (=survivor) named the statue 'Najeen' and dedicated it to
Œevery person in Iraq and to freedom-loving people everywhere¹. After the
unveiling of the plaster statue (varnished to give it a bronze appearance)
the artists' collective decorated the pedestal with ribbons, exchanged
flowers, hugged and kissed one another, and sang a traditional Iraqi
lullaby. This media-staged celebration of freedom in a military zone, the
stage-property nature of the sculpture, the excessive military security
measures taken to protect it, and the vandalisation of the sculpture with
pictures of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr on 9 April 2004 despite
those measures, have inspired us, The Buggers, to take a closer look at

The use of vandalism to undermine the ideology behind official art or the
media has been an effective strategy of revolutionary art in Western
societies since the early 20th century. In fact, the vandalistic techniques
developed by Duchamp, Picabia, Heartfield, Burroughs & Gysin, Guy Debord,
the Dutch Provo movement, Destroy All Monsters, and many others, have proved
to be vital impulses to Western art, literature, music and thought.

In its purest form vandalism is no more than the destruction of capital or
property. But even this seemingly uncomplicated form of vandalism has led to
vital and complex art, music and thought. We already mentioned Gustav
Metzger's auto-destructive art in our position #1, but now also think of
people as various as John Cage, Dick Raaijmakers, Iggy & The Stooges, and
The MC5. The controlled but real destruction of goods during performances
refuses to represent anything else. It blows up all representation, and
radically forces the spectators to face the void. Dangerous buggers!

Seemingly more complex techniques of vandalism ­ adding something to
objects, taking something from them, damaging them in various degrees, etc.
­ can be summarised as Œhostile modifications of objects¹, and range from
the simplest drawings in school diaries to the attack on national monuments.
Duchamp demonstrated in his modification of a reproduction of the Mona Lisa
(using the schoolboy's technique of adding a moustache and an obscene
subscript) that vandalism can give access to the unconscious, much like the
Freudian joke or lapsus. Burroughs & Gysin's cut-up technique shows that
hostile modification can induce paranoid lucidity and disclose covert
ideologies and connections. But the sheer impact of ridiculising,
sexualising, desexualising, cursing, damaging, etc. can be effective too. As
long as its powerful and loud enough. Vandalism offers a wide range of
possibilities to change the perception of reality, to expose the ideologies
and mental constructions that define objects in public space (Œspace¹ in its
broadest sense, also including television, the internet, language and

Anti-vandalism regulations and measures determine to a considerable extent
the design, construction and choice of materials in public space. This,
together with the increasing surveillance and control of public space, makes
it fair to say that we live in an environment of suppressed vandalism. The
suppression of vandalism is not synonymous with public order but is an
important part of it. In Western capitalist societies public order mainly
serves the protection of property, investments and the conservation of
ideologically valuable goods. For that reason The Buggers believe that
vandalism directly undermines the grip of Western capitalist industries on
citizens, and that strategic use of vandalistic techniques is a powerful
weapon in reclaiming public space. At present the Robert Johnson collective
in Paris demonstrate that deconstructing advertisements and reclaiming
public space through vandalism forces the capitalist industries to expose
their repressive nature. Bugger on!

The Buggers

If you don't want to be buggered by us again, let us know.

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