Josephine Berry on 13 Sep 2000 17:00:58 -0000

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<nettime> Tactical Art in Virtual Space 2

X marks the Spot: Portals to Place

When Josephine Bosma entitled her 1997 interview with Heath Bunting
"Street Artist, Political Net Artist or Playful Trickster?"  she linked
together some of the key issues at work in Bunting's tactical use of the
Net. Were the word 'or' to be replaced with 'and', dispensing with the
false problem of choosing between three not incommensurate identity types,
we would have a description of the artist which hits upon the crucial
attribute of his art: the creation of friction between real and virtual
space through the indeterminacy of play.

In the same interview Bunting discusses a work that he would later title
CCTV - World Wide Watch. His deadpan tone conveys very well the essence of
the tactical mode; at once ironic, throw-away and serious:

"At the moment I am working on a closed circuit television camera project
across the Internet whereby you can watch various city centres in various
countries of the world, for instance Tokyo, Dublin, LA and London. Each of
these cameras is linked to a webpage and on that webpage you are
encouraged to watch these street locations for various crimes. If you see
anything, you can type the details into the text box, click a button and
this information will be sent directly via fax to the local police
station, for instance at Leicester Square. So it's somehow encouraging
people to police themselves and save the police some labour, so they don't
have to watch other people."

In the final version of the project, Bunting confronts the viewer with a
sequence of near-aerial CCTV views of 5th Avenue, New York; Broadgate,
Coventry; the Marktplatz, Guetersloh, Germany and Oviedo, Spain. But the
viewer's giddy sense of voyeuristic power, derived from the ability to
view four city scenes simultaneously, laid out in their unconscious
legibility for our scopophilic gratification, is undercut by the
invitation to intervene. The viewer is confronted with the choice of
converting the implicit power of the gaze into its explicit enactment (I
am choosing to believe that the fax numbers are what Bunting says they
are); a choice which splits the viewer's subject position between an
occupation of the legible space of strategy and the tactical and partial
space of everyday life. The contradictory nature of the spaces conflated
in this work (both God-like and on-the-ground) - a spatial multiplicity
which the Internet's networked expanse and digital mutability
indifferently accommodates - becomes unbearable when the viewer's
potential affectiveness looms into view. In contrast to the Digital Hijack
where the hoped for moment of awakening is instantaneously neutralised by
virtue of its inability to step outside the dominant simulacral economy,
Bunting shocks the viewer awake with the unsettling possibility of cutting
through the simulacral field of equivalences and precipitating an
intervention into the particularities of place and its inhabitants. The
viewer is accustomed to occupying both subject positions independently of
each other; it is also usual to forego agency when occupying the God-like
vantage point (perhaps a precondition of the fantasy of legibility?) and
legibility when occupying the 'writerly' position of Wandersmann. In
short, the shock delivered here is the shock of occupying the position of
power where legibility and agency are combined. This dual position of
legibility and involvement is not dissimilar to that occupied by the
flâneur, as explored by Benjamin in his discussion of Baudelaire and the
Paris of the Second Empire, who is at once enthralled by the crowd but
aloof, whose fascination with this fleeting, polymorphous spectacle is a
writerly one, whose style it is "to go botanizing on the asphalt" .

But if CCTV - World Wide Watch playfully and critically insinuates the
look of power, it also implies the reciprocal gaze of its subject. Next to
the form which, in its generic simplicity, invites the viewer to
reflexively dash off a note to the ever attentive forces of law and order,
are set the words:

"Improve self policing with further absented police force."

This exhortation to internalise the burden of policing and thus further
atomise and virtualise the forces of discipline until no external display
of power remains, ironically articulates the ultimate Foucauldian
dystopia; a dystopian order against which de Certeau's antidiscipline of
tactics is practiced. Here the viewer, who can perhaps be cast as
unconsciously assisting the spread and perfection of Foucault's 'political
technologies of the body' by incorporating them seamlessly into the fabric
of his/her life, is confronted not merely with those technologies but
their articulated discourse. As with the conflation of spaces and gazes,
CCTV also conflates the normally silent functioning of the technology with
its explicit enunciation. Here we have a concise example of the
self-conscious adoption of tactics which differs significantly from those
tactics described by de Certeau.

As already stated, de Certeau's point of departure is Foucault's analysis
of the historical development of a diffuse set of disciplinary techniques
(an overwhelmingly optical and panoptic mode of observational discipline)
whose development he traces back to the advent of the rationalist
discourses of the Enlightenment. An origin from which, Foucault argues,
the technical modalities increasingly diverge:

"Foucault thus distinguishes two heterogeneous systems. He outlines the
advantages won by a political technology of the body over the elaboration
of a body of doctrine. But he is not content merely to separate two forms
of power. By following the establishment and victorious multiplication of
this 'minor instrumentality,' he tries to bring to light the springs of
this opaque power that has no possessor, no privileged place, no superiors
or inferiors, no repressive activity or dogmatism, that is almost
autonomously effective through its technological ability to distribute,
classify, analyse and spatially individualise the object dealt with. (All
the while, ideology babbles on!)ŠThis gallery of diagrams has the twin
functions of delimiting a social stratum of practices that have no
discourse and of founding a discourse on these practices."

So as the techniques of power lock tight, so too does their ubiquitous
hold over society grow silent. But, ponders de Certeau, once their silent
history has been uncovered and their primary (panoptic) technique
articulated, have they then fallen into decline? Was their successful
ascendance not a consequence of their silent technical advances and lack
of dogma? This questioning causes de Certeau to cast around for other
'technological practices', which lack the coherence of the panopticon,
which may be scattered, heterogeneous and 'polytheist' but whose silence
or existence outside dicourse endows them with the potential to "produce a
fundamental diversion within the institutions of order and knowledge."  
And herein lies the paradox of de Certeau's undertaking, namely to
articulate a practice of resistance whose very status as such, not to
mention efficacy, relies on its resistance to articulation. But for de
Certeau, it seems, the guarantor of their survival is their imbrication in
the very heart of regulatory disciplines such as consumption. They
constitute the ineradicable indexes of alternative techniques and
practices which return, like the repressed, in the disciplinary regime
which attempts to dispel them.

A project by Bunting that seems to lie closer to this understanding of
tactics, and yet perhaps exemplifies the difference of tactical media all
the more, is his X Project begun in 1996. Combining his predilection for
wandering about city streets and the semi-legal practice of tagging in
chalk with his interest in the emergent social space of the Net , Bunting
began a systematic programme of tagging the URL '' in
strategic places, primarily in London but also in other sites such as
Bath, Amsterdam and Berlin (one presumes he simply tagged in the cities he
happened to visit). If a passer by, on observing the URL, felt inclined to
look it up on the Net they found a white page with minimal information on
it. Underneath a JPEG derived from the chalked tag are the following three
questions: "Where did you see this chalked? (Please include city and
country)"; "Why do you think it was done?" and "Who do you think did it?"
On filling out and submitting the questionnaire, a page which collates all
the answers is downloaded. Today there are several hundred entries. The
specific sites that the artist chose to tag were by no means random; in
London Bunting primarily chose bridges (Hungerford and Waterloo) as well
as international sites of significance to new media culture such as Clink
St. (the site of an independent media laboratory Backspace where Bunting
and Rachel Baker often worked), The Hub in Bath and De Waag in Amsterdam.
It is likely that the bridges indicate the notion of crossing between
zones - the central activity of X Project - and that the media centres
also intimate concerted initiatives to depart local geography and enter
into series of remote collaborations.

By means of the chalk tag, Bunting has created a semiotic and functional
portal between virtual and physical space. In contrast to Digital Hijack,
X Project taps into the contingencies of wandering. Rather than
manufacturing a shock for the viewer, caught unawares in the midst of
their impervious passage through the regularised space of the search
engine, Bunting positions his tag to be caught by the corner of the eye in
the midst of an awkward climb up the steep steps of a bridge or in the
nooks and crannies of back streets - a mode in which awareness of place is
heightened. The chalked tag catches the walker in the midst of a tactical
traversal and the project's completion relies upon the viewer's alertness
and curiosity to pursue this index of virtual space in the midst of an
actual place. Rather than reinforcing the sense of the homogeneous order
of virtual space, Bunting hybridises physical and virtual space and
creates a tear not only in the latter but also in the former .
Interestingly, it is by making this incision in the self-containment of
each - or rather making explicit the impossibility of such
self-containment - that the contingent and self-erasing nature of
wandering can be mapped, recorded and co-ordinated. This suggests the
potential of a view from above that is created from below and a reversal
of the power implied in this same reversal. Rather than the fantasy of
legibility implying a disengagement from the everyday, here legibility is
created by and for the walker, the subject of the gaze. Perhaps this text
is written blind, but it promises the eventual possibility of being read.
The series of correspondences which 'emerge' on the website brings into
being the consciousness of the cumulative potential of individual
wandering. Tactical media art is here shown to be not only the coming to
self-consciousness of those silently resistant ways of operating, but also
the power resident in this coming to consciousness. A recognition that
precipitates an aggregation, and hence the realisation of the power which
these myriad movements compose. The first in a long series of answers to
the question "Why do you think it was done?" encapsulates this notion very
well: "to collide the known with the emergent."

Has VR really killed desire? Tactics and 'Post-Oedipal' Space

Bunting's interplay of 'real' space and 'virtual space', their ability to
interrupt each other, poses an interesting question to a popular
formulation of Slavoy Zizek's. In a series of writings on cyberspace and
the functioning of desire , Zizek proposes that virtualisation reveals the
always-already virtual nature of reality - the role of the symbolic order
- at the same time as bringing about a 'psychotic' suspension of the
symbolic order that structures this same reality. In the beginning of his
essay "Quantum Physics with Lacan" , Zizek illustrates this point by
referencing Lacan's discussion of courtly love. For Lacan, courtly love is
not a means of intensifying desire by creating more obstacles between its
subject and object, but rather of concealing the fact that the possibility
of satisfying desire per se does not exist; an impossibility that is
concealed by its very prohibition. In Lacan's own formulation courtly love
is: "A very refined manner of supplanting the absence of the sexual
relationship by feigning that it is us who put the obstacle in its way."  
Desire, explains Zizek, is a short circuiting between the 'primordially
lost Thing' and an empirical object which is elevated to the order of the
former: "this object thus fills out the 'transcendental' void of the
Thing, it becomes prohibited and thereby starts to function as the cause
of desire."  In cyberspace, however, (and for Zizek, it is important to
remember, his definition of cyberspace hangs somewhere between its actual
and projective forms in the absence of specific, concrete examples), when
'every' empirical object can be immediately obtained without the ordinary
frustrations such as the need to cross physical space or the
unavailability of the desired item, "the absence of the prohibition
necessarily gives rise to anxiety."  The question that is posed here is
how desire can be sustained let alone function when its paradoxical nature
- "the fact that desire is sustained by lack and therefore shuns its
satisfaction, that is, the very thing for which it officially strives"  -
is lain bare. Zizek answers this by describing a trend in which the
computer generation becomes increasingly unable to tolerate the look of
desire in others, and are wont to forget about a possible sexual liason
because, for example, they are too engrossed in playing computer games or
interacting in chatrooms. As prohibition is lifted and desire declines,
last ditch attempts to preserve the dignity of the sexual object are
mounted such as PC and religious fundamentalism. But the real effect of
these prohibitive discourses is a phobic reaction to 'normal' sexual
enjoyment which is everywhere cast as perverted. This, argues Zizek,
develops the subject as pathological Narcissus who prefers 'interaction'
with the computer over sexual engagement with another. Both VR and
'interactivity' are in Zizek's terms 'Orwellian misnomers', covering up in
the former the demise of the already virtual structuration of reality and
in the latter the increasing isolation of the individual who no longer
interacts properly with others.

At the root of the individual's primordial envelopment in virtual space is
"the dream of a language which no longer acts upon the subject merely
through the intermediate sphere of meaning, but has direct effects in the
real."  Yoked to this dream of profound involvement, is the radical
disengagement of the post-oedipal subject. The psychotic's relation to the
symbolic (one which Zizek compares to the subject of cyberspace) is
defined by externality and overproximity. On the one hand he/she is not
interpellated into the symbolic order (the signifying chain is 'inert')
and remains outside it, and on the other the gap between 'things' and
'words' is collapsed and he/she starts to treat words as things or things
start to speak themselves. In cyberspace, the space between word and thing
which sustains sense is collapsed, as is 'symbolic engagement' which
operates in this space, resulting in radical disengagement: "I can pour
out all my dirty dreams, precisely because my word no longer obliges me,
is not 'subjectivised'."  Interestingly, however, Zizek shies away from
describing a total collapse of the symbolic economy in cyberspace or
virtual reality (interchangeable terms it seems here). Instead, he sees
the agreement between users to suspend the usual performativity of the
symbolic order as analagous to the agreement between analyst and analysand
in which the normal performativity of the speech is also suspended; the
analysand can hurl verbal abuse at the analyst and it won't be taken
personally. Likewise, in cyberspace, the participant consents to 'play the
game' in which, despite words having little or no performative value, they
are nonetheless bound by the symbolic pact of the 'act of faith' in which
intersubjective relations in cyberspace are contained.

One of the main difficulties with Zizek's analysis is his characterisation
of cyberspace itself as the context in which this new order of subjecthood
finds its perfect conditions. Although Zizek does not imply that the
disappearance of prohibition is a consequence of cyberspace itself, he
certainly sees cyberspace as producing no internal resistance to its
unbridled advance. His homogeneous description of the typical cyber
subject and his mode of activity betrays the limitation of Zizek's model;
he seems invariably to be talking about a cliché of the anti-social,
well-healed, masculine, avidly consuming and games playing computer geek.
Cyberspace itself is cast as the ultimate consumption machine whose
success lies in its ability to collapse the sign into the thing itself;
the immateriality of the commodity. However, as we have seen above in the
example of Bunting's work, although the Net entails this radical
mutability that undoubtedly vehiculates Zizek's collapse of the word into
the thing, or by which the word becomes the thing, and the thing thereby
becomes as malleable as words, the collision of virtual and real space can
and does occur revealing that the Net's consistency is far from simple.
That is to say, the leakage between these two spheres reveals not only a
resistance to the pyschotic collapse that Zizek himself ultimately denies
through his recourse to the symbolic pact, but also the possibility of
using virtual space to enunciate the practices of everyday life -
practices which remain outside 'the proper' - into a shared language which
might entail performativity. There are numerous mundane examples in which
individuals feel obliged to be as good as the word they give via the
Internet, but here we are also interested in the opportunity cyberspace
gives for co-ordinating the confused multiplicity of inidividual
idiolects, of converting tactics into something close to strategies. An
exceptional example of this are the protests against the WTO which
occurred in Seattle in late November/early December 1999 which serve as an
example of this tranformative potential of cyberspace. Here a multiplicity
of political ideologies and actors were coordinated via the Net into a
formidably performative display of resistance against a powerful agent of

But without the entry of another spatial, symbolic and atom-based system
of 'words and things', is Zizek's notion of our unimpeded access to the
(albeit nonexistant) object of desire in cyberspace quite accurate? Does
the erasure of distance between our desire for the object and the object
itself, the immediacy of delivery which can be figured as the subsumption
of space by time in computer networks, really guarantee receipt? Rachel
Baker's work Dot2Dot reveals the very skillful capacity of the Net to
frustrate desire. In this work, Baker takes her cue from the Net porn
industry which typically lures the viewer/consumer deeper and deeper into
a site with free 'thumbnail' GIFs promising the full scale image but which
ultimately delivers the image either at a price or, if free, only on an
illegibly small scale . Far from the theoretical end of scarcity which the
Net promises and Zizek assumes has been achieved, digital scarcity is
imposed in order to intensify desire and thus increase the monetary value
of the digital object. In Dot2Dot Baker picks up on this Net porn
technique and exaggerates its manipulations to reveal the powerful hold
that (pornographic) commodity fetishism still has in the Net. The art
website's homepage is a dot 2 dot drawing of a copulating man and woman
against a deep blue background whose subject matter, although largely
composed of dots and numbers, is not difficult to make out. As is usual
with these childrens' games, certain areas of the final drawing are
already filled in. In Dot2Dot, these parts are the woman's eye and hands,
and the man's mouth, penis tip, and fingers. Here the peek-a-boo
suggestiveness of certain pornographic images is undercut by the
delineation rather than concealment of the sexually 'significant' parts.
Each dot in the drawing also doubles as a link to another page on the site
where a predictably salacious GIF is offered (e.g. "fist inserted fully
into pussy") but only on condition that the viewer/consumer enters
personal details such as their name and company details. Having submitted
these, the viewer is brought straight to the homepage and
the promise is never honoured. Through this frustrated libidinal circuit,
Baker not only intimates how the traditional commodity's never-honoured
'promissory note' is still operative, but also how the consumer is willing
to submit more and more personal data in its pursuit. The exchange of one
real data body for the unkept promise of another.

Baker's hoax can in some ways be compared with Etoy's Digital Hijack; as
with the hijack, Baker is playing on the notional conformity of the
viewer. The level of cooperation that individuals will countenance, their
willingness to exchange valuable personal data on the vague promise of
some form of libidinal gratification is at issue in this work. But unlike
the hijack, the viewer has sought out this confrontation by keying in the
work's URL, finding it through a search engine or entering it through the homepage. In most cases, we can surmise, the viewer's
acquiescence is unusually self-conscious because it is given within the
differently signifying context of an artwork. This might for instance
result in the input of totally false information which, unlike with other
commercial websites, would not effect the user's further passage in any
adverse way. A more important difference, however, is that where Etoy
attempts to alert viewers to the compromised nature of the search engine's
'neutrality' through hacking its system, Dot 2 Dot merely replicates the
porn industry's production, manipulation and frustration of desire. Here,
no radical alternative is even mooted. In contrast to Etoy who create an
interruption and in so doing point to the manipulability of the status quo
(an instance of Zizek's symbolic suspension?), Baker foregrounds the
extra-technical limitations to digital malleability exerted by the
intersection of symbolic and economic forces. If Baker and Bunting's works
both point to the outside of an endlessly differential and simulacral
field of play which challenge Zizek's reading of cyberspace, his primary
discussion of prohibition and desire are confirmed rather than challenged
by their work. The need to point to the stoppages, tears, leaks and limits
to the virtual sphere is a central part of their work which can be seen as
a way of of maintaining the function of desire which in turn produces
action. The short circuiting mentioned above between the 'primordial
Thing' and the empirical object, the construction of desire's object, can
be seen at play within the construction of place where empirical objects
are similarly invested and so animated. This is demonstrated by the
promise of belonging that place exerts on the subject but can never
wholely fulfill. I would like to propose that the pull exerted by place
and by the things out of which place is composed, together with the
subject's desire to consume these things in their quest for belonging or
of jouissance, is essential to the practice of tactics which, as de
Certeau points out, can be found at the heart of consumption.

But hasn't place also been described here as ceding to space? And is it
not more accurate to talk about the total disappearance of limit in the
simulacral economy in which, if we follow Baudrillard's argument, the
invasion of exchange value into all aspects of life becomes the locus of
the radical equivalence of things; the end of the metaphysics to which
place and desire belong? Is not the callousing of Erlebnis touched on
above not also a sign, both on and offline, that this is becoming the
case? Are we not so inured to the shocks of our environment that they too
become merely differential? By turning finally to a work by Jodi -
certainly not a categorically tactical net artwork in the manner of Heath
Bunting - I will attempt to answer this problem through the trope of
estrangement. An analysis of this work helps formulate the question: is it
necessary to feel the exertion of place, with all the vicissitudes of
desire that it might imply, in order to practice a tactics? Does the
putative equivalence of things, the conversion of place into space, cancel
the possibility of Erfahrung out of which, paradoxically place is created?

Jodi's piece whose title, as is usual for them, is also its URL, is based on the source code of a 'shoot 'em up' style
computer game called Wolfenstein. In the spirit of the 'open source'
movement - based in part on the belief that 'software should be free', but
more consistently on the belief that the best software is the product of a
whole community's programming efforts rather than the isolated and
secretive programming methods of commercial companies - the games company
ID Software published the Wolfenstein source code in 1999(??) . This cult,
multi-player game has subsequently become the raw material of several Jodi
artworks . In Jodi's Web piece, the look of a programming shell interface
has been simulated. That is to say, the viewer is confronted with the
garishly coloured field of text boxes in which programmers write code, but
which also recall early or lower order computer interfaces. This interface
has the nostalgic quality of a once 'transparent' computing age in which
the apparent legibility of the computer's operating system and file
structures found its analogue in the rudimentary visual range (for
example, pixel size and colour distribution). In this piece, Jodi have
taken various sequences within the Wolfenstein source code and hyperlinked
them together. This means that the utility of the original code has been
rendered not only the obsolete object of aesthetic contemplation but has
also been repurposed as a set of Internet hyperlinks. This would be
analagous to using an old wagon wheel as the support for a coffee table.
This repurposing of code is one example of the estrangement at work in; as with a shard from an absent lifeworld preserved in
a museum, Jodi's autopsy of code and its transposition to the different
programming environment of the WWW endows it with a ghostly quality. The
lifeworld from which it has been severed clings to it as a negativity or
absence making its existence in its new environment only a partial one.

It is perhaps no coincidence then that, on actually reading the code, one
notices that the coincidence of death - a typical subject of computer
games - and the instrumental nautre of programming language begin to
produce a macabre and amusing quasi poetry. For example, one sequence

"// Test if death sequence is done
             if (death sequence is done)
     // change state to death
     player-state = DEAD
     }  //end if death is done
     }  // end if dying
else  // player must be death
// the player is dead, so clean up the mess"

The lines 'change state to death' and 'player must be death' certainly
resonate with the notion of the 'post-oedipal' state gestured to by Zizek
which would, in its eternally deferred realisation, be premised on the
passing out of the symbolic order into an unimaginable beyond; a place in
which the old signifying chain has become 'inert'. Could we see the
non-functionality of this code, accordingly, as equivalent to the
non-performativity of words in cyberspace? Or does the importation of one
programming language into another programming environment and its
subsequent obsolescence provides us with another example of a 'limit'? Is
this not an instance of how words and things are not commensurate in
computer space, even if those things are made up of words or signs and how
words or code can guarantee a certain set of operations in one environment
which do not translate to another. Through its deconstruction into an
object of contemplation, Wolfenstein allows itself to be read again as a
commentary on its own casual instrumentalisation of death: "end if death
is done". An inversion occurs which allows the normally buried linguistic
underpinning of the game's interface to speak over and even against the
very spectacle which they engender. This then would appear to be an
example of how the mutability of the digital object and limit can be seen
operating at the same time but not univocally. As with collage, the
repurposed data object will always drag with it its former signifying
context thus throwing into doubt the degree to which Baudrillard's radical
equivalence of things can really be said to exist. The locus of exchange
has not completely subsumed the loci of meaning, exchange value has not
completely eclipsed use value (even in cyberspace), nor have words
necessarily lost their performativity, especially if we allow that the
instrumentality of programming language constitutes a new kind of
performative utterance.


Even though data objects on the Net, or in virtual space, may not reside
in their own exclusive locations in the same way that they do in real
places, we have seen that they are nonetheless capable of being estranged.
This estrangement, conversely, suggests a rightful place which here I have
considered through functionality. The location of information objects, as
with things in 'real' places to a degree, cannot be read simply from their
co-existence with other things as de Certeau has suggested, but also
through their functionality which might or might not be transplantable. In
this respect, what we might term 'place' on the Internet, is much closer
to a practice than an occupation, which is de Certeau's definition of
space: "space is a place practiced" . Indeed virtual space, as with
physical place, can only ever be experienced through practice; when the
possibility of certain practices is rendered obsolete (the transference of
a piece of code), the sense of being out of place draws our attention to
its very existence in the computer network. The recognition of this
heterogenous consistency of the Net provokes, in turn, the consideration
that virtual space itself might well be another 'Orwellian misnomer'. Not
only does the Net span the real space of its sprawling infrastructure and
the representational space of the screen image (spatial categories hardly
without precedent before the advent of the Net), but its totality is also
filled with the material and symbolic limits common to real space
evidenced, for example, in malfunctions. However where this space is
radically different from either physical or representational space is the
immense capacity of the digital to combine heterogenia and thus to create
mutations; a capacity which becomes the leverage point of tactical net art
and media.

What makes the medium of the Net so interesting to net artists is the ease
with which discrete functions (search engines, source codes, networked
CCTV cameras etc.) can be repurposed and re-embedded into separate
contexts or operations. Far from making these functionalities all
equivalent, their availablity for hybridisation contains the possibility
of a clash of new and old contexts or utilities. In this sense the tactics
dispalyed in net art or tactical media differ from the tactics displayed
by the walker in the city in which the environment is relatively fixed,
and come closer to the tactics at work within language. As with language
there are rules of syntax, but the mobility of its constituent parts is
far greater than within the built environment. It is somewhere between the
resistance of syntax and the hybridity and mobility of the online world
that the tactics of net art are situated. In this respect, their work can
be said to occur in an indeterminate stage between the recession of
certain limits (here read in both a material and symbolic sense) and the
creation of new ones. Without wishing to ignore the very real sense in
which the Net courts the deadening quality of equivalence, the flattened
experiential order of Erlebnis, it seems that an important realisation of
tactical net art is the possibility for interrupting equivalence with
hybridity. Not all spaces in the Net refelct the same degree of
deterritorialisation, for example or effect the same non-performativity of
language. But conversely, the deterritorialisation of the Net and its
capacity for the endless reproduction of equivalent data has been seen to
provide the basis upon which the scattered multiplicity of 'walkers' and
idiolects can be formed into a totality which hints at the paradox of a
heterogeneous yet coherent form of power emerging within the (now post?)
disciplinary society.


  De Certeau is interested in the distinction made by Foucault between a
'political technology of the body' and the elaboration of a body of
doctrine. In other words, the Enlightenment discourse that gave rise to
the techniques employed by the disciplinary society was incommensurate
with the unarticulated logic of those technical rationales.

  Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of
California, 1988, p. xiv
  Ibid, p.xix
  Ibid, p.34
  "The terms goes back to the discussions we had, as a group organizing the
first next 5 minutes conference in the summer/fall of 1992.  At that time
we [were using] the term 'tactical television'Š The term 'tactical' also
has a pre-history in the media activism context." From private  email
correspondence with Geert Lovink, 12th July 2000.
  Geert Lovink is a co-founder of the nettime mailinglist.
  See 'Empire'ŠNegri and Hardt ***
  "Nevertheless, the hype of the Internet is essentially based on the
promise that the worldwide dissemination of new technologies might remove
all barriers between people. Many critics have unmaseked this rhetoric as
an escape from real existing capitalism or as promotional campaign for
neoliberal barbarism. However, there is a more dangerous mistake made in
the popular regard for the net as an 'alternative' territory to the 'real
world', or as a place, where free and unfettered communication might become
a reality. In this view, borders become something you cannot see or touch,
and the net and the various networks become an arena for 'new' border
policies." "<Border=0> The Art of Campaigning", Florian Schneider, Next 5
Minutes 3 Workbook, eds, David Garcia and Geert Lovink, Next Five Minutes
Publications, Amsterdam, 1999.
  Here I am referring to the era of the Internet before '94 in which the
blanket exclusion of commercial practice together with the high level of
programming expertise of most users created the sense of a radically
alternative space in which the Net's community was relatively free to
determine its technical particularities at the same time as 'growing' a new
set of social practices and possibilities. For an idealised description of
these early days see Howard Rheingold's, Virtual Communities: Finding
Connections in a Computerised World, Minerva edition published by Mandarin
Paperbacks, London, 1995.
  The group RtMark is an important example of Net based cultural activists
adopting the presentation forms of large corporations. This involves a
large variety of tropes from the language and aesthetics of their
promotional videos, to their Net-based methods for raising capital for
projects, to their temporary 'mergers' with other groups to their
registration of '.com' URLs. See
  An http Cookie is "A packet of information sent by an HTTP server to a
World-Wide Web browser and then sent back by the browser each time it
accesses that server. Cookies can contain any arbitrary information the
server chooses and are used to maintain state between otherwise stateless
HTTP transactions. Typically this is used to authenticate or identify a
registered user of a web site without requiring them to sign in again every
time they access that site. Other uses are, e.g. maintaining a "shopping
basket" of goods you have selected to purchase during a session at a site,
site personalisation (presenting different pages to different users),
tracking a particular user's access to a site." From FOLDOC Computing
  Geert Lovink is the co-founder of the nettime mailinglist - a crucial and
agenda setting space for new media culture and politics (
  David Garcia and Geert Lovink, The ABC of Tactical Media,, 1997
  The 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), although later overturned,
attempted to criminalise the"knowing" transmission of "obscene or indecent"
messages to any recipient under 18 years of age. Section 223(d) prohibits
the, "knowin[g]" sending or displaying to a person under 18 of any message
"that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as
measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory
activities or organs." Sited in "Supreme Court Of The United States
Syllabus; Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, et al.,
Appellants V. American Civil Union et al. on Appeal from the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; No. 96-511",
reproduced on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website:

  The 1999 conference 'Next 5 Minutes 3' held 12-14 March in Amsterdam was
dedicated to tactical media. The main topics of debate were The Art of
Campaigning; Tactical Education; Post Governmental Organisations and The
Technical and its organisers included David Garcia and Geert Lovink. N5M3
was an important landmark in the development of the discourse on tactical
media, and included the participation of many net artists and net art
afficionados including Shu Lea Chung, Rachel Baker (programme notes), Alex
Galloway, Steve Kurtz, Kate Rich, David Garcia and Geert Lovink.
  Michael Fried, "Art and Objecthood", first published in Artforum, Summer
1967, in Art in Theory: 1900 - 1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, eds.
Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, Blackwell, 1992, p.826
  Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,
Verso, London, 1996
  Pierre Levy, "The Art of Cyberspace", in Electronic Culture: Technology
and Visual Representation, ed. Timothy Druckrey, Aperture, 1996, p.367
  Rachel Baker's 1999 work Art of Work demonstrates the exact formalisation
of this tactic as an artwork. As part of a bigger project in which artwork
and office work are brought into relation, she encourages fellow temps to
engage in 'work resource mismangement' by using their office time and
equipment to creative and political ends.
  de Certeau, Ibid, p.117
  This term is used by Joh Ippolito in "The Museum of the future: A
Contradiction in Terms?", July 1998,
  Marc Augé, Non-Places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity,
Verso, 1997, p.49
  Hartmut Winkler, "Search Engines: Metamedia on the Internet?", Readme!
ASCII Culture and the Revenge of Knowledge, eds. Bosma et al, Autonomedia,
1999, p.30
  Here I am referring to user behaviour or navigation not the registration
of URLs and the production of content which could undoubtedly be likened to
settlement. Perhaps it is important to note however, in the latter case,
that settlement does not relate to time spent in a certain place but rather
ownership of the right to be located or to mediate a certain message.
  Yahoo! named its categorisation system 'the ontology', succinctly
betraying the contradiction between its purported utlility and underlying
bias. See Ibid,p.31
  See Harmut Winkler, Ibid.
  "Search engines of this type are wholly insensible to questions of
semantics or, to make it more clear: their very point is to exclude
semantic problems of the type evident with Yahoo. Yet that is not to say
that the problems themselves are eradicated. They are imposed on the users
through the burden of having to reduce their questions to unambiguous
strings of significants, of having to be satisfied with the mechanically
selected result. All questions unable to be reduced to keywords fall
through the screen of the feasible. Technical and scientific termini are
relatively suitable for such a search, humanistic subjects are less
suitableŠ" Ibid, p. 32
  For Etoy's explanation of the Digital Hijack see
  After search engine employees started to spot this trick merely by eye,
spamdexers simply made the repeated word the same colour as the background
and so rendering it invisible. For a discussion of Etoy and the history of
spamdexing see Andrew Leonard's "Search Me",, 1996
  The Etoy team, in all public appearances, dress with complete uniformity.
The entirely male group sport shaved heads and favour utility clothing such
as municipal-style boiler suits. The picture of the Etoy member mentioned,
through the anonymity of the dark glasses and casual connection to the
cable - a cipher for the information technosphere - produces its member as
replaceable techno-cultural 'foot soldier' (a term later employed by the
group). This mode of subject positioning creates a glamorised, possibly
ironic surface to a posthumanist understanding of the erstwhile divide
between nature and artifice.
  Etoy, Ibid.
  Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire, Verso, 1997, p.116
  Charles Baudelaire, quoted by Benjamin, Ibid, p.151
  de Certeau, chapter VII, "Walking in the City", Ibid.
  This concept is also encapsulated by Henri Lefebvre in his term 'abstract
  Ibid, p.94
  Ibid, p.92
  Ibid, p.93
  It has, for example, become a common feature of both commercial and
artistic websites to deploy error messages to startle the viewer into
concentration - most typically these do not pressage an imminent computer
crash but merely introduce a new part of the site.
  Josephine Bosma, "Heath Bunting: Street Artist, Political Net Artist or
Playful Trickster?" Telepolis,
  In "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire", Benjamin, Ibid, p.36
  Ibid, p.46
  Ibid, p.49
  "I like playing. Yesterday I was walking around climbing on things,
drawing little drawings with chalkŠI spent many years just walking around
the streets." In Bosma, Ibid
  Since the advent of X Project the URL's appearance in public space has
become ubiquitous through its use in advertising. However the chalked tag's
lack of any other identifying feature makes Bunting's use of the URL more
ambiguous than its usual association with a commercial product. It's
dubious legal status also alligns it with the tactical appropriation of
public space or spectacle for ends which ultimately militate against its
regulatory administration.
  See "Quantum Physics with Lacan" in The Individible Remainder,
"Cyberspace, Or, The Unbearable Closure of Being" in The Plague of
Fantasies and " Is it Possible to Traverse the Fantasy in Cyberspace?" in
The Zizek Reader.
  In Slavoy Zizek, The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and
Related Matters, Verso, 1996
  Sited in Ibid, p.189
  Ibid, p.190
  Ibid, p.196
  Ibid, p.196
  For a discussion of the relationship between the free or 'gift' and
commercial porn economy, see Frédéric Madre's "Porn Free", Mute Magazine,
issue 14, 1999 is the server name and group working title for Rachel
Baker, Heath Bunting and others -
  It is certainly possible to see the tendency for commercial companies to
embrace the open source movement as an instance of the commercial cooption
of a tactical practice. Here, the collective writing of code, which occurs
as a totally voluntary and distributed activity, can be converted back into
a commercial product and sold on the open market.
  They have also created a CDRom based work, SOD, 1999, which converts the
interactive 3D game space of Wolfenstein into a series of black and white,
patterned and entirely abstract spaces. The geometry of the original game
space and the first-person view point is stripped of its illusory effects
and revealed as a sequence of basic, albeit animated, Euclidean spaces. The
preservation of the game's original sound effects, however, renders its
Brechtian act of desublimation even more potent.
  de Certeau, ibid, p.117

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