Rob van Kranenburg on Sat, 14 Jan 2006 13:55:52 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] Re: <nettime> Frank Rieger: We lost the War--Welcome to the World

I would propose that we're just starting to really see the effects of
corporate globalization and late capitalism.

The task of community organizers and those interested in decentralizing
power is to start creating the structures we want to see.

How are we going to push whatever happens next into the direction of more freedom, more autonomyand more dignity?

could not agree more: i wrote this last year at isea this year better!


The concept is interesting and well-formed; but in order to earn better than a C; the idea must be feasible. - A Yale University management professor in response to student Fred Smiths paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

When to act? When to decide when to act? What is wisdom in acting. That is the question. Not much on the nettime list so I get told. How is that possible? Not much interesting at a time when all angles, positions, and points of view are most favourable to us. So who’s us? I’ll get down to that later. We know who’s us. Let’s not waste time on that. Step back to Moscow in 1917, to a group of people lined up in a queue outside a baker’s shop. One woman in the line had enough of all this waiting for bread and screamed. She kept screaming. There is one person in front of this woman, one behind her. There are a number of people in the line. All options are open. You can ignore the woman and her screams. You can leave the line. You can ask her to be quiet. You can tell her to shut up. You can kick her out of the line. Or. Or you can shout with her. And that is what the line did. They shouted and screamed with her. On the other end of the street a factory lies. It is noon. The workers walk out for their break. They hear the screams and shouts. They team up and march towards Moscow city hall. Lenin is out here somewhere. Mainly in rooms, indoors. He is forever talking. He is only silent when it comes to the moment. When to act? Comrades are moving in and out his hiding places urging him to come with them here, now, here and fucking now! as in the vacuum they claim there lies a need to claim power. To say out loud: ‘ We are in charge’. I am the new leader. Me. But Lenin does not move. He does not think any of those moments are momentum. Then one afternoon workers from the factory opposite the bakery walk up. Their walk is turning into a demonstration that is getting bigger and bigger and this is the one. He should come out of hiding and talk to them out in the streets. And he did. The October Revolution started there and then. And who started it? A woman in a queue tired of waiting. And who responded and joined in, joined in, not turned against her? The line itself. Us in the crowd.

One March afternoon in 2004 students from St Joost, Breda set off for Oisterwijck, a lovely quiet provincial town. They were dressed in white suits, suits that made them look like weird medics, the kind of people who come to clean out your chicken farm after some horrible disease. Not the kind of people you would trust, at least that is what we thought. Some had sticks to point at dangerous things. Such as the sky. Don’t you trust it with all that satellite debris. Better watch out. Some had stickers that made icons of dangerous things. In a red triangle the dangerous object was represented in words: watch out an umbrella, watch out a window, watch out a tree. You can bump into these things, you know. You better watch out. Be careful. Hey!

The idea of this performance like intervention was to draw feedback of the kind that would get the joke, that would be aimed at the experienced top down disciplining design process going on. What happened instead was far more interesting but also far more disturbing. Whenever they were approached with a question like what kind of organization are you from, they’d reply: the government. We are the Watch Out Team, a new government sponsored initiative. At the market where they dished out watch out umbrella stickers to grateful umbrella holders I overheard a daughter telling her mother: “They should have done this much sooner!”

De Certeau argues: there is so much belief, and so little credibility. We saw it played out in front of us. We did not look like clinical scary government spooks, no we were potential saviours, safeguarding the people, the public from harm in every which way.

As I am here now, in Stockholm on the ISEA boat I realize how necessary these probes are, and how utterly futile and meaningless they become. The Lifeboat crew on the lower upper deck has set up a biotech experimental set up where you get asked zillions of questions that are supposed to touch on ethical questions. Who cares? Is Monsanto around? Do they get the results, and if so what would they do with them?

We haven’t grown up to the networked reality that we have helped shape ourselves. Our artistic critical strategies have not developed into this networked sense of what it means to be critical in a realm where there is no more centre or periphery. And thus we remain stuck in the margin, in the code artisan, in this most individuated of interfacing sounds, words and images, in these installations that are programme driven, obsessed with the perceived newness in this ability to gather endless sets of data. We’ve gone autistic.

And we’ve gone autistic at a moment in time that we ourselves have helped shape! Instead of confronting the issues in the registers where we have ourselves always claimed that they count (newpapers, prime time, legislation, education, politics) we’re leaving all the succesfull projects in the triangle economy, creativity, emergent technologies to big old corps and lean new startups. The power is out there to grab and all we do is keep propping up long dead ghosts and keep them real in the process. And as I sit and the Swedish coast drifts by, I am reminded of Eagleton’s story from a long time ago. The lion tamer knows, the audience knows, that the lion is stronger. The lion does not know this.
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