florian schneider on Tue, 02 Mar 1999 16:59:07 +0100

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Media & RL activism against new border regimes

Workshop at next 5 minutes conference
De Balie, kleine zaal, Amsterdam
Sunday, March 14th
15.00 - 16.30 hours

With: Autonoom Centrum (Amsterdam), Marc Chemillier (Paris), De Fabel
van de Illegaal (Leiden), IM-media (Paris), Cross the border (Munich),
Olia Lialina (Moscow), RTmark (United States), Rex Varona (Hongkong) and


Of course, the dream of abolishing borders is much older than the
Internet. The myth of borders was always tied up with the myth of
pushing them back, overwhelming them, and moving the frontier forward.
In the current process of globalization, borders, at least those which
encompass nation-states, seem to dissapear in a way -- but for flows  of
money, goods, and capital, not for people. Borderlands have become a
laboratory for new control technologies, and the postmodern or post-
national borderlines become the barrings of a worldwide apartheid

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 unmasked 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
became an arena for 'new' border policies.

Ironically, then, the iron curtain was replaced very quickly by these
new borders, which consist of the strategic use of modern observation
and surveillance technologies. Thus we see the rise of huge
decentralized databases such as Schengen Information System (SIS)  and
its national supplementary counterparts called SIRENE, or the EURODAC
fingerprint database in which personal data about asylum-seekers is
stored. Along the German borderline with Poland and the Czech Republic,
border guards are armed with a wide range of high-tech gadgets: Global
Position System (GPS) navigation devices, thermo- and
infra-red-cameras, and so on.

Thus, the former border is moving, folding in on itself: it is mapping
the borderland and inner cities, the railways and main arteries, and
the  communications networks. The European borders are moving forward to
neighbouring countries, expanding the control system toward a zone
model, which includes the Schengenland as its center, surrounded by a
cordon of countries under intense surveillance. These efforts are marked
as well by intense propoganda that stigmatizes minorities, defames
migration and mobility, and co-opts or coerces the local populations
into acting as collaborators and administyrators of the border regime.

But is there still a chance to take the promise of the net seriously and
turn these misunderstandings to productivity? If so, how can we  claim
for all what is permitted to only the very few with the resources to
travel and settle freely? Free access for all -- in REAL LIFE -- is our
goal: open borders and freedom of movement for everybody. These are not
questions of charity or compassion, but a matter of course and concern
for all. This is no longer a naive dream but a reality for everyone:
globalization is not optional, its effects not for 'those other people.'
These developments determine very directly the range and freedom of
everyone's everyday practices.

Obviously, there is much more to do than praying and praising the new
technologies or providing illusions about keeping them free from state
control. Conceptually and practically, networks became battlefields for
a regime in which life and its components are objects and targets, or,
alternatively, as vehicles for autonomy, singularity, and the free  flow
of ideas, activities, and, most of all, for people as such. This latter
vision involves new and unknown fields and possibilities, and with that,
political, ethical, and esthetic challenges:

--> Researching and attacking the mechanisms of transnational
collaboration and (post-)governmental networks for control and

--> Exploring new 'border-crossing' subjectivities outside of the
boredom of so-called 'nomadic' congress-hopping, which in almost every
case requires undignified begging for visa and invitations

--> Connecting artistic strategies and political interventions,
tactical media activism, and 'real life' militance

--> Testing and developing connections and connectivity between the new
social movements and struggles, such as the sans papiers fighting for
their right to stay, and the resistance in the countries of origin

--> Debating a new abolitionism, fighting against any concept of
border and apartheid inside and outside the perishing nation states

<No one is illegal campaign>

In summer 1997 three or four dozen political activists published in
Hybrid workspace at documenta X the manifesto 'no one is illegal'
<http://www.contrast.org/borders/noone.html>. For ten days we opened a
temporary office devoted to the brand new campaign in the Orangerie in
Kassel. Some of us were media activists, radio practitioners,
photographers, filmmakers, and artists. Some of us had know each other
for years: from the eighties social movements, or from the early
nineties, when new, non-functionalising concepts of combining arts and
politics were tried, such as the 'welfare-commitees.' But some of us
were meeting for the very first time, having communicated only be email.
The new meeting was made possible by an unprejudiced or accepting use of
new technologies. Nobody was really an expert, but we were very curious
about how to enrich and expand classical political symbolism: setting up
the first websites, emailing, net-based audio transmissions, videotape
exchanges, videoconferencing with hundreds of participants, or even
broadcasting entire demonstrations with mobile phones.

The appeal 'no one is illegal' was the starting point for a campaign
based on the activity of dozens of local networks in every big city in
Germany. But beside the appeal as a common ground, there is no apparatus
or centralized structure. Connected by mailing lists and a postal mail
circulars, the groups worked under specific circumstances to focus on
very different points: hiding and supporting illegal migrants, squatting
churches, organizing public or semi-public debates about illegal
border-crossing, and starting actions against deportations. Three times
per year conferences are held, where the groups exchange experiences
and talk about common goals, practices, and problems.

In 1998, two main Germany-wide events were arranged and/or supported by
the 'no one is illegal' network: the Caravan for the rights of refugees
and migrants, originally initiated by the Human Rights Association,
Bremen. Some weeks before the German elections in September and under
the slogan 'we have no vote, but a voice!', the caravan moved through
more than 40 cities in Germany. Several hundred groups, exile
organisations, asylum-seekers or migrant self organisations, and
supporters joined the various action.

Two weeks before, the tents for the first summer camp were pitched about
a hundred meters from the German-Polish borderline near Goerlitz.

For a second time, the "No one is illegal" campaign will move to the EU
frontier between Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In summer
1999,  August 7th till 15th, activists from many different countries
will gather at a campsite some hundred meters from borderline.
Connections to simultaneous camps all over europe and in the US are
being planned.

The event's slogan is "Hacking the borderline" points up the central
role that media task forces and "real-life" militants will play. We
invite all mobile radio- and camcorder-activists, tactical webmasters,
communication guerilleros, soundsystems, dj's, musicians, artists, and
anyone else to the camp and to contribute to it in any way possible.


contact and more informations:
mobile phone: ++49/172/8910825

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