Art and Activism in Digital Age I

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Insecure Territories by Georg Russegger and Michal Wlodkowski/ Reticular Aesthetics: Adversarial Media Art after the Material Turn by Michael Dieter/ Digital Anthropophagy and the Anthropophagic Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age by Vanessa Maia Ramos-Velasquez/ Encyclopaedic public, WikiLeaks, multitude, interface by Lars Bo Løfgreen/ City on the brink by Jason Waite/ Technological, Transcultural and Feminist Formations in the Electronic Art of Muriel Magenta by Tanfer Emin Tunc
Thursday, 15 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
Peter Zorn
Georg Russegger
Michael Dieter
Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez
Lars Bo Loefgreen
Jason Waite
Tanfer Emin Tunc

Insecure Territories

by Georg Russegger and Michal Wlodkowski

Public space does not end at the borders of visible, perceptible reality but extends into the invisible. The increased population of communication devices in public life results in a dense layering of electromagnetic content passing through both air and bodies, on route to its target. As such we are not just senders and recipients but carriers of signal.

We unwittingly move through numerous digital and analog networks, leaving traces of our electronic passing with the devices and gadgets we carry. More so, we inadvertently leak information about ourselves that can be analysed to a disturbing level of accuracy with publicly available forensic tools.

In Form of a workshop and presentation, the technologies and techniques of how to read the plethora of signal in the air, manipulate it and pass it on will be covered.

 Network Insecurity

Experienced wireless hackers Julian Oliver and Bengt Sjolen will present the WiFi spectrum (2.4-2.5Ghz) as a rich material for activist intervention, study and play. In tandem with Gordo Savicic and Danja Vasiliev, from a temporary outpost in Sao Paulo, they will lift network packet analysis and manipulation into a trans-continental domain.

Invisible Territories

Brendan Howell and Martin Howse will take investigation and intervention into other bands of the spectrum, introducing custom hardware and rigorous techniques for a psycho-geophysical reading of the area around Tempelhof airport.

Reticular Aesthetics: Adversarial Media Art after the Material Turn

by Michael Dieter

This paper theorizes emergent political qualities of media art as challenging the boundaries or definition of the social through an active experimentation with things. At a time where categorizations of artistic engagements with technology are increasingly complex and unclear – especially in the rifts, overlaps and possible convergence between new media and contemporary art (Manovich, 1996; Lovink, 2008; Quaranta, 2010) – I offer a theorization of object-orientated politics as a defining impulse of media art practice. Of course, stressing the constitutive role of things, materialities or objects has become something of a customary gesture in the field, from vitalist accounts of media ecology by Matthew Fuller (2004) and Andreas Broeckmann (1995) to the medium-specificity of software studies or general use of a vocabulary of non-human agencies inspired by Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) and the work of Bruno Latour. As part of a broad ‘material turn’ throughout philosophy, social sciences and cultural studies, this orientation toward things, however, raises both important ontological and epistemological questions, especially regarding understandings of the role of politics. Against this general backdrop, my paper, therefore, aims to contribute to definitions of media art projects forged in adversarial contexts (works that might also be considered as examples of tactical media) and to understandings of an object-orientated politics through the concept of reticular aesthetics.

With reference to the ‘ecosophic’ art practice of Critical Art Ensemble and Preemptive Media as illustrative examples, my argument is that an important long-term trend in media art has been to draw together or reticulate object-orientated agencies in a political register. This mode of reticular aesthetics cannot be understood as purely representational; rather, it refers to projects that actively incorporate objects into the processual expressiveness of the work. Aesthetics here is defined in the well-known terms of Jacques Rancière (2006; 2010) as sense (aesthesis), or more specifically, as the ‘distribution of the sensible’ – where political resonance occurs by overturning stabilized formations of perception. However, as opposed to Rancière’s exclusive concern with subjectivities (or alternative contemporary art theorizations of inter-subjective or relational aesthetics), my argument is that a significant feature of media art is an engagement with objects as participating in political expressions by including themselves out. This should be understood as the definitive critical gesture of reticular aesthetics: a reordering of sense by experimental techniques that make objects intelligible, allowing everyday technical things to speak and become visible.

Digital Anthropophagy and the Anthropophagic Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age

by Vanessa Maia Ramos-Velasquez

I have written a thesis-essay about cultural cannibalism in the digital age as well as a manifesto-poem with a new take on the original "Manifesto Antropófago" written by the Brazilian modernist author Oswald de Andrade in 1928. His manifesto was an assertion of the unique Brazilian voice in the emerging modern time, away from clichés of colonialism, while unapologetically metabolizing outside references from the First World. My “Digital Anthropophagy” paper containing the “Anthropophagic Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age” seeks to update the anthropophagic practice of cultural cannibalism with regard to the digital age, where the virtual world is the new frontier, and everyone a possible colonizer.

The term “Anthropophagy” comes from anthropos, “human being”, phagein, “to eat”). The main definitions are:

-Cannibalism, as the eating of human flesh by a human or humans

-Self-cannibalism, as the eating of one’s own flesh,

-Eucharist, the ceremonial eating of the body of Jesus as wine and bread.

In my view, these forms of cannibalism have transmutated into a new form, which I would like to propose as Digital Anthropophagy, meaning:

-The sum of the anthropophagic practices if done virtually, i.e., with the aid of computers, social networking platforms or other digital devices; or if executed in reality but facilitated digitally.

-A new paradigm of input/output models generated via the internet.

-A new practice of cultural consumption involving a technological mediation for input (both the feeding and the being fed), digestion, and output.

The core subjects of my paper and manifesto are: colonization of thought and a new sphere of global influence, spread of ideas and the new phenomenology of humanistic interactions in the digital age, remix and recycle culture and “fair use” issues, inversion of the traditional vertical mass media methodology undermined by the advent of public as new producer of culture, and self-expression of the internetworked society as a bridge to immortality. Throughout, I examine the new acculturation processes in an era where all colonies have already proclaimed their independence and the virtual world is the new frontier to be conquered, putting into question once again: who is the cannibal?

Encyclopaedic public, WikiLeaks, multitude, interface

by Lars Bo Løfgreen

Read as diversely as the reemergence of 80s hacker culture (Sterling 2010), as a revolt against the attention economy and growing lack of investigative journalism (Lovink and Riemens 2010), as both the follow up on the 90s promise of internet democracy and as precursor to a new kind of cyberterrorism etc. etc., WikiLeaks seems to have been throughly examined in almost any light other than its stated purpose of enlightenment and questioned about anything, but its intended focus on creating a new interface for the public. This paper proposal aims to examine WikiLeaks in the light of both.

One often tends to forget that there are two sets of enlightenment thought emerging out of the 18th century. Two ways of distributing knowledge, two sets of organising data, two projects for the education of man, two notions of the public sphere, publicity etc., two sets and not one.
The one of these two, is the one that is easy to remember. The one born out of an increased engagement with rationality and a project of unity-seeking mediations and dialectics. From Kant, over Hegel, Habermas and Luhmann, this project is of continued relevance. The point is here not that every part can magically fit, be translated into or be represented by the whole, but rather that there in the attempt to make these translations and representations manifest, is a clear primacy of the whole over the part. This primacy is the inheritance of the first project of enlightenment.

Now, the second project emerging out of the enlightenment is a project of the opposite. A project resting not on processes of mediations and dialectics, but on the irreducible significance of the singular parts. As such, in effect: the multitude. A project where the individual particles holds a primacy over the whole, where abstraction from the singular article to the whole exists only in the means of a register, and where the acceptance of non-integratable elements, omissions, uncertainties and fractions are a primary condition. WikiLeaks marks a return of this second project.

City on the brink

by Jason Waite

The International Guerrilla Video Festival (IGVFest) was initiated as a means to combat the monopoly of the billboards, advertisements and screens that have come to dominate the urban landscape. It works with artists and micro–communities in sites of contention to articulate the di-versity of perspectives, share stories and provide a public platform to intervene directly on the city itself through mobile exhibitions. These interactions open up the visual environment, moving beyond the concerns of the market to engage with the discourses of the area. The moving images, comprised of works originating inside the community as well as from artists working in different locations, are projected onto monuments, buildings and temporary structures, providing a site for communal gathering where a multiplicity of voices can emerge to create informal networks of knowledge.

IGVFest draws on the Situationist idea of the dérive, described by Debord as a mode of interacting with space through a type of wandering that reconfigures the subjective encounter with the area. The portable festival uses a GPU (Guerrilla Projector Unit) to project the videos onto the surfaces of the city. Composed of a multi–channel sound system, digital projector and self–contained power source, the GPU is a completely autonomous cinema–on–wheels. The design enables rapid incursions into the public arena to show a number of different artists’ videos at different locations during an evening. This fluidity allows the festival to utilise hit and run tactics to open up new strategies of spontaneity and potential in an urban context fortified by advertisements. Billboards can be transformed from outlets of commercial messages into sites of exchange that encourage discussion instead of consumption, interaction instead of isolation, and landmarks for the community instead of the market.

The paper will discuss the 2009 Dublin edition that focused on three diverse areas of the city and captured a singular moment in the cities history before the recent economic crash.

Intersections of Interdisciplinarity: Technological, Transcultural and Feminist Formations in the Electronic Art of Muriel Magenta

by Tanfer Emin Tunc

A Professor of Art at Arizona State University, a “new genre” artist who works with numerous technological media (including video, computer art, web technology, installation, multimedia performance, and sculpture), and a dedicated proponent of the American women’s art movement, Muriel Magenta is the embodiment of not only interdisciplinarity but also of feminist transcultural digital art.  A native New Yorker who was trained at Queens College (NY) and Johns Hopkins University, she has spent her career exploring the interface between art, science and technology, while remaining true to her larger objective of “creating a visual experience in an actual space, and then transmitting it over electronic networks into virtual environments,” which are, due to her use of the Internet, by default transnational.   Another goal of her digital art is to carve a space for women within this male-dominated genre.  To that end, she has served as the National President of the Women’s Caucus for Art, been active in the College Art Association’s Committee on Women in the Arts, and has participated in global gatherings, such as the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, China (1995), where she presented “The World’s Women On-Line!” (, an international web database Magenta created and curated, showcasing the art of women in global electronic networks.

This paper will explore not only Magenta’s personal and political causes as a transnational academic feminist, but also the ways in which her electronic art has served as a forum for the intersection of science, culture and women’s issues.  Focusing on her most prominent works, such as Patio de la Pompadour (, and electronic exhibitions like Times Square, Token City, and Coiffure Carnival (, this presentation will highlight her contributions to the digital art world as well as to the promotion of women within art globally.  Magenta’s “activism through electronic art,” her documentary “28 Women: A Chance for Independence” (, and her pedagogic innovations will also be major components of this paper.