On Friday afternoon, November 18 2011 Julie Kepes Stone took us to South Boston. There is great community garden on Berkeley Street that Julie was actively involved with for more than a decade.
On the same Friday November 18 2011 we visited several gardens in Roxbury where Julie Kepes Stone was involved in establishing them and contributing with her knowledge and enthusiasm.
On Friday November 18 2011 we met Julie Kepes Stone, daughter of the founder of CAVS at MIT, Georgy Kepes, to start our investigation into one category of occupied lands of Boston – community gardens. Julie is a true expert of the field as for many years she has been working on various social programs developing gardening and food cultures in the city among many other activities that she was part of. During years Julie was supervising more than a hundred gardens in greater Boston area.
We started at Clark-Cooper Community Garden at the grounds of the hospital in Roxbury.
On Monday, November 14 2011, we met with Mel King – an educator, youth worker, social activist, community organizer and developer, elected politician, author, and an Adjunct Professor at MIT. We recorded an interview with Mel at South End Technology Center on obedience, disobedience, peoples’ rights, the first Tent City, gardening and community leadership and more.
On Saturday, November 12, 2011 we met Paul E. Summit, who was a law student at Harvard at the time of the protests in ’69.
Our interview with Paul had been planned long in advance of our Saturday meeting which was to take place at 9 AM on the steps of Harvard’s Widener library. We hoped he would walk us through the events of the ’69 strike from a first-hand perspective.
Two days prior to our meeting, in an unexpected turn of events, Harvard yard was occupied by a group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In response to the protesters the administration had put the campus on lockdown with officers at every gate requesting strict identification and admitting only Harvard students and faculty. As such, when we arrived for the interview the officers at the gate informed us that Harvard library cards and MIT ID’s were not adequate identification to gain access to the yard. After explaining that we were meeting with a Harvard alumni for a meeting at the library the police officers conferred with each other and gave us provisional access providing that we went directly to the library. As we made our way toward Widener and met Paul, he suggested that we conduct our meeting (which we were recording) on the steps of the library. There he narrated the events of ’69 gesturing to the different parts of the yard in which these events unfolded. In the meantime police officers in large vehicles were surveilling the yard to monitor all people therein and in particular to ensure that the ranks of the protesters would not grow. Upon seeing us on the steps with recording equipment the police immediately confronted us.
Unfortunately, due to these circumstances, we were put in the very awkward position of being accused of disobedience ourselves in order to fulfill a simple and relatively straight-forward historical interview. Because the police interpreted our activities as counter to our stated purpose of meeting an alumni at the library (which is what transpired), we have now been added to a list of those charged with trespassing. They informed us that we are no longer welcome on the Harvard campus in any of the facilities, for any purpose, without first having these charges rescinded by the university’s chief of police.
Joining the march after the interview.
On Friday, November 11, 2011 we met Hans Guggenheim, former Associate Professor of Anthropology at MIT, to talk about Richard Leacock.
On Friday evening November 11th, 2011 we visited Hans Guggenheim house and performed a joyful recording session supported with local pizza, chinese tea and delicious sorbet ice-cream.
on Nov.8 2011 e-flux posted announcement for Disobedience. An ongoing video archive
November 8, 2011
MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology / NABA
(Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano)
Photo by Nomeda Urbonas.
An ongoing video archive
December 9, 2011–February 3, 2012
December 9, 3–5 PM
December 9, 2011, 5–8 PM
Curated by: Marco Scotini together with Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas
Assistant curator: Andris Brinkmanis
Display System by Urbonas Studio
MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
The Media Lab Complex Lobby (E14)
75 Amherst Street
Cambridge, MA, USA
At a time when many still consider the reterritorialisation of the classic Left as a possible response to the advancing neo-capitalistic cultural barbarism, Disobedience Archive, an ongoing video archive aims to provide an alternative model of thought and action, which is wide-reaching, though limited in its space-time dimensions.
It is an investigation into practices of artistic activism that emerged after the fall of the Soviet bloc, which paved the way for new ways of being, saying, and doing. What the Disobedience Archive intends to represent is the set of artistic strategies and dissent tactics that have been brought to bear over the past few years as a way of overcoming classic modernist dichotomies. In particular, this is a way to escape an idea of art and culture that, in a modernist manner, recognizes only its use—but not its intrinsic nature—in political terms. Disobedience Archive, on the contrary, shows how the political status of the image today is bound up with recognition of the aesthetic character of its manifestation. What matters in Disobedience is not so much an “alliance” between activist demands and artistic practices in order to achieve common goals, it is more that of a common space or a common base that is emerging. This space is not clearly defined, thus making it impossible to draw a precise line between forces and signs, between language and labor, between intellectual production and political action. Disobedience Archive brings together a series of practices and forms of self-representation whose practitioners are finding the key to their strength in an alliance of art and activism: a transformation in the languages that society produces as a political subject and as a media object. It does so using the format of an archive, in which all the materials on display share the same level of equivalence—without hierarchies and without exhibiting any preordained set of institutional rules. It is up to the public to make choices about how they visually organize the available material: turning the archive into a toolkit ready for use.
Marco Scotini writes that “the theoretical premises that underpin the idea of disobedience, mainly emerged from radical political thinking in Italy which, starting from the time of the societal events in Italy in 1977, viewed post-Fordism as the destiny of late global capitalism.”
Compared with previous presentations (Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin; La Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico D.F.; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham; Raven Row, London among many others), this version of Disobedience Archive installed at MIT will retrace many of the implications of this theoretical notion in the very subsoil of Italy, through a whole constellation of events and videos that intermittently transpire as the exhibition tour progresses. One section of the exhibition will be dedicated to 1977 Italy, while other rhizomatic series of videos will shed light on events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall; the social turmoil in Argentina in 2001; the ubiquitous nature of anti-globalist movements from 1994 onwards; the former Eastern European bloc; the Israel-Palestine affairs; the post-9/11 America; the recent insurrections on a global scale; and new research on the history of disobedience in the Boston area.
Archival material from: 16beaver group, Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA), Gianfranco Baruchello, Bernardette Corporation, Beth Bird, Black Audio Film Collective, Copenhagen Free University, Critical Art Ensemble, Dodo Brothers (Andrea Ruggeri and Giancarlo Vitali Ambrogio), Etcètera, Marcelo Exposito, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Grupo de Arte Callejero (GAC), Alberto Grifi, Ashley Hunt, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Kanal B, Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Non Governmental Control Commission, Margit Czencki/Park Fiction, Radio Alice, Oliver Ressler with Zanny Begg, Joanne Richardson, Eyal Sivan, Hito Steyerl, The Department of Space and Land Reclamation (with StreetRec., The Institute for Applied Autonomy, Las Agencias and AffectTech/BikeWriters), Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis, Ultra Red, Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Dmitry Vilensky and Chto delat / What is to be done?
With contributions and material from: Mel King, Juliet Kepes, Sylvere Lotringer, Harvard’69, Urbano platform, ACT UP and Food not Bombs among others.
The Disobedience Archive research and exhibition project is produced in collaboration with the students from the ACT courses Art, Architecture, and Urbanism in Dialogue and Introduction to Networked Cultures and Participatory Media under the instruction of Gediminas Urbonas, with the assistance of Anna Bleuler (NABA, Milano), Slobodan Radoman and Sung Woo Jang (MIT, Cambridge, MA).
This exhibition is possible through the support of the Office of the Dean at MIT SA+P, Council for the Arts at MIT, the Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), and NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milano.
NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano), founded in 1980, is an innovative Arts and Design Academy, the largest private Academy in Italy, and at the same time a dynamic artistic and cultural center. (www.naba.it)
The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology operates as a critical studies and production based laboratory, connecting the arts with an advanced technological community.
MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, E15-212 Cambridge MA 02139-4307
New York, NY 10002, USA
DISOBEDIENCE An on going video archive.
Disobedience is an on-going archive and a video station about the relationship between artistic practice and civil and social disobedience. Founded in 2005, the project is a guide to the geography of recent protest, from the social struggles in Italy in 1977 to the anti-globalisation actions before and after the Seattle protests in 1999. In particular Disobedience is an investigation into practices of art activism emerging after the fall of the Soviet bloc that are today developing on a global scale.
Contemporary dissent manifests itself less as theoretical criticism or protest than as defection, exodus and exit. Abandonment rather than confrontation: the search for the new participatory spaces, constituent practices, micro-actions on a global scale, and forms of self-organisation and empowerment are the main strategies of the new movements. Disobedience is an atlas of the plurality of resistance tactics such as direct action, counter-information, reclamation projects, parallel planning processes, urban tactics, communication tools for creative resistance, self-managed architecture, biological resistance and media activism that have been developed by artists and filmmakers.
Many of these phenomena are associated with ‘tactical media’, which was born out of the DIY philosophy that spread with the ‘electronic revolution’. From low cost video recording tools to free web access, technological devices became accessible to groups or individuals (hackers, interventionists, culture jammers, etc.) that felt they’d been damaged by the mainstream culture. Using a diverse range of methodologies these groups and projects address some of the most fundamental and urgent challenges of contemporary urban life.
The goal of the archive is to create a common space for artistic output and for political action, understanding that society itself is changing and with it the language it produces as a political subject and as a media object. Disobedience is designed as a long-term work-in-progress and is presented as non-comprehensive and provisional, intended to expand over time.
This section comprises so-called Constituent Practices – practices that seek to create autonomous social spaces by developing experimental forms of education, community, urbanism and architecture. Public space is reclaimed and redefined, often beginning with squatting buildings and land. New forms of social reality are developed from the ground up, outside of official regulation. Social relationships are networked and heterogeneous. Often the impetus for these communities derives from a mixture of artists and social movements.
Works by: Park Fiction (initiated in 1994, Hamburg), Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis (live and work in Milan and Luxembourg), Atelier d’Architecture Autogéré (founded in 2001, Paris), Hito Steyerl.
1) Margit Czencki/Park Fiction
…die W¸nsche warden die Wohnung verlassen und auf die Strasse gehen
(…desires will leave home and take to the streets), 1999
Colour, 61 minutes
texts: Christoph Schäfer
camera: Martin Gressmann, Margit Czenki
music/sound collage: Ted Gaier, Schorsch Kamerun
with: Park Fiction activists, the clever Hafenrand-Club.
One day wishes are going to leave home and hit the streets…
At the moment, though, they lead an unappreciated kind of life, in amongst boxes filled with favourite things, in secret love-letters, in disgarded novel fragments, in sad stamp collections. They live vase-formed, as dog-eared posters, as thread-bare carpets, as Mickey Mouse telephones, in dust-covered travel souvenirs, they’re hibernating in your record collection. But they’re getting nervous. They’re sick and tired of living in the shadows. They want to get out there, into the city. They want to meet other wishes, they want to argue, be productive, they want to dance in the street, parade in feather boas, they want to drape a new plan over the city and pirouette on the roof-tops, link up and connect, build terrible machines, prowl the streets with their glitter gangs, rip documents and files from shelving units and feast on the spectacle of 400 office tables crashing through the glass facade of a skyscraper, rushing down like a waterfall. Wishes are going to leave home and bring an end to this reign of boredom, this administration of misery .
2) Hito Steyerl
Universal Embassy, 2004
Colour, 4 minutes
The former Somali Embassy in Brussels is being squatted by „Sans-papiers“, who proclaim a Universal Embassy on the premises.
Die Leere Mitte (The Empty Centre), 1998
Colour, 62 minutes
Potsdamer Platz was once the political centre of Berlin. During the Cold War it became a deadly minefield between the borders. After German reunification, Potsdamer Platz was rebuilt. In this process, residents were removed to the outskirts of the city, marginalized by the recentering of Germany’s political and economic power. The Empty Centre closely follows the processes of urban restructuring that have taken place in the centre of Berlin – in 1990, squatters proclaimed a socialist republic on the death strip; eight years later, the new headquarters of Mercedes Benz arise in the same location. The film focusses on Potsdamer Platz to explore global power shifts, and the simultaneous dismantling and reconstruction of borders, using slow superimpositions to reveal architectonic and political changes. The Empty Centre also traces the history of ostracism and exclusion, especially against immigrants and minorities, which have served to define the notion of a powerful national center. “It is not so much crossing boundaries as frontiers as it is the partial disappearance, dissolution or repositioning of the boundaries themselves. It is the shifting of the boundaries as you try to cross them… Now you begin to see that we are also talking about the fragmentation of boundaries; the partial breakdown, renegotiation, repositioning of boundaries, about the appearance of new boundaries which cut across the old ones.” (Stuart Hall)
3) Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA)
Au Rez-de-chaussÈe de la ville, (The City at Ground Level), 2005
DVD pal, Colour, 34 minutes
ECObox is an urban social experiment started in 2001 in the La Chapelle area, in the North of Paris. It aims to use temporarily available and underused spaces for collective activities. It brings together the specialised knowledge of architects, artists and researchers and the common knowledge and skills of local people. It is a worksite at the ‘ground level of the city’ that anyone can enter to propose a cultural, social or political project.
4) Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis
Isola Nostra, 2007
DVD 59’, Music by Steve Piccolo
Isola Nostra is not a documentary proper. It deals with the top down imposition of an urban renewal plan with little or no public consultation in the historical working class neighborhood of Isola (“island”) in Milan and with attempts to oppose it “from below” such as Isola Art Center and OUT (Office for Urban transformation). It is not shot coherently by one author and much of the visual material is part of the general and collective effort to document a practice in the process of becoming. The film is organized thematically in chapters, each section attempting an overview of the simultaneous trajectories of this conflict.
This section is focused on political and activist art in Central and Eastern Europe, arising out of a post-communist condition. As Dmitry Vorobjev says, “Compared to the Soviet period, nowadays there is more breathing room, but the air conditioners have been turned on, so to speak: the very possibility of thinking about acting collectively in public space is being confiscated. As part of our legacy from the Soviet era we’ve inherited not only the notion that “personal initiative is punishable by law”, but also an aversion to collective forms of action. (…) In our country there are lots of subcultures that are practically invisible in the public and political sphere; the most radical but also the least well represented of these is DIY culture. The very idea of reclaiming space that we’ve been talking about is now simply taboo. In the past, such practices were also few and far between, but each of them either formed or significantly fortified the subcultures (…) (Reclaim Your Space, or the New Dissidence, an interview with Dmitry Vilensky, published in #12: (Im)possible spaces, newspaper of the platform Chto Delat/What is to be done?, March 2006).
Works by: Dmitry Vilensky (born 1964, lives and works in St Petersburg and Berlin), Harun Farocki (born 1944, lives and works in Berlin, Germany) and Andrei Ujica (born 1951, lives and works in Berlin and Karlsruhe, Germany), Nomeda And Gediminas Urbonas (work together since 1993, live and work in Vilnius, Lithuania), Non Governmental Control Commission (A group of young Moscow leftist artists and intellectuals such as Anatoly Osmolovsky, Avdei Ter-Oganyan, Oleg Kireev, active in 1998-99, Moscow), Joanne Richardson.
1) Dmitry Vilensky and Chto delat? /// What is to be done?
platform for engaged culture
Protest Match Kirov Stadium, 2006
DVD, 28 minutes
2) Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas
Pro-test lab archive, 2005-2007
LIETUVA sold out (Color, 17’ 30’’, 2006)
SOLD OUT (Color, 08’40’’ 2005)
SOLD OUT 3 CROSSES (Color, 05’34’’, 2005)
VIP market (Color, 02’22’’, 2005)
Exploration of public space (Color, 05’02’’, 2007)
Human chain of swimming enthusiasts (Color, 02’20’’, 2005)
America will help us (Color, 02’09’’, 2005)
Dogs barking will not disturb the clouds (Color, 01’27’’, 2005)
TV bridge. Talk show between Oslo and Vilnius (Color, 16’20’’, 2005)
Pro-test lab (Color, 20’52’’, 2005)
The Pro-test Lab archive collects and disseminates material relating to the community campaign which the artists initiated in 2005 to save the largest movie-house in Vilnius, cinema “Lietuva” which has been privatized and is facing redevelopment. The archive, which includes video documentation of performances, a fashion collection, posters and props, addresses the challenges facing public spaces in the age of proactive capital.
3) Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica
Videogramme einer Revolution (Videograms of a Revolution), 1992
video transferred to 16mm, b/w and colour, 107 minutes
Farocki and Ujica’s ‘Videograms’ document the Romanian revolution of December 1989 in Bucharest, presenting a new media-based form of historiography. Demonstrators occupy the television station in Bucharest and broadcast continuously for 120 hours, thereby establishing the television studio as a new historical site. Between December 21, 1989 – the day that Ceaucescu’s made his last speech – and December 26, 1989 – the first televised summary of his trial – home video cameras recorded events at the most important locations in Bucharest. The determining medium of an era has always marked history. Only the videocamera, with its heightened possibilities in terms of recording time and mobility, can bring the process of filming history to completion.
4) Joanne Richardson
5) Non Governamental Control Commission – Public Actions
The Barricade, 1998
On 23 May, 1998 the “Non –Governmental Control Commission” (a group of artists such as Anatoly Osmolovsky, Audei Ter-Oganyan, Radek Community) organized its first action, which it called “Barricade on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street”. The Barricade was conceived in remembrance of the May demonstrations that took place in Paris 30 years earlier and, additionally, as a hint at Russia’s political future. It also provided an unintended reminder of the Bulldozer Exhibition because the Barricade was built of pictures by popular Russian painters. The artists published the following press release: “the Barricade is an act of civil disobedience with the aim of testing new practices of political struggle and artistic gestures” (Osmolovsky). It would be an exaggeration to assert that the Barricade provoked any revolutionary action. Only when the artists moved their barricade to a bigger and busier street were they finally confronted by the police. (Sylvia Sasse)
6) Radek Community,
Color, 7 min
Moscow. The Barricadnaya metro station. The pedestrian crossing on Sadovoye Koltso street. Every five minutes the lights turns green – it interrupts the continuous stream of cars and it lets pedestrians cross the street. In the morning you can see masses of people here, who are waiting for green light to cross the street, to reach their offices. Crossing takes a maximum of thirty seconds. It is necessary to make several slogans on red cloth, and in the moment when green light flares unexpectedly, to unfurl them above the pedestrians’ heads, and reach the other side of the street with everybody. You have to do it several times.
Effect. All indications of a demonstration are manifested: masses of people, slogans, a central street, traffic is stopped. Marx’s thesis about the genesis of the self-awareness of the revolutionary class, in action.
The Mausoleum, 1999
Action within the governmental elections’ 99 in Russia. Traditionally the Lenin Mausoleum in the Red Square was a stage, where known politicians speak and from which the Soviet leadership once viewed parades. Now it is occupied by the group of young artists and anarchists, who proclaimed an “Against all” slogan.
With his conception of ‘biopower’ and ‘governmentality’, Foucault revealed the myriad ways the operations of power extended far beyond the institutions of state. Biopower encompasses the breadth of techniques and strategies deployed in the modern state to regulate life, on the level of individuals and whole populations. Increasingly, particularly in neo-liberal political economies, control is exercised by non-state agencies and by individuals on themselves. Neo-liberalism, being opposed to welfare, wants an entrepreneurial and seemingly autonomous subject, one whose techniques of self-governance and goals are an internalisation of, and are in alignment with, those of the political economic system. In the digital age, the technologies of control are increasingly adaptable, mobile, immaterial, soft and shifting, as Deleuze anticipated in his analysis of a postmodern society of control.
If all life is captured by capitalist production, a new understanding of work must be the starting point for cultural production that resists biopower. As Hobsbawm recently stated, “we are facing a world in which the economy is increasingly turning into a system of reciprocal control rather than one of reciprocal services”. This section is devoted to the various facets of this emerging society of control and various manifestations of ‘bioresistance’ artists and activists are developing to counter it: the enclosure and disclosure of the knowledge ‘commons’, grass roots campaigns against the expansion and privatisation of ‘prison-industrial-complex’, community upheaval in the face of institutional racism, the search for public access to the drafting of common policies, the industrial genetic manipulation of food sources, etc.
Works by: Critical Art Ensemble (founded in 1987, New York), Ashley Hunt (1970, lives and works in Los Angeles), Black Audio Film Collective (active 1982-1998, London), Eyal Sivan, Copenhagen Free University, 16beavergroup.org.
1) Critical Art Ensemble
Germs of Deception, 2005
DVD, 6 min 42 sec
Critical Art Ensemble has recently given its attention also to the devastating effects of bacteriological experiments carried out in war programs by Great Britain and the USA. In Germs of Deception (2005) CAE reproduces (in ways which are not harmful both for the environment and the audience) the conditions of a bacteriological experiment carried out by the USA in 1949 when a group of trained soldiers let in the air a bacterium Serratia marcescens to contaminate completely the surrounding environment. Same simulation for Marching plague, repeating the British experiments to test the plague as bacteriological weapon in the Isle of Lewis in 1952-1953.
2) Ashley Hunt
(from Corrections documentary project)
DVD, 58 min
CORRECTIONS is a story of profits and mass imprisonment: how the histories of racial and economic inequality in the U.S. are emerging today from the walls of its prisons and how this crisis has formed the incentive, profit and resource base for an entire industry. Where the “Tough-on-Crime” movement meets the ending of welfare, globalization, finance capital and neo-liberal policy, and today, the “war on terrorism.” CORRECTIONS explores how prisons have fast become the accepted solution to unemployment and housing crises, crumbled schools, livable wages without credit and the undoing of the Western Social Contract, set within the scene of collapsed rural economies and the “urban decay” of potentially expensive neighborhoods.
Featuring stories of the leading correctional corporations, testimony from the world’s leading experts and the lives of ordinary people, CORRECTIONS takes audiences behind the walls of the prison system that Wall Street has called a “growth industry.”
** CORRECTIONS was made before September 11th, 2001, to which the state’s response of increasing detentions has not changed but rather grown and exacerbated what this film describes. In fact, the Bush administration used September 11th to grow the industry in a number of ways. “LOCKDOWNS UP”, a footnote on Corrections deals with this specifically.
A Footnote on Corrections
Lockdowns up 9/11, 2002
(A part of Corrections documentary project)
DVD, 9 min
What is the relationship between the “War on Terror” and the interests behind the growing U.S. prison industry? What have the events of September 11th meant for the already booming prison system? In addition to “correctional” agencies and corporations, who else is profiting from massive increases in incarceration and what other forms could that take?
LOCKDOWNS UP is a nine-minute video essay based upon the optimistic stock projections announced to Wall Street stock analysts by a private prison company, when Cornell Company made public its hopes that private prison companies may get fat government contracts to build interment camps for Arab Americans.
Issues touched upon: the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, the criminalization of immigrants and the booming of border control bureaucracies and companies, the Feds’ “bailout” of the private prison industry, the U.S.’ Internment Camps from World War II.
3) Black Audio Film Collective
B&W and color, 58 min
Director John Akomfrah, Smoking Dogs Film with Channel Four TV
In October 1985 Britain witnessed a spate of race related riots in the Birmingham district of Handsworth and in urban centres of London. These were violent, tragic events, marked by the death of an elderly black woman, Joy Gardner, and a white policeman, Keith Blakelock. The film that eventually became Handsworth Songs did not begin its life as a meditation on civil disturbance. An interest in questions of the slippages between history and memory, in the diverse technologies of independent filmmaking traditions, in the possibilities of sound collage, and the limits of documentary truth prefigured the film, running parallel to the events of that tumultuous winter, and subsequently informing what gradually became Black Audio Film Collective’s first film. Handsworth Songs takes as its point of departure the civil disturbances in Britain in 1985 and the inability of the British media to go beyond its concern with demonising or rationalising the rioters and their motives, to break the anxiety driven loop of morbid responses to the presence of blacks in Britain. Handsworth Songs explores the idea that the riots represented less a self contained drama of rage with a single origin and trajectory than a multiplicity of issues, ambivalences, to do with race, longing and belonging – not all of which could be shored up by recourse to a rhetoric of civil disorder. The film’s sense of multiplicity extends to a rethinking of black British presence, and a refuting of the idea of a homogenous black community with a single sense of presence characterised by uniformity of ambition and expression. Instead the film evokes a broad range of voices, tones, registers. And it is through this panoply of positions and presences that Handsworth Songs approaches the riots and expresses its central idea – that it is not the riots in their dramatic unfolding, nor even in the wake of their violent eruption, which provide us with a route into the drama. The film figures civil disorder as an inflamed and unstable sign, an opening onto a secret history of dissatisfaction. A documentary whose subject is a cemeterial Britain, populated by ‘the ghosts of other stories’.
4) Eyal Sivan
Itgaber, He Will Overcome, 1993
A filmed essay about an uncompromising man. Using vocabulary that can be understood by everyone, Yeshayahou Leibowitz, Latvian born Jewish philosopher and scientist, shares with us his analysis of what makes Man: will, freedom, man’s choices, what is imposed upon him and how, by “triumphing over his own self”, he can escape the heaviness of this world. One of the greatest theorists of civil disobedience and a spiritual leader of the Israeli soldiers who refuse to carry out their military national service in the Occupied Territories, Prof. Leibowitz, who has always been very attached to the idea of divine law, explains, in a very provocative way, his position with regards to the law and authority in general, and with regards to the Israeli State and government in particular. His uncompromising words force each individual to face up to their responsibilities, both as a human being and as a citizen.
5) Copenhagen Free University
Trauma 1 – 11: Stories about the Copenhagen Free University and the surrounding society in the last ten years
What is 16 beaver
12 min 30 sec
This section is about the new social movements against capitalist globalization, from the demonstrations of Seattle in 1999 to the G8 protest in Heiligendamm in 2007. What we might call the ‘Anti-Summit’ has emerged as the most visible expression of the global Multitude. It has given rise to new mobile, temporary and heterogeneous international communities. Some of the videos in this section seek to counter the supposedly objective portrayal of these protest movements by the mainstream media, re-instating radical left-wing perspectives through various techniques of self-representation.
Works by: Oliver Ressler (born 1970, lives and works in Vienna) and Zanny Begg (born 1972, lives and works in Sidney), Marcelo Expósito (born 1966, lives and works in Barcelona), Beth Bird (lives and works in Los Angeles, USA), The Department of Space and Land Reclamation with StreetRec., The Institute for Applied Autonomy, Las Agencias and AffectTech/BikeWriters (active in 2002, Chicago).
1) Marcelo Exposito
First of May (the City-Factory)/Primero de Mayo (la ciudad-fábrica), 2004
B/W and color, Mini DV transferred to DVD, 61 min
In the video Primero de mayo (la ciudad-fábrica) – Mayday (The city-factory) – 2004 the Spanish artist speaks with the Italian philosopher Paolo Virno about the metaphor of “virtuosity” as a precondition of current forms of labour and new political movements. The film traces the development from Fordism to post-Fordism as exemplified in the restructuring of the Lingotto/Fiat plant in Turin and then focuses closely on the work of the Italian chainworkers group and its activities during the Mayday festivities in Milan. Its hostile intervention in the “institution of the first of May”, i.e in the historical, political and symbolic space occupied by the conflicts associated with the concept of labour, is an indication of the existence of a new form of “precarious potential” in metropolitan social culture.
2) Bernardette Corporation
Get Rid of Yourself, 2003
DV, 61 min, featuring Chloe Sevigny and Werner von Delmont
3) Oliver Ressler with Zanny Begg
What Would It Mean to Win?, 2008
Colour, 40 minutes
What Would It Mean To Win? was filmed on the blockades at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in June 2007. It discusses the current state of the anti-globalisation movement. The film, which combines documentary footage, interviews, and animation sequences, is structured around three questions: ‘Who are we?’ ‘What is our power?’ ‘What would it mean to win?’
Almost ten years after Seattle, the film explores its impact on contemporary politics. Seattle has been described as the birthplace of the “movement of movements” and is regarded as the moment when a new social subject – the multitude – entered the political landscape.
4) Beth Bird
Everyone Their Grain of Sand, 2004
Color, 87 minutes
“Everyone Their Grain of Sand” examines the impact of global industrialization on land ownership in Tijuana. The film follows the struggle of the community of Maclovio Rojas, a highly-organized, low-income community on the outskirts of Tijuana which has been in a land struggle for over 15 years. The community is in conflict with the state government, which wants to evict them and use the land for corporate development. In December 2002 the state arrested one community leader and attempt to arrest two others who managed to escape and go into hiding, where they remain to this day. The film locates this struggle within the context of globalization, NAFTA, the maquiladora industry and socio-political landscape of the U.S./Mexican border.
5) The Department of Space and Land Reclamation (with StreetRec., The Institute for Applied Autonomy, Las Agencias and AffectTech/BikeWriters)
Retooling Dissent, 2004
Color, 20’ 12’’
The Department of Space and Land Reclamation developed from a weekend of cultural activity in public space that brought together a diverse group of artists, activists, and community organizers to learn from each other.
The video Retooling Dissent documents dissent and experimentation around the February 2nd, 2002, meeting of the World Economic Forum in Manhattan (NYC) at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The annual conference of global executives and the corporate élite turned the streets of New York into a police state. Meanwhile artists and activists, tactical media practitioners, from around the world, sent out a clear message: The 9/11 attacks will not gag the critiques of globalization. This video explores the ideas of four collectives at the WEF protests.
This section focuses on revolutionary politics in Italy in the 1970s, especially 1977, the year the movement climaxed in large-scale violent confrontations with a reactionary and authoritarian state. The videos here were political tools in the students’ and workers’ struggles that define that crucial year. They include works by Italian underground cinema pioneer Alberto Grifi (1938-2007, Rome) and by the independent video collective Dodo Brothers (active in 1977, Bologna), among others. Key episodes in and around 1977 were featured in the videos: the Parco Lambro Festival in June 1976, the police raid on Alice Radio and the Congress against the repression in Bologna. The roots of the contemporary multitude can be traced back to the post-Workerist radical left in Italy in 1977, whose heterogeneous protagonists were no longer limited to factory workers. As Italian theoretician Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi writes: ‘the 1977 movement in its expressive forms and in its political intuitions seems to be current in the behavioural strategies of the movement after Seattle, and more generally, in the behaviours of political and existential independence in the living cultures (I can no longer use the word alternative) of our times. How come? From my perspective, the answer lies in the two-sided, ambivalent nature of the 1977 movement, which is partly influenced – especially in its awareness – by the history of the workers’ and communist revolution of the 20th century. On the other hand (and perhaps in the more vibrant, deeper and less superficially sensitive part), it is an anticipation of the social and anthropological crisis of the forms of modernity and perhaps of the forms of humanity.’ (Berardi, excerpted from Disobedience and Cognitariat, a conversation with Marco Scotini, 2005).
1) Alberto Grifi
Festival of the young Proletariat at Parco Lambro, Milan, 1976
Video, b/w and color, 30 minutes
In Parco Lambro Grifi transforms the shooting of a video into an active strategy aimed at real events. The video is a record of the revolt that arose at the sixth Festival of the Young Proletariat held in Milan in 1976, but the function of the camera changes according to the unpredictable nature of events: filming becomes direct involvement, catalyzing participation. The influential philosopher Antonio Negri wrote about the events at Parco Lambro: “In fact, climbing over those barriers enclosing the park meant entering another world – but it is true to say that what poured out through that funnel had already fermented, a change had occurred in the people’s conscience, their power already vibrated, and a multitude issued from the park.”
2) Alberto Grifi
Dinni and the Normalina (La Videopolizia Psichiatrica Contro i Sedicenti Nuclei di Follia Militante)
Docu-fiction, color, 23 minutes
3) Dodo Brothers (Andrea Ruggeri and Giancarlo Vitali Ambrogio)
Ciao Mamma, Ciao Papà, 1977
Magnetic tape reel transferred to video, b/w, 15 minutes
In this film, the 1977 movement speaks to the world and represents itself. Friends are in prison, repression is intense and the Communist Party claims that the people of the movement are provocateurs: the Dodo Brothers make a video to speak for the movement. The Rai – Italian Public TV – agrees to show it in an early evening slot, complete and without censorship, an event which is inconceivable today. Ciao Mamma Ciao Papà marks a radical break with the militant-ideological documentary. It offers a new form of narration where irony is used to express serious matters.
Magnetic tape reel transferred to video, b/w, 11’20 minutes
The film is comprised of a single shot sequence of the city of Bologna filmed from the roof rack of a slow moving Renault. The intention is to look at the city from the point of view of the thousands of new visitors, who have come for a three day National Conference Against Repression that have seen participation of numerous intellectuals including French philosophers such as Félix Guattari among others.
4) Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante
L’ARMA DELL’IMMAGINE – manipolazioni – (Image as a weapon- manipulations-)
Video transferred on DVD, 15 min
Image as a weapon is a video made together with youngsters during a workshop at the exhibition The Information Strategy (Milan,1976). It is not just a simple documentation but a result of a collective creation in which young interlocutors of Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante (LCM) explore the diverse use of the tools for video recording that were still at the first phase of their development at the time and analyse the language and manipulations that lie behind the system of information.
This document from 1977 is a perfect example of the typical strategies used by LCM, that through direct and socially engaged experience were aimed to decode and reveal some logics used by the main power structures.
5) Gianfranco Baruchello (with Alberto Grifi)
A Cause des Mouches (Because of the flies) taken from Doux comme saveur (Sweet as a taste), 1979
Magnetic tape transferred to video, b/w, 17 min
This work by Italian artist Gianfranco Baruchello and experimental cinema pioneer Grifi is their second collaboration which documents some of the “maître à penser” interviewed in Paris during ’78. Using as a starting point for the interviews a discussion on sweetness and then death, black and white camera portrays thinkers like Lyotard, Cooper, Guattari, Klossowsky and others while they express their thoughts.
How to display dissent.
From the Disobedience Archive
WHAT IS DISOBEDIENCE ARCHIVE?
Welcome everybody and thanks to Gediminas Urbonas and Ute Meta Bauer for inviting me here and for giving me the opportunity to share with you some simple but urgent issues!
I have to confess that I am very excited that I have to present the Disobedience project exactly at such an important moment of worldwide mobilization. I left Italy 3 days ago, the morning after the huge manifestation in Rome with more than 300 000 participants and at my arrival here I have encountered the Occupy Boston camp in front of the Federal Bank building. I have brought with me these 2 newspapers (one of the right wing with the main headlines – “More than Indignados – They are Criminals”, and the other of the left wing saying- “Human Capital” – two opposite definitions of the same event) and I found here this local newspaper – The Phoenix Boston. So we are facing two events and at the same time dealing with the representation of these events. But I will talk about this later on.
When Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas have invited me to work on the Disobedience project for MIT a year ago none of us could imagine that something like this would have happened. During just one year we have seen the Tahir insurrection and the Arab Spring, Indignados movement in Spain, riots in London and UK and Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston movements here in America. But I think there are many reasons to connect this new idea of political intervention with the project Disobedience that I have started in 2004.
Now in almost every newspaper you can find sentences like the one I found in Boston Phoenix weekly some days ago, which affirms: “It is safe to say that politics as practiced by Occupy wall Street ad Occupy Boston is not a type with which the respective city halls are familiar. This is not politics as practiced by college democrats or young republicans, it is direct street theatre – a form of consciousness raising”.
So it is exactly these issues – the elaboration of a post-political thought and action that are at the core of the whole Disobedience project. And it is right in this field of political intervention or collective actions where you can find the merge of social intervention with artistic imagination and practice. So I think that it is more than inevitable today, more than ever before, to speak about Disobedience. And I would like to use this word starting precisely from here, from Massachusetts, because as everyone knows Henry David Thoreau in Concord was one of the pioneers who have introduced this new political dimension.
If we want to start speaking of the Disobedience Archive there are many topics that we need to face. In fact, Disobedience is an ongoing archive and an itinerant exhibition at the same time. It is designed as a long-term work-in-progress and is presented as non-comprehensive and provisional, intended to expand over time. It’s a video station about the relationship between artistic practice and civil and social disobedience.
Starting from 2004, the project wanted to be a guide to geography of recent protests, from the social struggles in Italy in 1977 to anti-globalization actions before and after Seattle. In particular, Disobedience is an investigation into the practices of art activism emerging from the fall of the Soviet block and the events of the 9/11and those that today are developing on a global scale. Especially today, when in response to the financial crisis and the public debt, we can observe that new forms of confrontation between the civil society and economic power of violent capitalism are emerging on a global scale. So we have to affirm that a new and different kind of political and artistic collaboration characterizes the current phase of the so called post-Fordism or to put it in other words in this post-political phase.
With regard to the relationship between art and politics, a radical shift away from modernism is evident; the forms of art activism are determined by a common recognition that traditional democratic politics is largely bankrupt. Although, the fact that protests and events that have taken place during the last year and the last few days may seem apparently “traditional” protests, we must keep in mind that contemporary dissent manifests itself less as theoretical criticism or protest than as defection, exodus and exit.
Abandonment rather than confrontation, the search for new participatory spaces, constituent practices, micro-actions on a local scale, forms of self-organization and empowerment were the main strategies of the movements active during the last decade and they seems to be remained such also today.
For this reason Disobedience Archive wants to be an atlas of the plurality of resistance tactics such as direct action, counter information, parallel planning process, self-managed architecture, media activism and other tactical strategies.
But I would prefer to start with a short introduction of the platform that Disobedience aims to become.
First of all we have to try to answer to three main questions that can synthesize the idea of what disobedience is.
1) WHAT DOES DISOBEDIENCE MEAN TODAY?
2) WHAT DOES DISOBEDIENCE CONTAIN?
3) WHY IS DISOBEDIENCE AN ARCHIVE?
Why put dissent on display? Can art become a practice capable of disrupting the neo-liberalist alliance between the flows of cultural production and the processes of capitalist valorization? In what terms is an “activist” approach to art possible? The recent widespread emergence of political exhibitions on a global scale might lead us to ask what might be the meaning of showing social claims in the context of art, not just as the result of an action, but as an action in itself. Or instead, aren’t we rather dealing with the emergence of something else? Of a space for experimentation with practices and languages shared by art and politics, yet hardly traceable within the genealogy of Modernity?
What kind of discourse could issue from this mise-èn-scene of social criticism, civil disobedience and protest? Could the space of art be used as a ground for political debate and confrontation, or must it still be conceived as a space of “disengaged” time, and for this reason, removed from the relations produced by the global market? And then, what conditions must be in place to sustain a politicized exhibition practice, now that we have determined that in the era of “cognitive capitalism,” the art exhibition creates a privileged space for semiotic production?
I start from the assumption, that the hybridization of art and politics is the new paradigm for the turn of the millennium. Yet the actual artistic and curatorial production within such a paradigm, which is at the core of a theoretical debate that records the priority of an ethical-aesthetic dimension over a hypothesis of political reconstruction (as is expressed in the works of Guattari, Rancière, Virno, Lazzarato), is rarely investigated. However, the role played by the typology of exhibition space is not at all marginal or minor in relation to its ability to question existing models and thereby develop new spaces for dialogue, production and reception, viewer interaction and political protest.
If we try to identify a trend in the priorities of the new aesthetic paradigm of the last decade, activist art—pushed on by the counter-hegemonic WTO protests in 1999 in Seattle or even by the 1994 Zapatist upheaval—would be it. In such movements, in which cultural production is identified with political practice and creative experimentation with media, the emphasis on the individual and the group as devices of resistance and the demand for “autonomous” spaces devoted to knowledge and action have led to a fast assimilation of politics in the fields of contemporary aesthetic and artistic debate.
This proposes a structural relation between art and activism. The relation is not just an “alliance” between activist claims and artistic practices, because such a term indicates a common pact in view of common goals. Rather, the connection is to be found at the origins, starting from a common ground, a shared base, a blurred space that prevents one from tracing clear borders between forces and signs, languages and labor, intellectual production and political action.
What does Disobedience mean?
When, as Hannah Arendt says, the word “disobedience” appears for the first time in the political vocabulary, it reduces its essence to a particular case of the more general field of moral philosophy. “Disobedience” turns into “civil disobedience”, and the general “refuse to obey” turns into “refuse to obey the law”, that is, the failed observance of rules on principle. It is Henry D. Thoreau who brings back the dilemma to obey/not to obey on a par with constitutional principles, when in 1846, here, in Concord he refuses to pay the electoral tax to a government – an American government – that acknowledged slavery. This movement from disobedience to a plan for legal order with Thoreau becomes not only possible, though his gesture could appear to be situated on the level of individual morality, but even capable of inscribing civil disobedience inside a tradition of a liberal mould that will find its climax in 1968, when protest against any authority becomes a mass phenomenon.
Hannah Arendt’s essay Civil Disobedience (1970) and the book A Theory of Justice by John Rawls as well as the debate in Eindhoven in 1971 between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault mark some of the culminating moments of a theorization of civil disobedience, for which the background is no more the Mexican war, as in the case of Thoreau, but the ten-year-long Vietnam war. The problem of the moral obligation to obey the law lies in the center of these contributions of political philosophy. The introduction of civil disobedience into political institutions and the “disagreement as right” represent the aim of the research for constitutionalization pursued by Hannah Arendt. “If, as most think, civil disobedience exists and is not intended to disappear” Arendt writes, “the problem of its agreement with the law is essential and the answer that will be given could be critical for the survival of liberal institutions, that will have to show a great elasticity if they want to stand the changes impact without making civil war’s and revolution’s way ”.
Civil disobedience would take a close-up role in a relationship of precarious and increasingly rapid equilibrium among factors of stabilization and factors of change in the legal order, with a constant legality reinstatement and a normative deficit compensation. It is no accident that for J. Rawls civil disobedience is an act no more than, and only, compatible with legal order. In Rawls it turns itself from an illegal practice by definition into one part of the institutional stabilization mechanisms, or one of the possible marking devices for social institutions when they move away from constitutional legitimation.
Of course, disobedience definition in Rawls counts exclusively in the case of a democratic society justifiably founded, in which some heavy violation of the law happens anyhow. Therefore disobedience would appear appropriate and theoretically possible only in a nearly-just regime.
Next, and beyond this concept of a liberal mould that “states a disobedience to the law” but inside “its loyalty”, with the crisis of Modernity and Fordism a new radical conception would be raised that would have changed civil disobedience’s nature in social disobedience. A form of disobedience, the last one, that cannot reduce itself to the normative techno-juridical aspects to be understood. Since power, to agree with Foucault, is not exclusively based on juridical-institutional models such as the State or sovereignty theory, social disobedience now focuses on power mechanisms that are not subjects of decision – on specific ways with which power anonymously penetrates the body of the society, beyond the veil of formal rules.
If a condition of civil disobedience is the recognition of a higher organization that makes rules and as such is not called into question, then this role of submission to sovereignty or to a transcendent entity is no more guaranteed by social disobedience’s manners. The first order to be violated by social disobedience is actually a norm that precedes all the others, and it is assumed by the other norms. Nobody doubts this unwritten norm, it asserts the obligation of obedience as such.
It claims that: “It is necessary to obey the laws” as supposed by authority as the right to command and to be obeyed. Social disobedience does not violate the law but modifies the conditions in which state restriction keeps setting itself .
With the advent of post-Fordism the socio-economical background and the proposal of an antagonistic practice change. The rules or principles that preside over disobedience norms are no longer negative; they do not any longer show the limits that our acts must not cross, but begin to enunciate action principles. They show what to do. They do not only declare rights, refusal and resistance; they immediately become fruitful and creative. They become “constitutive practices” in the meaning given by Toni Negri. In this sense social disobedience today is a moment of contemporary production of a multitude or, better, of new political subjectivities.
Paolo Virno is right when he asserts: “Civil disobedience represents perhaps the fundamental form of political action of the multitude. […] It is not a matter of ignoring a specific law because it appears incoherent or contradictory to other fundamental norms, for example to the constitutional character. In such a case, in fact, reluctance would signal only a deeper loyalty to state control. Conversely, the radical disobedience which concerns us here casts doubt on the State’s actual ability to control.”
In particular disobedience can today conjugate work, intellect, reason and communication. Its autonomous and affirmative expression therefore explicates itself in the model-making of a new image, in the ability of intervention on the symbolic level, in the power of production of new marks and other representations.
So disobedience does not mean merely breaking the law; defection also seeks to involve the productive potential of images and communication. In other words, when we disobey we have to realize an alternative practice. We have to imagine new words, new times, new spaces and to create a displacement of the boundaries that hegemonic power produces. So we need imagination, language and many others faculties that usually belong to artistic practices .
But there is one more important reason behind such interpretation of the term Disobedience and it is closely linked to the Post-Fordist conditions of production and a specific anthropological dimension.
‘The work process based on knowledge and linguistic communication, just as the forms of life subjected to perpetual innovation, presuppose the capacity to move from well-defined rules to bio-anthropological regularities and then from these to those.’In such an environment, both obedience and the application of the civil rules typical of traditional social education no longer provide any effective protection from the implicit risks of disorientation and indetermination in post-Fordist societies.
On the contrary, it is precisely ‘disobedience’ that becomes the paradigm of the contemporary subject’s political and social activity. In fact, now more than ever, if it could be said, according to the refrain of the educationalist Paulo Freire, that humans are not beings of pure ‘doing’ but are always beings of ‘what to do’. Then the current historic-social conditions require this regime with flexibility and uncertainty as fundamental parameters.
For us today, indeterminate potential is not a gap, but in a post-Fordist society it becomes a virtue of production.
On the one hand, culture renounces building ‘protective pseudo-environments or stable social spaces in which behavioral repetition predominates’ the stereotype and the defined norm. On the other hand, current historic conditions place the greatest economic and social emphasis ‘on disorientation and non-specialization’ which are no longer, as in the past, held at bay or attenuated by social or cultural devices but are exhibited and valorized.
‘Neoteny’, as chronic infancy and uninterrupted education on the one hand, and production sector on the other, are examples of distinctive and complementary growth regimes, both required and encouraged by the same post-Fordist society.
This does not mean that work loses its centrality but that, on the contrary, with the crumbling of the boundaries between work and non-work, the latter increasingly coincides with ‘the time of life’ itself. The need for continuous learning is the counter-logic to the progressive and constitutional deterioration of stable, safe and unambiguous ‘environments’ capable of guaranteeing habits, rules, institutions and consistent elements.
In this sense, disobedience is not only (and not so much) opposition to repetitive norms or unambiguous rules that, by now, have no validation in the absence of any determinate ‘environment’. Disobedience is then not the deliberate violation of the law, not even merely as a social context of opposition. Rather, it is an autonomous process of creating alternative subjectivities and of independent, innovative organization, which are no more than the same requisites on which current production activities are based.
So in conclusion we can quote the title of recent book by James Scott and we can assume Disobedience as “the Art of not being governed”.
WHAT DOES DISOBEDIENCE CONTAIN?
These reflections have given rise to this project of an ongoing archive dealing with forms of civil disobedience structured around a video library that acts as an area of visibility and a field of legibility. That which normally would be conserved in a judicial archive is here the fundamental material for an archive of ideas. The goal of the Disobedience archive is to create a common space for artistic output and political action, understanding that society itself is changing and with it the language it produces as a political subject and as a media object.
The video material gathered into archive try to answer to the following questions:
What is the image of a protest movement? What is it’s relation with those produced by corporate media? What is the difference with the corporate media’s manner of production? How a protest is represented? How constituent images are produced? How does a movement visualize itself? Which forms of self-representation can we produce? Shall Disobedience be only the content of these images or has it to involve also the way in which an image is produced? In which way can we disobey to a production process of images?
So the main focus of the archive is not only on how the protest is represented or how we can create a counterpoint to the mainstream news media, but the idea of self-representation, because what is at stake here is – in which way molecular and alternative practices can represent themselves, taking the idea of Guy Debord – to unite what is separated through the construction of situations as a starting point.
But the best answers to these inquiries can be taken directly from some samples of the Disobedience video collection.
So I would like to show you some examples …..
1) Copenhagen Free University in which they want to represent 10 years of their activity, relating to an idea of alternative educational practice. Since during their activity they have always refused to take on any stable identity over time, their film is also a sort of an iconoclastic gesture, where no image appears, except that of the dust from their spaces. A sort of homage to the film by G. Debord, Hurlements en faveur de Sade (1952).
2) Another example is the film Get rid Of Yourself by Bernadette Corporation the movie that is perhaps the best representation of the “Genoa 2001” events, that takes its inspiration from the film of Guy Debord, Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps (1954)
Practically speaking, the Archive for the moment consists of ten provisional sections. They document temporary organizations and events, reclamation projects, independent media networks, collective platforms for cultural production, urban tactics, communication tools for creative resistance, plural elaboration, parallel planning, direct action, counter information and biological resistance. These are open, self-managed and performative spaces.
Many of these phenomena are associated with ‘tactical media’, which was born out of the DIY philosophy that spread with the ‘electronic revolution’ that made a lot of technology devices accessible – from low cost video recording tools to free access to the web – to groups or individuals (hackers, interventionists, culture jammers, etc.); groups that felt they’d been damaged by the mainstream culture. Using a diverse range of methodologies these groups and projects address some of the most fundamental and urgent challenges of contemporary urban life.
“Just as labour was the form of exploitation and ‘surveillance’ of the ‘general subjectivity’ in capitalism prior to 1968,” says Maurizio Lazzarato, “communication, language, and information as well have become the standard forms of exploitation and control of subjectivity in post-1968 capitalism.” And, as the theoreticians of immaterial work explain, while the continuity of factory discipline was felt in a contractually defined part of life, the indirect control of today covers the entire life of the independent worker. This means that is no longer “work time” that the information economy captures and makes productive, for it is all the time of life that is affected. This means it is no longer possible to speculate about an area outside capitalist relations or to postulate one that is external to the market economy as there used to be in the previous Fordist production cycle.
So while it is true that, in the present capitalist regime, any discussion about power cannot exclude an analysis of language and images (quite apart from particular classes of affiliation), it is also true that an understanding of visual culture becomes heuristically effective only if we are able to transform it into a sort of criticism of the political economy of images. Benjamin was well aware that the act of responding to the commoditization of images or to the rules governing perception by reasserting art – as a moment of time liberated and thus subtracted from the market – would simply be reactionary.
But most of these problems derive from the movement of Autonomia active in Italy from 1968 till 1978.
So by no surprise, the first section and the starting point of the whole Disobedience project is entitled – 1977 ITALIAN EXIT
This section focuses on revolutionary politics in Italy in the 1970s, especially 1977, the year the movement climaxed in large-scale violent confrontations with a reactionary and authoritarian state. The videos here were political tools in the students’ and workers’ struggles that define that crucial year. The section includes works by Italian underground cinema pioneer Alberto Grifi (1938-2007, Rome), the independent video collective Dodo Brothers (active in 1977, Bologna), a recent videointerview with Oreste Scalzone by Paola Salerno, video documentation of the work of Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante who were exploring the image and its strumentalization by the mainstream media and a film collaboration between Italian artists Gianfranco Baruchello and Alberto Grifi.
Key episodes in and around 1977 were featured in the videos and the accompanying timeline of the key events: the Parco Lambro Festival in June 1976, the police raid on Alice Radio and the Congress against the repression in Bologna etc. Yet some other video works, such as slideshow by Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Normalina movie by Grifi and a film About the Flies by Baruchello and Grifi deals with the consequences that lead to the multiple arrests and interruption of the course by which the Autonomia movement was advancing.
The roots of the contemporary multitude can be traced back to the post-Workerist radical left in Italy in 1977, whose heterogeneous protagonists were no longer limited to factory workers. As Italian theoretician Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi writes: ‘The 1977 movement in its expressive forms and in its political intuitions seems to be current in the behavioral strategies of the movement after Seattle, and more generally, in the behaviors of political and existential independence in the living cultures (I can no longer use the word alternative) of our times. How come? From my perspective, the answer lies in the two-sided, ambivalent nature of the 1977 movement, which is partly influenced – especially in its awareness – by the history of the workers’ and communist revolution of the 20th century. On the other hand (and perhaps in the more vibrant, deeper and less superficially sensitive part), it is an anticipation of the social and anthropological crisis of the forms of modernity and perhaps of the forms of humanity.’ (Berardi, excerpted from Disobedience and Cognitariat, a conversation with Marco Scotini, 2005).
So, exactly Italy in 1977 is the territory where we can find the roots of what is called the contemporary ‘Multitude’, the idea of a post-Fordist society and today’s idea of disobedience as political action in a post-political society. It is also the source of the complete re-articulation of the relationship between art and politics that we find today.
Other sections of the Archive include: BIORESISTANCE AND SOCIETY OF CONTROL, ARGENTINA FABRICA SOCIAL, PROTESTING CAPITALIST GLOBALIZATION, RECLAIM THE STREET, DISOBEDIENCE EAST and others that vary from context where the Archive is exhibited. After the first exhibition in Berlin where artists took care of the display themselves, I have tried to invite one artist or an artist group to think of a concept of display and mediation of this material within different exhibition spaces.
SO yet another fundamental question is
WHY IS DISOBEDIENCE AN ARCHIVE?
In a publication “Digital Resistance. Exploration in Tactical Media” from 2001, the American collective Critical Art Ensemble writes: “Tactical media is ephemeral. It leaves few material traces. As the action comes to an end, what is left is primarily living memory. Unfortunately as feminist performance theorist Rebecca Schneider has convincingly pointed out, no one has solved the haunting problem of the archive”.
So if we talk about Disobedience, the archive seems the model most able to accommodate an interwoven and widespread multiplicity that has open links of variable duration. The archive model as such is always an a posteriori construction determined by pre-existing formations and groupings that become connected by means of a configuration, a style or a selection, and by doing so establish themselves in the memory. Each of the artistic interventions I have included in the archive is like a document, the proof or a certificate of an event.
I believe the archive has the most to offer. It is said that what becomes history is determined by what is archived; since what we are dealing with here are ephemeral events, which lie outside mainstream art and history, it is very likely that conventional historiographic methodologies will confine them to oblivion.
It is, in fact, the meaning of ‘archive’ as developed by Michel Foucault in his ‘Archaeology of Knowledge’, and commented a number of times by Gilles Deleuze, that seems to me the most pertinent. Here the archive presents itself as an area interposed between tradition (style, library, ‘langue’) and the single work (‘parole’, and author). It is located at the level of a discursive system external to our language, in a place where the production of discourse is simultaneously controlled, selected and, in the end, dominated. The archive, says Foucault, ‘is first the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance’ of the enunciation. But what are the enunciations? The enunciation is language in the moment of its apparition. It is a function not an element. In the archive nothing is asked of the things said or from the people who have said those things but from the discursive space, that is the possibility or impossibility of enunciation. The question is how do discourses function? In our case, if civil or social disobedience becomes a condition of political action in the post-political era, how does it function?
The Foucauldian archive is made up of heterogeneous elements in which one seeks discontinuity and superimposition. It clarifies, however, the specific constants that permits the regime of language to be grasped, the knowledge that the archive exists in its stratification. It does not interpret the document, nor does it ask it to show signs of anything, instead it elaborates, distributes and organizes it, establishing series, or series of series.
In the case of Disobedience this model of an archive becomes important precisely because it does not present itself so much as a collection of signs to be conserved and interpreted but as a collection of practices that form the actual goals they speak about or represent. How can the immediacy and unique nature of an event be recorded? How can such events manifest themselves and link up to others? How can they be confronted and defined? What knowledge do they contain? How can an archive be displayed? How can it be used by the public?
The Disobedience archive is only a container – one that is simultaneously practical, physical and theoretical. Deleuze would have described such an archive as a tool-box that is there to be used.
‘We take part – say some – in the movements and we want the movements to have their own media. Being ‘involved’ is more important for us than the illusion of being ‘objective’. [quotation taken from Kanal B, an international videonetwork based in Berlin ]
What interests me is the immanent order of the archive, the fact that its order can be changed. And it is for this reason that I tend to collaborate with different artists in order to devise the display system for each presentation of Disobedience. They all are dealing with the practices of cultural mediation, encyclopedia, exhibition design (Eric Beltran, Luca Frei, Zbynek Baladran, Xabier Sallaberia).
The last but not least thing that we can say about the Archive, is connected with the way through which heterogeneous material can be edited in a different way every time, trying to find a possible articulation that can give political significance to the different events. So behind the idea of the archive there is the idea of the network and a patchwork. So the questions are: In relation to what is a temporary political concatenation organized? In which way we can create a sort of connection, association or assemblage of one element to the next between different fluxes, speeds and different coalitions or associations? Because we can create an additional concatenation or an oppositional one.
Regarding this point I would like to reconnect this idea of a temporary network into a physical display to the idea that Hito Steyerl formulated in the text The Articulation of Protest and that recently has been revisited by Simon Sheikh in 2011. She tried to investigate and to confront two terms- articulation and montage, the first taken from the political theory and the second from filmmaking and art field. What they analyze is at the level of the sequence of images in video documentation or video representation, instead here it is put on a level of display.
What disobedience tries to find is the articulation of the materials of an exhibition as a form of a protest (manifestation) and in the end as a tool for political and social re-composition. It aims to become a theoretical anticipation of a possible ground of this political re-composition: the only force able to contrast the dynamics of the contemporary capitalism.