[-empyre-] Totalizing Speed and Fear 24/7

rrdominguez at ucsd.edu rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Wed Dec 3 00:49:02 EST 2008

Hola all speed and fear krews,

(A early morn EPIC - that should only be read backwards and with a great deal
of good coffee and with knowledge that I will not post such a thing again
- I know
that is bad form in the world of speed thoughts - R)

It seems to me that a number of the post fall too easily into the condition
of totalizing VP's SPEED and FEAR and the 24/7 "Osama Bin Bush" channels
that deeply dream of organizing the multiple speed(s) and long durational
work for dignified rage (as the Zapatistas call for) of
alter-globalization movements
for the last 500 plus years. The totalizing of SPEED and FEAR all very little
to occur outside of the loop - the same thing happens when one follows the
the prison bars of "networks are catastrophes" that disallow a politics of
ends or an art that shim at many levels beyond code qua code ontologies.
And while "indifference" may work to some degree from keeping one from
falling into the trajectories of no way out frame - what is far more
important is to understand  that their many types of speeds that allow for
shifts that break out from
the Fear that the "world target" narratives call for and have been dreaming
about for far too long. The southern cone has not only been a laboratory for
Empire - but a space that has been building new forms of counter-visions,
counter-speeds and counter-spaces - which are deeply connected to passions
found in the poesis.

World Festival of Dignified Rage
Subcomandante Marcos and Lieutenant Colonel Moises reported Friday on the
progress of the First World Festival of Dignified Rage.  The Festival is
scheduled for Mexico City December 26-29, Oventic December 30-January 1,
and San Cristobal de las Casas January 2-5.  The Mexico City festival will
include hundreds of booths set up by political organizations, collectives
and solidarity groups.  Presentations in Mexico City are organized around
the four “wheels” of capitalism (exploitation, dislocation, repression and
contempt) with the mornings dedicated to the impacts of capitalism and the
afternoons dedicated to alternatives.  Comandantas Susana, Miriam,
Florencia, Hortensia and Everilda, Capitana Elena, Comandantes David,
Tacho, Zebedeo and Guillermo, Lieutenant Colonel Moises, and two children
– Lupita and Tonita – are scheduled to be present in Oventic.  A Zapatista
communiqué said, “Entrance to all of the activities of the festival are
free and open for anyone who wants to come and find out about the
dignified rage that is organized in Mexico and the world.”

So I repeat myselve(s) once more - a different loop that is not on your cable

9/11 has been constructed as an ontological event that redefined the
nature of all forms of political realism(s) for both war and security, an
event zone where history bifurcated between a bad end and a terrible
restart, on that day the neo-conservative “End of  History” narrative
became the future- present “Operation Infinite War,” all under the signs
of speed and the instantaneous that radiated from the attack on the World
Trade Towers. What is not always considered is the history of  protest, of
how activist, artists and those ever pesky “artivist,”  responded to this
cultural shifter long  before the 9/11 event. These artivist formations,
or “post-media”  swarms, never left the waves of  histories as sites for
critical interventions that sought to disturb the borders of the State and
the  border(less/ness) of trans-national flows – these artivist assembled,
“a new language of civil  disobedience”  that combined “social netwar” 
and “tactical frivolity”  placing first one under erasure and amplifying
the other as a “meta-political disturbance” .  Artivist networks
understand that the ontological core of  9/11 that is being sold under the
“politics of fear” is one that cannot/could not completely seal away
critical resistance, counter-publics and the speed of dreams that had come
before 9/11 or after.
	This is not to say that artivist do not or did not understand that
virtual artivism/digital disturbances, such as, electronic civil
disobedience (ECD) were full of gaps, failures and “...persistent
pitfalls in conceptions of 'electronic activism:' on the one hand, the
tendency on the part of some activists and scholars to romanticize
electronic action, and on the other, the dismissal of contentious
electronic tactics as ineffective, as distractions from 'real'
mobilization, or as a troubling 'return of the mob'.  Either extreme
represents a failure to carefully engage with and differentiate the wide
range of tools and techniques that make up the electronic action
repertoire, or to consider what 'effective' might mean in this context.” 
Indeed artivist diagrammed responses to these concerns by inventing
gestures that went beyond 'saying' or 'showing' ECD – to 'doing' ECD
action after action, as a serious and necessary repetition before and
after 9/11, and letting theory hit the ground-as-practice in order to
shape the 'ineffective/effective' dyad at the fault lines between
computers and peace, bombs and bandwidth, networks and exploits.
	While the age of insecurity began to stumble around with all the fury of
a new manifest destiny, that had been lost and re-found, as early as
1999, the neo-conservative dreamed of a new “Pearl Harbor” was set to
play and record, (the missions traced in Rebuilding America's Defenses
(2000) was  to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major
theater wars.” It also asks for a nightmare-before-Christmas wish :
"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary
change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and
catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor." The neo-conservatives also
hoped to deploy an expansion of internal controls of the multitude in the
U.S. with “free speech zones” that were holding pens far away from the
power brokers, uncontrolled surveillance of U.S. citizen, the
indiscriminate gathering of anyone who seemed 'other' (the soon to be
profiled as “enemy combatants”), and making anyone who was not with the
“Osama bin Bush” regime invisible to the dominant media.
	Activist, artists, artivist and International Civil Society would soon
discover what the “new normal” would mean to the “movement of movements”
(another name for the alter-globalization movement) during the World
Economic Forum meeting on January 31, 2002 (only 4 months after 9/11),
who usually met in Davos, Switzerland, and instead decided to teleport to
New York City, to show that “Virtual Capitalism” was not shutting down
but only revving up for the next good war. Our choice was to march across
the arcs of the realities without fear, to let loose the puppies of play,
and that everyone would continue to share lateral tactics on the streets
and on-line - we were all in a fractal agreement, the alter-globalization
movements would not be shut-down:“When the World Economic Forum website
collapsed just as its meeting began, it seemed a major win for online
anti-globalization activists. But the organizers of the "virtual sit-in"
are refusing to take credit for the takedown.”          Indeed give
credit where credit is due – it was the electronic multitude that
downsized the World Economic Forum. “Although the streets of New York
City remained relatively subdued while the World Economic Forum (WEF) met
here, over 160,000 demonstrators went online to stage a "virtual sit-in"
at the WEF home page.”  While the Electronic Disturbance Theater did not
proactively seek to take the honor of what had happened, we instead
offered this response: "We think that something else happened to the WEF
URL or, perhaps, the WEF infrastructure is as badly built as the WEF's
economic vision during the last 31 years."  For the artivist being able
dis-connect the internet access of the most powerful individuals
representing the richest nations on our planet was not important – what
was important was to able to state that the trans-national flow of the
WEF was faulty at all levels.

(Switch to this Channel after you fall asleep - all horizontal all the
after time(s)

Electronic Civil Disobedience Post-9/11
Forget Cyber-Terrorism and Swarm the Future Now!

Ricardo Dominguez

Protest action of all kinds has been muted, first by an environment of
shock and mourning, next by the rising tide of nationalism multiplied by
the mass media organs, and then by the passage of legislation curtailing
civil liberties in the name of the ‘War on Terrorism’.1

While it is true that contestation and protest after 9/11 felt much more
dangerous than before – it did not stop Electronic Disturbance Theater
(EDT) and many others from staging or participating in mass non-violent
virtual sit-ins. In fact the theory and practice of ECD (Electronic Civil
Disobedience) post-9/11 has now become a part of the basic repertoire of
possible activist gestures around the world and part of university
research, training and implementation at Calit2,2 at University of
California, San Diego, where Electronic Disturbance Theater is now based.
EDT’s institutional interpellation has allowed the practice of ECD to
continue routing around the post-9/11 Patriot Act’s attempt to place ECD
under the umbrella of ‘cyberterrorism’ and once more to re-anchor the
gesture as an act of radical poetics, of ‘utopian performativity’.3 This
utopian performativity carries the shapes of past historical embodiments
and discursive conventions of civil disobedience (CD) as a practice, while
at the same time, creating a ‘gestic insistence’, in a Brechtian sense,
that provokes a constant re-consideration of the perfomativity of ECD in
the ‘no-place’ and the ‘every-place’ of post-contemporary digital
environments. This gap between the shores of CD and seas of ECD has opened
a series of re-mappings of the material relations between both event
zones, which in the end are embedded within each other. Both CD and ECD
meet at the contact point of the mass body of the multitude moving back
and forth between ‘being-there’ and ‘being-digitally-there’.

(We now interrupt this article with an e-terview)

Ricardo Dominguez speaks about virtual sit-ins and the upcoming trial
against on-line Lufthansa Deportation Class activists in Germany. Hans
Peter Kartenberg e-mailed the co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance
Theater (EDT) on 12 June 2005.4

Hans Peter Kartenberg  On your website at thing.net there was a call for a
virtual sit-in on the website minutemanproject.com from 27 to 29 May 2005.
Who are the Minutemen and what was the idea of that action?
Ricardo Dominguez  Swarm The Minutemen was an e-action developed by a
group of activists in the San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico border
along with Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), in order to call
attention to The Minutemen. The Minutemen are a non-governmental group of
people vowing to patrol the US/Mexico border with guns in order to stop
migrant people from crossing the border. They represent an intensification
of the trend of violence towards migrant people and people of colour that
has increased since 9/11. They have received right-wing
state-government support from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and from
anti-immigrant media. EDT called for a three day virtual sit-in in
solidarity with SWARM who had called for a number of e-actions to take
place: a 24/7 telephone call campaign, a fax action, an e-mail action and
sound pollution actions on the border. Since the Minutemen say they love
the silence of the desert – because they can hear the dirty rats (the
people trying to cross the border) making noise – by creating lots of loud
sounds it would keep the Minutemen from finding, stopping and harassing
these people. These on/off line actions took place on the same days the
Minutemen were holding a convention in Las Vegas.
HPK  What were the effects of the campaign?
RD  More than 78,500 people from around the world joined the non-violent
mass virtual sit-in on sites hosted around the world against the
Minutemen. It seems that in a time when almost all the space in the United
States has been privatized and free speech zones have been reduced to
cages topped with barbed wire, the internet can still serve as a commons
where people can gather together to create positive social change. There
were reports that at times the MinuteMenProject.com server was not
responding, and at times the WakeUpAmericaFoundation.com server was
unresponsive as well. Apparently the swarm had an effect. Within the
Minutemen circles the action was discussed as well.
HPK  In 2001, you were visiting the activists who organized the first
virtual sit-in in Germany – they had been inspired by the Electronic
Disturbance Theater. 13,000 people took part in the sit-in at the
Lufthansa website to protest against the business the company was doing
with the German state, transporting people who are deported from Germany.
RD  I was invited by No one is Illegal and Libertad! to speak in different
cities in Germany in June 2001 about the history of Electronic Civil
Disobedience (ECD) and Electronic Disturbance Theater’s (EDT) use of mass
non-violent direct action online since 1998. I helped to spread the word
about the Virtual Sit-In on Lufthansa during the yearly shareholder
meeting on 20 June 2001. I spoke to small and large groups of activists,
media, artists and hacktivists.
HPK  Was the Lufthansa-action any different from the sit-ins organised in
the US?
RD  This action functioned exactly like our recent SWARM action. The
‘Deportation class’ action followed all the protocols of transparency that
had been established for ECD since the first ‘netstrikes’ by the Italian
activist communities in the mid-1990s. All the activists and artists
announced the dates and reasons for the actions online, in the streets and
inside the shareholders’ meeting – nothing was hidden. This is important
because ECD is about bringing together real bodies and digital bodies in a
transparent manner that follows the tradition of Civil Disobedience – that
people are willing to break a law (like blocking the street) to uphold a
higher law.
HPK  On 14 June Andreas-Thomas Vogel, who registered the domain
libertad.de, where in 2001 a call for the Lufthansa action had been
published, will be prosecuted in a high-security courtroom in Frankfurt,
where on other occasions terrorist trials are held.
ECD should be judged by local, national and international courts as a
civil act of disobedience and not as a crime. As Dr Dorothy E Denning of
Georgetown University stated in her testimony before the Special Oversight
Panel on Terrorism Committee on Armed Services in the US House of
Representatives on 23 May 2000:

EDT and the Electrohippies view their operations as acts of civil
disobedience, analogous to street protests and physical sit-ins, not as
acts of violence or terrorism. This is an important distinction. Most
activists, whether participating in the Million Mom’s March or a Web
sit-in, are not terrorists.

Lufthansa and the German government knew who, what, when, why and how
these actions were going to happen; it was not secret attack. ECD is not a
secret and anonymous ‘cracking’ into servers and enslaving in order to set
off Distributed Denial of Service-attacks (DDoS). These actions only
represent one or two hidden people. ECD is the unbearable weight of human
beings on-line in a civil and transparent protest – whose main goal is to
question and spread information about what they feel is a social condition
that must be corrected to create a better society for all. This act of
transparency is important for civil society and the courts to understand.
ECD is and should be treated as another digital condition intimately tied
to the long and deep Western tradition of Civil Disobedience – nothing
more and nothing less.5

(We now return to the interrupted article.)

The inculcation of the politics of fear post-9/11s via the ‘War on Terror’
policies has not shifted the practice of ECD, or non-violent mass action
on-line, as a number of critics thought would be the case:

Increased vigilance against the prospect of cyberterrorism has had its
most tangible impact in the increased penalties for all forms of computer
hacking – potentially including much hacktivist activity. The U.S.A.
PATRIOT Act amended the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to ‘lower
jurisdictional hurdles relating to protected computers and damages, and
increase penalties for violations’. (Milone 2002) The scope of the CFAA
was expanded to specifically include computers outside the U.S., where
they affect U.S. commerce or communications. The threshold of financial
damage required for prosecution of computer hacking was revised to allow
for aggregating damage caused to multiple computers, and to remove any
minimum threshold in the case of damage to systems related to justice,
defense, or security. Most significant, the maximum penalty for first-time
offenders was raised from five years to ten, and for repeat offenders,
from ten years to twenty.6 (Milone 2002)

	Instead what has occurred has been a growing acceptance of ECD post-9/11
as an action-space that continues to function as a mirroring of the
juridical kernel at the centre of CD and that EDT has consistently
participated in identifying those links: one, it is a public action, two,
it is non-violent, three, it willingly accepts the condition of
‘deliberate unlawfulness and accepting of responsibility’, four, it is
always conscientious of its civil nature. According to John Rawls

civil disobedience expresses disobedience to the law within the limits of
fidelity to law, and this feature helps to establish in the eyes of the
majority that it is indeed conscientious and sincere, that it really is
meant to address their sense of justice.7

For a number of legal scholars ECD is completely outside of the frame of
cyberwar, cyberterrorism and cybercrime and even the softer trajectory of
social net war. Instead legal scholars, like William Karam, view ECD as
not only connected to the ‘modern theoretical roots of the late 1800s, the
jurisprudence of civil disobedience involves a global narrative stretching
from Aeschylus
 to nomadic protestors opposing globalisation...’8 For him
ECD is a continuation of this global narrative; ECD is CD by other means.
This mantra has been at the heart of creating a space of implementation
and reflection that other forms of non-violent direct action online (such
as cracktivism and some types of hackitivism, like web defacement) have
not. ECD gestures continue to offer a form of social embodiment that
allows everyday communities online and off the possibility of creating a
space for civil society that is not directly tied to the dominant digital
modes available, that is ‘communication and documentation’ or high end
code politics, as the only political options available to the
non-specialist to connect with civil society in a state of contestation.
ECD networks have become decisive zones for mass social expression that
still carry the strong auras of human bodies gathering before and on the
sites of govermentality under the historical signs of CD.

(News Flash)

Almost a year after the first-instance court of Frankfurt sentenced the
initiator of an online demonstration against Lufthansa to pay a fine, the
Higher Regional Court has overruled the lower court’s verdict in its
ruling of May 22 published yesterday and found the accused not guilty. The
judges mainly questioned the definition of the use of force on which the
lower court had based its ruling.
The proceedings concerning the online demonstration lasted almost five
years. On 20 June 2001, the Groups Libertad and Kein Mensch ist illegal
(No one is illegal) called for an online demonstration against Lufthansa.
With special software they developed, demonstrators were able to
automatically call various Lufthansa web sites in an attempt to overload
the servers. The activists did so to protest the airline’s participation
in deportations.
It is not clear whether the campaign was a success. The publicity effect
was tremendous, with even Germany’s Ministry of Justice publicly
expressing its doubt as to whether the planned event was legal. There were
charges that the campaign constituted coercion and computer sabotage.
Nonetheless, the human rights activists say that some 13,000 Internet
users took part in the protest. On the other hand, the technical effect on
Lufthansa was not great: the airline had prepared for the attack and
rented additional line capacity to accommodate the traffic. Even today, it
remains unclear how long the web site was actually slowed down and whether
it ever went offline completely.
But the legal aftermath had greater effects. The human rights activists
saw their online protest as a modern kind of non-violent sit-in and
claimed they were acting within their basic constitutional right of
freedom of assembly. Lufthansa and the state prosecutor saw things
differently: they claimed that the campaign constituted coercion and that
the activists were inciting others to break the law. The offices of the
Frankfurt group Libertad were searched and computers confiscated – the
beginning of several years of investigations.
In the summer of 2005, the first-instance court of Frankfurt found
initiator Andreas-Thomas Vogel guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 90
days’ pay. The court found the demonstration to be a use of force against
Lufthansa as a web site operator as well as against other Internet users;
specifically, the airline had suffered economic losses from the campaign,
while other Internet users had been prevented from using Lufthansa’s web
site. The online demonstration was found to be a threat of an appreciable
harm as defined by German Penal Code Section 240; Vogel was therefore
found to be inciting people to commit coercion.
In its ruling (1 Ss 319/05), the First Penal Senate of the Higher Regional
Court of Frankfurt has now overruled the initial verdict. The Higher Court
found that the online demonstration did not constitute a show of force but
was intended to influence public opinion. This new interpretation left no
space for charges of coercion, and the accused was found not guilty. The
initiators of the campaign see this new ruling as a ‘slap in the lower
court’s face’. Although the online demonstration has not been repeated,
the initiators expressly repeated their conviction that the protest was
legitimate. As Libertad spokesperson Hans-Peter Kartenberg put it,
‘Although it is virtual in nature, the Internet is still a real public
space. Wherever dirty deals go down, protests also have to be possible.’
He also called on everyone not to forget the actual goal of the online
protest in light of all the legal turmoil. According to Libertad, some
20,000 people are forcefully deported each year. Kartenberg reminds
everyone that this ‘inhumane policy’ causes hundreds of deaths each year.
Torsten Kleins, Craig Morris, jk/c’t9

(We are Back to the Future)

The German court’s decision very clearly frames the utopian performative
of ECD as an event that re-zones ‘the real’ of the virtual public. The
contact point is the human core that emerges in the untimely manner in a
circuit that is both all too normal and still all too deviant. For some
critics, like Dr Samuel, ECD has become all ‘too common’ to meet the
demand of the dominant media’s incessant need for new attractors and for
others it fails to break the machine of digital capitalism beyond a
limited form of pedagogical resistance. Yet it is this very lack that has
created a new staging arena for the practice of ECD and its continuation
as an area for long-term research. In 2004 EDT was invited to become part
of Calit2 (a new edge technology institute at UCSD), and the conditions
that were established were based on ECD as an important critical
diagramming of political practice in the present and the future, as well
as a recognition that the type of ECD that the Electronic Disturbance
Theater has established emerged from a long history of radical social
interventionist aesthetics. While the institution as a whole accepted the
conditions of ECD, the specifics of the internal dialogues about how and
what would happen once the gestures started was another question.
EDT, in conjunction with our researchers at Borderhacklab, have staged two
actions against the Minutemen, two actions against the Mexican government
in response to its abuse of power in both Antenco and in Oaxaca, one
against the French government (read above) and most recently an action in
support of children and families fighting health care cutbacks in the
state of Michigan (a situation that is occurring all across the US). In
each case the process of internal dialogue within Calit2 has become
clearer and has produced a higher state of support with each action. This
unexpected support for ECD from Calit2 functions as a form of
‘interhacktivity’, to use new media theorist Jon McKenzie’s term for
digital activism/artivism that targets institutional infrastructures,
dominant social groups and seeks to shift the new onto-historical
formations of power/knowledge that have emerged under the sign of ‘high
The structural entanglement of this mass gesture of ECD and an edge
technology institution will definitely play itself out as a constant
process of deterritorialisation to counter the rapid process of
re-territorialisation and back again – the question becomes one of
diagramming the shifts that have occurred and are occurring. The diagram
will have to give weight to each act of destratification and resistance in
order to understand the effects or mutations of ECD as an
institutionalised practice. But, it is too soon to have any clear or
definite view of the power dynamics at play or a sense of the futural
patterns that will be established.

(Interruption from Out of the Past)

Artists, theorists, activists, hacktivists and artists’ collectives prior
to all this have long been exploring through their works and actions
various critical and crucial questions which pose the above proclaims. The
artists in the exhibition Open_Source_Art_Hack which I organised with
Steve Diets at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York , from 3 May
to 30 June, 2002 are creatively pointing into the above debates about
‘public domain’, ‘hacking’ and ‘open source’.
I feel compelled to mention that at the beginning of the exhibition
‘Knowbotic Research’, the artists’ collective from Zurich, had become the
target of the disturbing and constantly expanding forces of private
parties which can exert control of the public domain. Their project ‘Minds
of Concern’ was forced to ‘pull the plug’ on their website under pressure
from the museum’s ISP who in turn depend upon higher-up ISPs to preserve
their connections to the Internet and  who threatened to shut down the
whole exhibition if KR did not stop the scanning of security systems (port
scanning) to evaluate the vulnerability of a particular server to hacking
Ironically ‘Minds of Concern’ was not the only project in the exhibition
which ran into legal problems. The acclaimed artists’ collective Critical
Art Ensemble and their performance
Gen Terra was postponed after the decision made by the director and staff
of the New Museum. They did not feel comfortable with the project, on the
grounds that it was illegal, or with the release of a ‘transgenic
organism’ during the performance. CAE could only perform GenTerra in the
museum once they jumped through a number of legal hoops. The tragedy is
that both incidents address the political, sociological and creative
sequences of a culture which is marked by the recent globalisation,
privatisation and legal control which has resulted in the loss of a free
public domain. Both incidents suggest that cultural institutions have not
been able yet to balance artistic freedom of action with a dialogue
between artists and museums which can actively engage internal critique
from within the museum space.

Jenny Marketou  Do you think ‘creative hacking’ can intertwine with
mainstream visual culture successfully? And what could be the role of the
institution vis-à-vis the hacktivist artist? My argument here is what
happens when the forces of the institution are confronted with radical,
hacktivist net art aesthetics, when the emphasis is on direct action,
transparency and agency? Or do you think that the museums and the
commercial galleries are no longer interesting places for radical art
practice? What are our options?
Ricardo Dominguez  As you have pointed out, another larger social dynamic
occurring around the institutional encounter, even with a digitally
correct network_art_activist project like the ‘Minds of Concern’, are the
pre- and post-9/11 rhetoric of cyber-terrorism and cyber-crime that they
are unable to see beyond. They fall easily before the digital hysteria of
Empire and Terrorism just because they are using an ISP that did not
support them – rather than spending time seeking out an ISP like thing.net
that might have an understanding of the aesthetic and political questions
involved in a work of this nature.
While many years of active education of the cultural institutions by
artists working between art and politics during the twentieth century have
taken place around the critique and disruption of the architecture of the
museum/gallery and its policies of presentation, they fail to grasp its
function within network architecture. These same institutions have not
been able to leap into the networks and transfer over that history of
encounters. For instance, a performance artist might receive more
aesthetic and institutional support for chaining themselves to the outside
doors of a museum or gallery to block access to them as a political
performance than a project like the Electronic Disturbance Theater’s
‘Zapatistas Tribal Port Scan’ (2000). Not that one is a better performance
than the other, but that the somatic architecture of networks is not as
well understood by these cultural institutions.
One can also say much the same thing about CAE’s bio-political
performances and institutional response to GenTerra as a legal question
rather than a political aesthetic question: something that the
museum/gallery would not do in the case of bio-formalist art along the
line of Kac’s work. Formalism has been the main containment filter during
the last half of the twentieth century – it will probably continue to do
the same during next half of this century (if we all live that long) – it
is a very handy ideological tool. The nature of a radical transparency and
direct action aesthetics as hacktivist gestures will not receive support
from these older traditional spaces – until more projects like the one you
have just done are done. Pedagogy is the primary event space right now for
network_art_activism, rather than aesthetic or critical reflection within
the institution.
But, even then, are these the spaces that we should seek support from?
Most network_art_activism carried out during the 1990s existed outside the
cultural institution and can continue to do so. But, if we do not pursue
the artist’s right to present political art via code in the
museum/gallery, we would lose one of the few spaces left that allows the
possibility of presenting an important form of knowledge (art) that is not
bound to science and technology to develop important social questions and
JM  As Lawrence Lessig puts it: ‘Free content is crucial to building and
supporting new content. The raw material of Culture is Culture.’ Recently
contemporary policies and practices towards the digital commons have
changed. How do you see the future? Could the creative ‘hack’ with the
ethics of ‘open source’ intermixed with the superfluity economy of the
internet possibly attempt to maintain the richness and diversity of the
public domain?
RD  I am not sure only one way or one method can suture all of these
elements together as a full spectrum response. A swarm response will
probably offer us a better way to keep the public domain ‘rich and
diverse’ online and offline. At one end of the spectrum we should have
legal activism on a local, national and international level; and on the
other end continue to push ‘creative’ hack crews to open more spaces, like
‘Freenet’ or the ‘Peek-a-booty’ browser by Cult of the Dead Cow. Tactical
media projects should continue forward at pre-9/11 levels and at full
speed, since they are not all dependent on the ‘superfluity’ of digital
economies and can continue to distribute free/sharable content. At the
same time the digital Agora must be pushed deeper into materiality of the
social across the arcs of the world. The digital commons must become more
aware of what is happening beyond code as it relates to globalisation and
code’s relationship to its own expansion.
Those artists who crisscross between these spaces must bring to the
foreground issues that are supposed to have been erased by the digital
delirium: race, gender and class. No matter how much we hear the virtual
mantra about race, gender and class no longer existing or being important
it is simply not true. We now face a ‘War On Terrorism’ that is part of a
global race war that is also being used to dismantle whatever small gains
have been made towards democratic values around gender and class. The
‘Open Source’ movement and related digital issues, while interesting, are
not going to develop solutions to these more complex issues and create the
links between the global south and north that are needed to construct the
alter-globalisation that will be necessary.
JM  Taking into account your past involvement with Critical Art Ensemble
(CAE) how do you describe electronic civil disobedience as ‘disturbance’
in the rhizomatic networks of power, as CAE describe it in their book, The
Electronic Disturbance, as the only viable avenue for oppositional
artistic practice in our time of globalisation? How has this altered your
artistic production?
RD  My artistic production has always been focused on developing
‘disturbance’ spaces as material/immaterial gestures within the ‘social
imaginary’ that can be amplified by ubiquitous technologies – be it in
traditional theatre productions, performance art, net art, or
network_art_activism – even the pre-digital work functioned as
contestational trajectories. I do not sense a deep alteration in my work
between my collaborations with CAE and EDT, but a continuation of the same
work under different signs.
The function of ‘disturbance’ for me is a hybrid between Augusto Boal’s
Invisible Theatre and the Situationist gesture. It allows for visceral and
political poetics to carve out social spaces for mass and intimate protest
that can now be polyspatial. As for the ‘disturbance’ of rhizomatic power
flows – this can be done if one understands that the flows of Virtual
Capital are still uni-directional, that it has always been a one-way flow:
steal from the bottom and keep it all on top; take from the South and keep
it in the North, IMF growing and Argentina dying, Chiapas asking for
Democracy and NAFTA deleting Democracy. So rhizomatic power does not lurk
in Virtual Capital as a rhizome but as naked neo-imperialism. Rhizomatic
power does flow from groups like the Zapatistas who have developed
distributed abilities that are not uni-directional. The goal of EDT’s
‘disturbance’ is to block Virtual Capitalism’s race towards weightlessness
and the social consequences of a totalised immaterial ethics.
JM  Critical Art Ensemble advocates the practice of what they call
‘Recombinant Theater’. How does this practice intermix with the powerful
theatre of resistance that Zapatismo has created in Mexico and around the
world that has been expanded in the performative Electronic Disturbance
Theater’s direct actions on line?
RD  EDT’s performance involves a type of Electronic Civil Disobedience; we
do not say that it is the only form of Electronic Civil Disobedience. Our
gestures staged a simulation of Distributed Denial of Service as the
outcome of mass agency and digital liminality. We move among net hacking,
net activism, net performance, net art, and those who have no net link at
all. To me this intermixing of social Zones is what CAE meant by
‘recombinant theater’. Remember that according to part of CAE’s analysis,
Virtual Power was a counter-mapping of Fractal Politics that could be used
by resistance groups to leverage the inertia and speed within each of the
iterations or spaces of Virtual Power – the military/entertainment
complex, the CNN effect, NGOs, the streets and jungles – to invent new
dynamics for social interventions from the bottom up. The ‘Zapatista
FloodNet’ and the ‘Zapatista Tribal Port Scan’ are radical aesthetic data
gestures that disturb the ontology of the networks without being bound to
the networks – because these gestures play on multiple social spaces in
the same instant, or as after effects, or word of mouth (the most
important form recombinant theatre as aspect of Fractal Politics). We also
did not ask any cultural institution if we could perform these gestures.
Digital Zapatismo understood within a few minutes of ripping into the
electronic fabric in 1994 that the Fractal Politics of the web was
different to that of the networks. Networks were about flawless code for
command and control; the web was built in abandoned spaces and symbolic
efficacy between data trash and discarded groups. Networks are about
utilitarian rationality, the web is about an ontology of empathy; networks
function under the teleology of robust infrastructure, the web creates a
strong social imaginary that can re-route around lack of access. EDT’s
performative matrix has come to understand Digital Zapatismo as type of
theatrical empathy that the web can offer network_art_activism.

(Swarm the Future Now)

Now Calit2 is giving unlimited support for the performative utopianism of
EDT’s version of ECD that can at its best inject a critical humanism into
the edges of high technology. As Fredric Jameson suggests, one possible
outcome of a utopian gesture

is not to bring into focus the future to coming to be, but rather to make
us conscious precisely of the horizons or outer limits of what can be
thought and imagined in our present.10

We must mind the gaps that are circulating around ECD now by swarming on
the delays, discontinuities and retrenchments that are more than likely to
be haunting this institutional setting. As the Zapatistas like to say,
sometimes ‘the apple falls up!’

1	Sasha Costanza-Chock, ‘Mapping the Repertoire of Electronic Contention’,
2	Calit2, bang.calit2.net
3	Jill Dolan, Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope At the Theater, The
University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2005
4	http://post.thing.net/node/304, 12 June 2005
5	http://www.libertad.de/online-demo
Dr Dorthy Denning on Cyberterrorism: Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism
Committee on Armed Services in the US House of Representatives on 23 May
6	Alexandra Whitney Samuel, ‘Hacktivism and Future of Political
Participation’, doctoral thesis, 2004,
7	J Rawls, ‘Civil Disobedience and the Social Contract’, in J Arthur, ed,
Morality and Moral Controversies, 4th edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey,
1996, p 356
8	William Karam, ‘Hacktivism: Is Hacktivism Civil Disobedience?’, Faculty
of Law, University of Ottawa, 2003
9	http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/73827
10	Phillip E Wegner, ‘Horizons, Figures and Machines: The Dialectic of
Utopia in the
Work of Fredric Jameson’, Utopian Studies 9, no 2, 1988, p 61

Ricardo Dominguez
Assistant Professor
Hellman Fellow

Visual Arts Department, UCSD
Principal Investigator, CALIT2
Co-Chair gallery at calit2
CRCA Researcher
Ethnic Studies Affiliate

Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics,
Board Member

University of California, San Diego,
9500 Gilman Drive Drive,
La Jolla, CA 92093-0436
Phone: (619) 322-7571
e-mail: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu

Project sites:
site: http://gallery.calit2.net
site: http://pitmm.net
site: http://bang.calit2.net
site: http://www.thing.net/~rdom

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