[-empyre-] Thoughts on the appropriation of immaterial work

Eduardo Molinari archivocaminante at yahoo.com.ar
Sun May 18 00:56:26 EST 2008

Dear Andre, dear Elefante friends, dear all,

very good email!!!

very good text!!!!

Important concepts: appropiation, hierarchies.

I was talking about this complex situation also.
Two dimensions are working here for me:

- Capitalism today, "cultural" capitalism have a discursse,
but we need to go deeply: cultural capitalism have a language.
This language articulate a discursse. 
Do we need this language?
I'm sure that we don't.

Our challenge is to have a new language. In the sense that we need 
new signs, new symbols and new words. Is a big challenge,
but is important. 

I'm from Argentina, the middle class and the dominant class here
have the fantasy that "we are Europe", we are "different" of the other
latinoamerican societies.

But... this is only a colonialistic fantasy. I think that you can recognize something close to this in each of our countries. The situation in Santa Cruz in Bolivia is clear in this way: "we are white men".

My grand-grand father and mother came from Genova (Italy) and Pais Vasco, but I'm "argentine". I say this because, my feelings and thinkings have
-during all my life- more influence -of course- of the real experiences in my land. My foots are on american earth, and the influence of american cultures is for me really more important. 

Then... is necesary to think about how we make an "expanded" space,
also an "expanded" time, at last, an "expanded language", that includes all the persons from all over the world. Marxism is an "historical" example for me. Not perfetc, not the paradise, but many of the words and symbols and signs that were created inside of this big social experience
were really strong (are) in this complex relation with capitalism "language".

Also, american prehispanic (preportuguese?) cultures have a lot of strong words and symbols, that are potencies that we are not using with more energy. This is a chance for our dialogue today.

Appropiation is the logic of the colonies, nothing new.
Also hierarchies, they are like "people on horses".

The word "Dignidade" that you use, for example, what means today out of Brasil? Is a big question.

In Argentina, we said "Escraches" or "Fabricas recuperadas". 

Seattle said "antiglobalization", what is "antiglobalization" today?

But, as you said, how is possible to create a collective reflection about our common experience if the "cultural" or "art" system only is looking for new merchancies? and more... how is possible to create a collective imagination if we are all the time "under the horses" of the teoretical, historical, critical writers or curators? 

This is for me the biggest trap: this hierarchic structure, with "good intemptions". Many voices are going in this way going to silent. We need to talk with our own voices. The social and cultural movements needs today a different relation in the articulation with this "intelligenztia".

If this "intelligenztia" continue on this way, we have no respect for our practices, for sure.

Is a challenge to make a real confrontation with "cultural capitalism",
to create a different relation between ideas & images.

Not more neoliberal relations.

thank you very much for your text.
all the best,

pd: now, on these days, in Argentina, we have a "big" strike of the "people of the campo", the soja producers. Is a conflict that exist since two months. The government put on march some new taxes, rettemptions, to soja exportation. The government -maybe- made a mistake: the same tax is for the bigger and the "smaller" owners of soja producers.
But the reality is that they are all part of the "chain" that works
for Monsanto, Cargill and big multinational pools of soja producers.

The "sojization" of Argentina. Is a very intensive conflict, not only because of the economical consequences. At first the "gente del campo"
threw food (milk, maiz, tomatoes, lemons) to the roads. Many food going to trash. Now, in a different political strategy they decide to stop with this, because the reaction will begin against them.

But, in a different layer, the conflict is talking about a political but cultural conflict. The "gente del campo" are talking about "national identity" and they are talking about "why the state is kidnapping their

I'm not totally agree with Cristina Kirchner government, but is really interesting that only one state intervention put all the country in conflict.  You can imagine what will happen if they expropiate the oil companies?


Eduardo Molinari / Archivo Caminante
Aramburu 880, Dto.1 (1640) Martínez
Provincia de Buenos Aires – Argentina
0541 1 47 98 48 35

--- El jue 15-may-08, andre mesquita <andrelmesquita at gmail.com> escribió:

> De: andre mesquita <andrelmesquita at gmail.com>
> Asunto: [-empyre-] Thoughts on the appropriation of immaterial work
> Para: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Fecha: jueves, 15 de mayo de 2008, 4:14 pm
> Dear Friends,
> This is a text wrote by a Brazilian collective called
> Elefante (Elephant -
> http://elefantecoletivo.wordpress.com). They asked me to
> send this *
> communiqué* to Empyre.
> Best,
> André
> Thoughts on the appropriation of immaterial work –
> Brumaria 7 Case
> English Version: Milena Durante
> Today, several agents from artistic, cultural and political
> spheres seek to
> elaborate and implement new possibilities of transformation
> in several
> spheres of life and also in everyday life practises. By
> questioning
> behavioural and thought structures that are conditioned by
> the logic of
> market and spectacle, such agents constantly face the
> challenge of
> recognising themselves reproducing mechanisms of power,
> conditioning and
> alienation already established in our society.
> To reflect upon this observation, our starting point will
> be the fact that
> took place in 2007, which we entitled "Brumaria 7
> Case": the publishing of
> photographic records of projects and works by several
> Brazilian artists and
> collectives in the Spanish magazine Brumaria 7. (1) Among
> the records,
> images from the work "Capacho-Dignidade"
> [Dignity-Doormat], from Elefante
> collective, were used to illustrate an article in the
> magazine mentioned
> above. The images from the work – which were obtained
> through unknown ways
> (although they are available on the internet) were
> published without the
> authors being given any notice,  neither reference that
> could identify the
> projects or its original contexts anywhere in the
> magazine(2). Other images
> from different groups and authors were also used in the
> magazine in the same
> way, in different pages or as divisions of magazine
> sections (3).
> It is impossible to mention culture without taking into
> consideration what
> are the market laws, massive consumption and the culture of
> spectacle (a
> hyper advertisement network). They currently define a
> significant part of
> our society, establishing its pace, ways of living and the
> organisation of
> society itself. Such laws are also enforced by access to,
> construction and
> flows of information. This case is being used so we may
> think about the
> small-scale repetition of appropriation of immaterial work
> practises that
> usually arise from market spheres, without objectives of
> extending or
> distributing free information – or worse – distributing
> information that is
> partial and induced by specific interests. Such practises
> only attend a
> claim to align themselves with a certain momentary trend in
> order to gain
> institutional recognition and/or prestige from the media*.
> What initially may seem as a simple misunderstanding, or
> still, a lack of
> communication, shows the frailty of undeniable efforts to
> articulate art and
> politics into a project founded in cultural ideas, not
> hegemonic and
> connected to a logic that considers artistic processes and
> those of creation
> of knowledge more than mere consumption products or
> historic and cultural
> fetishes. Such approach in regards to arts and politics is
> already being
> incorporated to the institutional scenario in which
> artistic practises
> involving such issues have become a "trend" in
> the mainstream circuit – a
> phenomenon that particularly arises from the media logic
> and the market
> principle, ruling a significant part of current artistic
> production. In this
> context, such issues are usually drained from its critical
> density to become
> a new fetish that feeds the art's institutional system
> and the market's
> voracity that depends on it*. The production process of the
> magazine, in
> this case, unfortunately seems to contradict its content.
> The discursive
> coherence of the magazine collides with a practise that
> represents the
> perpetration of models that are already known, criticised
> and fought against
> by several cultural agents involved in this process:
> publishers, writers,
> critics, artists and readers.
> Even if we understand the collaborative practises today
> according to the
> logic of free circulation of content and information,
> qualifying actions and
> images – not only quantifying or illustrating theories no
> matter how
> relevant they might be – is also part of the process. The
> relationship
> between freedom, responsibility and ethics is not
> satisfactorily discussed
> through issues that approach the appropriation of works,
> value and
> information aiming at objectives that differ from equal
> information
> distribution.
> What is the logic (social or economic?) that converts
> creative work in
> merchandise, whose value disproportionably reverts itself
> in favour of those
> who are in control of circulation and distribution means?
> The appropriation is a phenomenon that has permeated our
> society throughout
> time. Some examples are: the appropriation of labour so it
> becomes
> immigrants' slavery in significant portions of the
> population of
> underdeveloped countries or refugees (undervalued
> workforce), the
> appropriation of natural resources, genetic codes, land,
> chemical formulas,
> etc. We may think about the appropriation of information
> today from several
> viewpoints such as: intention, legal system, production
> devices and the
> dimensions of functioning – and still – through several
> hypothesis, such as:
> what may occur if I appropriate myself of text or image by
> an author without
> mentioning him? Are there specific intentions that allow
> and validate the
> act of appropriation? When and why? What may occur if a
> large company
> appropriates itself of an artist's work aiming at
> profit or at associating
> itself to the artist's image? And what if an artist
> appropriates himself of
> the image of a large company with cultural or subversive
> objectives?
> The central role that intellectual property has today in
> the immaterial
> market of global Economics, also with a significant role of
> conflict and
> collision, once it is directly related to production and to
> the control of
> culture, the production of values and knowledge. In this
> sense, we must not
> distance ourselves from the idea that the right to free
> information must
> prevail and, more than that, in our vision, it should be
> the tool for
> transformation and become an instrument of social and
> cultural empowerment
> and consciousness. But it will only be such tool if the
> mechanisms that
> create such situations and procedures differ from those of
> the dominant
> sphere, if the process becomes a counterpoint to the
> increasing
> industrialisation, commercialisation and spectacularization
> of aesthetical,
> intellectual and informational production.
> It is not about being for or against appropriation, but
> thinking about the
> process and the effect that we, cultural agents, create
> when we make
> information public. If that information is based on the
> work of others
> (close partners or not), it is a matter of thinking how can
> we proceed
> without creating oppressing rules. What are the ethical
> principles involved
> in this processes? What are the objectives, intentions,
> responsibilities and
> how does freedom work in these cases? What are the laws
> that enforce or help
> perpetrating the control over these images and information
> that, in the end,
> maintain the idea of property? What are the mechanisms that
> would allow free
> expression and free circulation of information as a
> legitimate way of
> fighting the acts of control, monopolies and hegemonies?
> What are the
> collective mechanisms that should be taken into
> consideration?
> We can still think about the appropriation from the
> viewpoint of academic
> research or intellectual production. Research is also built
> from its
> references, sources and quotes, which offers the reader the
> possibility of
> deepening specific topics, making the sources of
> information available. It
> helps, for example, the assessment and magnitude of
> research. By reading
> texts published in the magazine Brumaria 7, it is possible
> to learn more
> about the author, compare his work with previous ones
> observing the effects
> of its course and discourse, verify unsuitability and
> establish a possible
> dialogue with his thoughts. In the case of the images, it
> is not possible to
> do the same without their references. It is impossible for
> the reader who
> wants to understand its original contexts and operational
> conditions; they
> are completely disconnected from the situations that formed
> these images and
> gave them intention. The images, in this case, are reduced
> to mere text
> illustration, useful to give a certain aspect of truth and
> "reality" to
> them.
> The fact that the texts in the magazine contain the name of
> its authors
> -differently from the images – emphasises a hierarchy
> among contents
> (already known to be difficult to balance, but not for this
> reason should be
> forgotten or amplified). An important percentage of the
> equation of
> communication that represents creative processes is
> eliminated, depleting
> part of the exercise of thought/creation that has, thus, a
> power of
> interference in reality and of participation in the
> guidance of its
> destination, being an essential tool of transformation of
> subjective and
> objective landscapes*. This is a very important focus for
> several collective
> projects that are connected to public spheres today.
> Facing such an intricate scenario of production of
> information, images and
> knowledge, how can a questioning about the topic of
> appropriation be
> articulated without leading to propositions that may seem
> reactionary or
> without being able to re-implement a discourse on image
> control even though
> the critical potential that carry these issues is kept? A
> possible path
> seems to be that of contraposition between spheres and the
> individual and
> the corporative objectives, in their scales and
> intentions… And we will
> certainly find the dichotomies between individual and
> exponential supremacy
> of the industry of "cultural" or
> "cognitive" capitalism.
> The first impulse for writing this text was a demand for
> the enforcement of
> rights and it was developed aiming at the reflection upon
> the repetition of
> models of power and the appropriation of immaterial work
> that are
> deep-rooted in our society and in our cultural
> environments. The fact that
> these images are not registered under a "free"
> license does not prevent any
> person who is interested in using the material from doing
> it in an ethical
> way: recognising, contacting, including credits and
> consequently respecting
> the authors. Thus, a greater equanimity in the production
> of knowledge can
> be established and actually become collaborative and
> collective. We must
> also consider the financial implications and the causality
> of this process
> in which work relationships may benefit only a certain part
> of the producers
> involved (those who control the totality of research,
> diffusion and
> circulation means) (4).
> Even if the scale of such fact presented here is small (a
> few images in a
> magazine) we really must not repeat the empty discourse
> about "complete
> freedom" or "that's how the system
> works" because that "democratic and
> libertarian" discourse resides at the centre of
> free-market logic,
> globalisation, of certain imperialist actions and it only
> points out to a
> continuous domination through those that control them.
> Although in a small
> scale, fighting these deep-rooted practises, even in the
> most ordinary
> procedures, and searching for a process that reverts
> conditioning must also
> be the focus of our actions. We must not repeat the
> process, neither the
> discourse arising from the same sphere we criticise. It is
> necessary to
> think of new procedures, its ethical implications and
> responsibilities of
> their respective processes in regards to the increasing
> mercantilisation of
> urban life and social relationships, to set an example.
> We want to see change: we work on it, research, write about
> and imagine it.
> The development of these changes goes through clarifying
> and reflecting upon
> current production situations in everyday life, including
> knowledge
> production, starting from our own environment. We believe
> that is the exact
> sense we should give to each thing and image, which also
> includes research:
> make them public, publish them in whole, allowing access to
> its processes
> and sources. They should become actual immaterial
> "goods" that can be
> understood, absorbed and – why not? – appropriated in
> ethical ways, as
> components of human development in collective and
> individual spheres. If we
> believe such topics are extremely important today it is
> because we, artists,
> thinkers and producers of meaning are constantly called to
> validate such
> diverse and interconnected practises that not always are
> evident.
> Appropriation today is a common practise but what we must
> always question
> ourselves is: how, when, where, what for and for whom.
> (1)    The Geopolitics of Pimping, Suely Rolnik. Brumaria
> no. 7 – art,
> machinery and immaterial work.
> (2)    Fact that can be observed in the series of e-mails
> exchanged between
> Elefante collective, editors and authors in 2007.
> (3)    Among them, there also are the works
> "Impensável" [Unthinkable] by
> Elefante collective and "Travessia-Vegetação"
> [Vegetation-Crossing] by
> Flávia Vivacqua, among
> others_______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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