[-empyre-] Artists' responses to the so-called "crisis"

nick knouf nak44 at cornell.edu
Fri Apr 17 03:07:11 EST 2009

Dear empyre,

It's strange that it's the 16th of the month (at least where I am), yet
there has been little sustained discussion of present-day artistic
responses to this so-called financial "crisis"--one that exists in a
mythical realm of numbers-that-we-cannot-perceive, but that sadly has
very real impacts on people.  Responses by students, academics, and
activists have not been limited to the resignation of acceptance, nor
abstract theorizing in and of itself, but rather have taken, at times,
forms of protest and occupation throughout the world, as well as direct
actions against banking institutions.  (See, in particular the story of
Enric Duran:
http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20090319182858556 and
http://17-s.info/en .)  How then might we understand these actions
within the context of our own theorizing activities?

This should reflect a special concern as to the impact of this "crisis"
on academic and cultural institutions.  Indeed, the occupations and
protests at schools---NYU, the New School, University of Rochester,
institutions in Italy and France and Spain and...---suggest the deep
worry that many have regarding how the "crisis" might ultimately move to
transform culture and learning into more and more reified situations
governed by numbers and the market.  (The Bologna process is coming to
the states: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/education/09educ.html .)
In response there have been discussions and interviews about how we can
use this time of "crisis" to develop new models that exist in parallel
to concurrent struggles to force governments to provide for the basic
needs of people.  (See in particular "Interviewing the Crisis":
http://www.interviewingthecrisis.org/ .)  How might we then reconsider
actions and activities of the past and present and future---TAZs,
tactical media, pirate radio, and many, many, more---in light of calls
for more standardization and more "accountability"?

And whither the academic institution?  Corporations have fairly free
reign in many departments at colleges and universities in the United
States.  Are we to expect even more of these so-called "public-private
partnerships" in the future?  What is the role of the institution in
producing the people who created the "crisis" in the first place?  Who
will follow the links between the powerful actors in order to map their

I present here a recent project of mine that is my own attempt to face
some of these issues.  MAICgregator (http://maicgregator.org) is a
Firefox extension that aggregates information about colleges and
universities embedded in the military-academic-industrial (MAIC)
complex. It searches government funding databases, private news sources,
private press releases, and public information about trustees to try and
produce a radical cartography of the modern university via the
replacement or overlay of this information on academic websites.
MAICgregator is available for download right now:
http://maicgregator.org/download .  If you want to see what MAICgregator
does to a website without downloading it, you can look at some
screenshots: http://maicgregator.org/docs/screenshots .  This is its
first public release, so expect that things might not work properly.

I have written an extensive statement about MAICgregator that tries to
contextualize it within discourses of net.art, the
military-academic-industrial complex, "data mining", and activist
artistic practices.  As the statement is rife with embedded links,
please read it online:


I welcome any feedback or discussion that this might provoke; if you
want to e-mail the project authors directly, please e-mail info --at--
maicgregator ---dot--- org.


nick knouf

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