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

nick knouf nak44 at cornell.edu
Mon Apr 20 06:35:25 EST 2009

Most definitely; perhaps the word "responses" was too passive of a word
to choose.  Indeed, I am definitely in favor of looking at how we can
use these situations to further develop the new social structures and
modes of engagement that are ongoing.  While there are many writers that
we could refer to, Bifo wrote an interesting article recently that
addresses just these issues, speaking of the "new communism" that comes
from the necessity of living in a post-"crisis" society (see
http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0904/msg00016.html ).
While I would certainly be keen to laud some of the developments of
FLOSS (free/libre/open source software) culture as participating in
these new forms and structures (and use FLOSS extensively in my work), I
would also be keen to make note of the major issues with aspects of
FLOSS culture as well, namely its gender/racial makeup, as well as the
ways in which its products easily move between the commercial and the
non-commercial world through the use of certain types of licenses.
Creative Commons is especially problematic, and I would point to the
work of Matteo Pasquinelli
(http://www.naipublishers.nl/art/animal_spirits_e.html and
http://www.generation-online.org/c/fc_rent4.pdf) as one of the more
recent attempts to cogently argue for a more nuanced discussion
regarding the commons.  (See http://maicgregator.org/license for another
way of looking at this.)

How exactly to do this is going to only occur through the conjunction of
theoretical discussion and concrete praxis---like everything else.
Nevertheless, I think it's worthwhile to think about how to consider
artistic practice within this idea of what I'm calling today "poetic
austerity": how can we conceive of, and do, cultural production using
the least amount of "money" possible, using cast-off material, shared
labor, and self-produced structures?  And how to do this in a way that
does not simply fall into the arrangements of precarity and immaterial
labor so favored by neoliberalism?  Perhaps this is just due to my
numerous grant application rejections recently, but I also think it's an
important theoretical/practical issue to consider.  Again, thinking in
this way is not necessarily new, and it would be wrong to suggest that.
 Nevertheless, I do believe it demands sustained reflection, if only to
upset some of the discourse around "sustainability" and the artistic


sparkle at c-level.cc wrote:
> "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 how might we, as artistis, embrace this moment as a crisitunity (thank
> you Beka Economopolous of the change you want to see for this term.)
> We as artists needn't always act as responsive. Art can work as an
> organizer and dream builder. Artists can create from this crisis ways and
> movements towards a better tomorrow through draming forwarding liberatory
> social structures organized more organically in style and performance and
> concretely through institutional planning and rearranging and concrete
> infrastructure building. 
> Marc Herbst
> co-editor
> Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
> with Robby Herbst and Christina Ulke
> Original Message:
> -----------------
> From: nick knouf nak44 at cornell.edu
> Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 13:07:11 -0400
> To: empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Subject: [-empyre-] Artists' responses to the so-called "crisis"
> 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
> impact?
> 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:
> http://maicgregator.org/statement
> 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.
> http://maicgregator.org/
> nick knouf
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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