[-empyre-] The Power of Nightmares

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Thu Apr 1 03:47:14 EST 2010

I think it would be great to get a bunch of "creatives" together to do
a nice paranoid gallery show.  Just go over the top.....  And then
have a press conference with someone who can play it really straight,
talking about how eager artists are to serve the great cause.

Or maybe just start a fake international organization of artists and
humanists who seek to weaponize culture, not in service of a
particular nation, but in service of the ideal: using love and beauty
to maximize strategic inequalities and glorify power.  Oh...  wait...
that's the PR industry.

 More positiviely, maybe you should just flood them with true
anti-terror proposals....  works that encourage people to make friends
with "others," to resist paranoia, and to put down their weapons and
work for dialogue.


On Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 1:44 PM, Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk> wrote:
> Hi Chris
> I received your post. I responded but if the email reached the list I don’t
> remember seeing it – but I wouldn’t expect to remember that. Here it is
> again:
> ----
> It’s not news in academia here either. As in the States academia has been
> split since 9/11 and people have had to make difficult decisions as a
> result. However, it is news in the arts.
> This isn’t about government agencies seeking to co-opt academics working in
> the physical or social sciences (corrupt as that is) but trying to draw
> independent artists in as well. Within the Scottish context this is
> particularly sensitive. They have just abolished the independent Scottish
> Arts Council and replaced it with a quango made up of government appointees
> and industrialists called Creative Scotland. A key person behind that is the
> person responsible for this email requesting artists to contribute to
> anti-terror (I read that as illegal war of aggression) activities. The
> implication is that artists who choose to be involved will receive
> government largesse.
> Corrupt?
> ----
> Since I wrote that there have been some developments. A journalist from a
> national daily has been in direct contact and I’ve connected them and the
> original source of the story. It began with a leaked email and the press
> smell something potentially scandalous. We will see how it plays out.
> If list-serves are not running these emails it suggests the owners are
> nervous about being implicated. I am copying this to empyre. If it doesn’t
> reach it I will inquire as to why. I think this important information that
> should be in the pubic domain and not just in newspapers.
> Best
> Simon
> Simon Biggs
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk
>  http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
> Research Professor  edinburgh college of art  http://www.eca.ac.uk/
> Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
>  http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
> Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice
>  http://www.elmcip.net/
> ________________________________
> From: Christiane Robbins <cpr at mindspring.com>
> Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2010 09:20:33 -0700
> To: Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk>
> Subject: Fwd: [-empyre-] The Power of Nightmares
> Simon -
> I wanted to follow up on my response to your post yesterday, as I took note
> that Empyre did not post my response to the larger group - which is unusual,
> no?  Have I missed a posting to the larger group?
> I do appreciate your posting it to NMC as well.
> Thx,
> Chris
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Christiane Robbins <cpr at mindspring.com
> Date: March 29, 2010 10:25:50 AM PDT
> To: Simon Biggs <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
>>, soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The Power of Nightmares
> Hi Simon -
> Sadly, this is not news to many professors in the States, especially since
> 9/11 and especially to those on the faculty of Research 1 Universities.  It
> has proven to be the basis of critical issues for several I know and they
> have struggled ( actually suffered  ) for the past decade or so.  Some have
> left the academy for this very reason and others remain - each as their
> conscience sees fit.
> Best,
> Chris
> On Mar 28, 2010, at 5:35 AM, Simon Biggs wrote:
> Hi all
>  Please see the thread from the Ambit list below. It is incredibly
> disturbing. This government official hasn’t a clue how artists think and
> operate – and yet they are apparently the Deputy Director of Culture for the
> Scottish government! It is like having Dick Cheney running Amnesty! It is so
> unbelievable it crossed my mind it is a hoax but this person is indeed who
> they say they are and seems to be seeking to co-opt artists into a morally
> bankrupt war of aggression founded on an arrogant imperial foreign policy
> enforced domestically through a corrupt and corrupting home security
> apparatus. In the best of times artists are obliged to rip up the rule book
> and turn over the furniture but in this context we are obliged to do more.
> How does the artist act responsibly in this context and contest such
> insidious actions? What artistic interventions might now be appropriate?
>  The second section of the thread presents a text documenting how
> anthropologists previously responded to attempts by the authorities to
> similarly co-opt their discipline. The url it points to offers more detailed
> documentation and background. Whilst I agree entirely with their logic and
> conclusions I wonder whether the actions they proposed to take in response
> had any effect. The fact that their deliberations and actions pre-date the
> Scottish Executive email below by a good period of time shows that they made
> no difference. What would?
>  Best
>  Simon
>  Simon Biggs
>  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk  http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
> <http://www.littlepig.org.uk/>
> ------ Forwarded Message
>  From: Variant <variantmag at btinternet.com>
>  Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 15:39:20 +0000
>  To: <ambit at lists.a-r-c.org.uk>
>  Subject: [Ambit] The Power of Nightmares
>  Militarisation of 'creativity' in Scotland : moral and ethical dilemmas
> concerning the integrity of creative practitioners
>  "how creativity can help in the study of terrorism and forensic science and
> in how the outcome or story from that is told"
>  ...Firstly, let me introduce myself: I'm Wendy Wilkinson and I head up the
> Culture Division in the Scottish Government. As well as all things culture,
> my remit also includes the creative industries...
>  However, I'm emailing about a quite separate matter. And it may appear
> rather bizarre, but bear with me. I'd like to invite you to an informal
> meeting I'm arranging on 8 April, at my office in Victoria Quay, Edinburgh.
> And it's to brainstorm/discuss how creativity can help in the study of
> terrorism and forensic science and in how the outcome or story from that is
> told. This stems from work that Brian Lang, former principal of St Andrews
> University, is doing to arrange a conference joining up the centre for study
> of terrorism at St Andrews university, with the forensic science centre at
> Strathclyde university and the centre for terrorism at the  University of
> Central Oklahoma. Brian and I are both keen to explore how creativity can
> contribute and we recognised the first step would be to consult our own
> creative talent here in Scotland. hence my invite. I am planning to invite a
> couple of people from the computer gaming industry and perhaps a writer or
> artistic director, so a small group and it would be attended by Brian and
> the President of the University of Central Oklahoma who is over here for a
> visit then.
>  I do hope that you can attend and would be grateful if you could let me
> know what time you may be available on the 8th.
>  kind regards
>  Wendy Wilkinson
>  Deputy Director: Culture
>  Scottish Government
>  Victoria Quay
>  Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
>  Anthropologists' Resistance to Militarisation
>  The project [‘Combating Terrorism by Countering Radicalisation’] “provoked
> a furious response from academics”, mainly anthropologists, “who claimed it
> was tantamount to asking researchers to act as spies for British
> intelligence” (Baty 2006). James Fairhead, who works for the ESRC’s
> Strategic Research Board and on its International Committee, declared it is
> appalling that these proposals were not discussed in any of these committees
> (quoted in Houtman 2006). Opposition to the project grew significantly after
> the plans were published in the Times Higher Educational Supplement. As a
> result, it was withdrawn before its closing date on November 8th 2006.
>  http://www.sussex.ac.uk/anthropology/documents/marrades.doc
> <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/anthropology/documents/marrades.doc>
>  The eleven originators of the Pledge are deeply concerned that the "war on
> terror" threatens to militarize anthropology in a way that undermines the
> integrity of the discipline and returns anthropology to its sad roots as a
> tool of colonial occupation, oppression, and violence.  We felt compelled to
> draft the Pledge to say that there are certain kinds of work—for example,
> covert work, work contributing to the harm and death of other human beings,
> work that breaches trust with our research participants, and work that calls
> other anthropologists into suspicion—that anthropologists should not
> undertake.  In many ways we are restating the position that Franz Boas
> famously articulated in 1919.  We encourage you to sign the Pledge as a way
> to support this position on ethical work in the discipline and as a way to
> make a statement to government and military officials, the social science
> and other scientific communities, and the broader public that that
> anthropologists will not participate in such work or support wars of
> occupation.
>  http://sites.google.com/site/concernedanthropologists/faq
>  "A soldier whose business is murder as a fine art, a diplomat whose calling
> is based on deception and secretiveness, a politician whose very life
> consists in compromises with his conscience, a business man whose aim is
> personal profit within the limits allowed by a lenient law -- such may be
> excused if they set patriotic deception above common everyday decency and
> perform services as spies. They merely accept the code of morality to which
> modern society still conforms. Not so the scientist. The very essence of his
> life is the service of truth. We all know scientists who in private life do
> not come up to the standard of truthfulness, but who, nevertheless, would
> not consciously falsify the results of their researches. It is bad enough if
> we have to put up with these, because they reveal a lack of strength of
> character that is liable to distort the results of their work. A person,
> however, who uses science as a cover for political spying, who demeans
> himself to pose before a foreign government as an investigator and asks for
> assistance in his alleged researches in order to carry on, under this cloak,
> his political machinations, prostitutes science in an unpardonable way and
> forfeits the right to be classed as a scientist." (Franz Boas, in a letter
> to The Nation, 1919)
>  Workshop of Military Anthropology in the UK
>  We find other, smaller-scale examples of universities and their academics
> seeking to cash in on “terror research” by offering their knowledge as a
> source of “protection.” One example involves the “Culture in Conflict
> Symposium” at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, on 16 – 17 June
> 2010 <http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/cds/symposia/cic10.jsp
> <http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/cds/symposia/cic10.jsp> >. It includes a
> Workshop on “Spatial Sociocultural Knowledge” (read human terrain) and
> followed by a one-day Military Anthropology Workshop. There is no clearer
> expression of the way academics have become comfortable players in the
> pyramid scheme of war corporatism than when they call themselves “military
> anthropologists.”
>  http://zeroanthropology.net/
>  Protests against British research council: "Recruits anthropologists for
> spying on muslims"
>  A few weeks ago the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and
> Commonwealth (ASA) passed a resolution that criticized a huge British
> research program that recruits anthropologists for “anti-terror” spying
> activities, and anthropologist Susan Wright (Danish University of Education)
> called for global coordination on this issue.
>  http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/2007/protests_against_british_research_counci
> <http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/2007/protests_against_british_research_counci>
>  _______________________________________________
>  a m b i t : networking media arts in scotland
>  post: ambit at a-r-c.org.uk
>  archive: www.a-r-c.org.uk/ambit <http://www.a-r-c.org.uk/ambit>
>  ------ End of Forwarded Message
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