[-empyre-] welcome and initial ruminations

micha cárdenas mmcarden at usc.edu
Wed Nov 6 17:27:57 EST 2013

Roberta! Thank you for your post! I would also love to know more about what
kind of artivism is going on in Toronto, as I am just really starting to
spend significant time there now. In my experience, I've worked with
Julieta Maria and Arlan Londono of e-fagia in 2011 on digital event, an
event concerned with digital artivism:

More recently, I collaborated with Maggie's Toronto, a sex worker action
project, to host a workshop and performance as part of Autonets. That was
part of a larger event they hosted about bringing together trans women, sex
working women and two-spirit people.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any video documentation of the event, but the
page for the event is here:


and the text and images from my performance are here:


On Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 9:41 PM, Selmin Kara <selminkara at gmail.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I would like to thank everyone for the initial batch of wonderful posts. I
> would like to respond to some of them at length later but let me
> immediately explain why there is no mention of Toronto-based artivism in
> our initial provocation in case that creates skepticism about our
> investments. Although Patrick and I are hailing from Toronto, I have only
> been living in Canada for 2 years (was in the US for 8 years before then)
> and Patrick arrived just last year from the US. As a Turkish scholar, I
> have been selfishly preoccupied with the social justice protests taking
> place in my home country (and the possibility of a war between Turkey and
> Syria) for the last couple of months, which will hopefully explain the
> cultural specificity of the Gezi example. Similarly, my interest in Ai
> Weiwei's hooliganism derives from the autocratic governments' common
> labelling of protesters around the world as hooligans (as in the case of
> Turkish government declaring Gezi protesters "capulcu/looters," Russian
> government prosecuting Pussy Riot as hooligans, and India's own
> gunda/goonda history). Therefore, our highlighting of Ai Weiwei in the
> provocation has nothing to do with the Art Gallery of Ontario's recent
> engagements with the artist's work against the backdrop of Toronto's own
> very powerful artivist practices. Please do not take it as a gesture of
> dismissal of what's happening in the city.
> On Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 8:39 PM, rbuiani <rbuiani at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> hi all from the crack-smoking-mayor city,
>> I couldn't help responding to this thread. I was attracted by the topic
>> of documenting activism in the age of networks and by the fact that this
>> post comes quite explicitly from toronto but  doesn't mention, nor it
>> indicates the interest for any local practice in Toronto involved in
>> dealing with this very issue. This combination got me a bit puzzled and at
>> the same time intrigued. I have these two preliminary questions: Does the
>> global nature of networks prevent us from addressing (digitally) events and
>> movements happening literally across the street in our cities? does the
>> explosive noise of famous (Ai Weiwei), well-organized and already
>> well-documented events make them more worth of attention than other minor,
>> messier, less organized and poorly documented local and grassroots
>> movements?
>> In response to documenting art activism and having to deal with --quite
>> typical-- objections: I have been working on an itinerant project (the
>> Sandbox Project) that examines and experiments with different ways to bring
>> together art and different forms of activism (in the context of social
>> justice, labor activism and in the sciences) both at the grassroots and
>> local levels, as well as in an online environment (here in Toronto). I
>> found that when dealing with a number of people coming from different
>> experiences and contexts, it is difficult to find one definition of
>> activism. you can engage in activist practice and consider yourself just a
>> concerned citizen, or a scientist who does his/her job ethically. A labor
>> activist has very specific ideas of what activism means, and so the artist.
>> needless to say, the circumstances change the way we approach anything
>> "activism". But do we really have to qualify the people involved as artist,
>> activist, scientist etc...? shoudln't we rather focus on strengthening
>> collaborative and coordinated efforts? I found it useful (sometimes) to
>> approach this diversity by focusing on the process of doing things together
>> (I think Marc Garrett and Ruth Catlow have written about this). again, here
>> in Toronto, there has been quite some discussion about this. I am thinking
>> of No One is Illegal and the group behind Mass Arrivals (put together by
>> Farrah Miranda, Graciela Flores, Tings Chak, Vino Shanmuganathan, and Nadia
>> Saad) http://changeasart.org/?p=287 . Depending on your perspective, you
>> can see it as public art or as political intervention.
>> This brings me to the issue of documenting this sort of work online. The
>> website showing Mass Arrivals reports a video. unless you were there at the
>> time it happened, you would  not be able to seize the surprise, the tense
>> and emotional atmosphere that this intervention created. Last year, I
>> followed and briefly participated in the massive students demonstrations in
>> Montreal. Back in Toronto, I tried to do my part and disseminate the
>> wonderful videos these passionate young militants were producing. However,
>> many people who didn't know what was happening in Quebec could not decipher
>> those videos. all they saw were...well, pretty videos (note, they did not
>> consider themselves artists, yet they used art quite often).  how do you
>> document such work without turning it into a mere sequence of pictures or a
>> simple video? how do you reproduce affect and mobilize a vivid response or
>> genuine solidarity across the world for instance? How do you eventually
>> extend an event as intense and emotional as Mass Arrivals, or so dense of
>> significance as the Carrés Rouges', encouraging dialogue with other groups
>> not necessarily located in your city, and promoting community/alliance
>> building? this is where I think that talking about documentation might not
>> be sufficient. Also, quite often, the online tools we have available tend
>> to limit this lively dialogue.
>> I think this is probably the right place to ask all these questions. I am
>> sure writing about it like any good academic, but in this context I am more
>> concerned about possible tactics, actions, experiments, even solutions.
>> intriguing topic, indeed
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> PhD in communication and culture,
>> Department of Communication Studies, York University
>> programmer ArtSci Salon http://artscisalon.wordpress.com/
>> program advisor Subtle Technologies Festival
>> http://subtletechnologies.com
>> http://atomarborea.net
>> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On Nov 5, 2013, at 11:04 AM, Selmin Kara wrote:
>> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> > Hello everyone from Toronto,
>> >
>> > "Documenting digital artivism" is perhaps a loaded topic, as it points
>> to an intersection among four different areas of research and practice:
>> documentary practices and documentation, digital practices and new media,
>> art, and activism. In my own experience, discussing these four things under
>> the same framework poses a challenge as people often ask for clarification
>> especially in relation to what artivism implies or how it can be
>> distinguished from other modes of activism that entail documentation and
>> mediation (which are themselves perceived as artistic activities).
>> >
>> > The resistance comes from 3 main objections.
>> >
>> > How to approach documentation, art, and activism in the age of
>> networks, then? Instead of responding to that question with a clear
>> definition, I suggest opening it up to discussion here. Hopefully, our
>> responses (criticisms and resistances) will be diverse.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > Sincerely,
>> >
>> > Selmin
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > Selmin Kara
>> >
>> > Assistant Professor of Documentary and New Media
>> >
>> > OCAD University
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > empyre forum
>> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> _______________________________________________
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micha cárdenas

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