!recombinant video!nomadic web!
:: introduction ::

 

"Tactical Media are never perfect, always in becoming, performative and pragmatic, involved in a continual process of questioning the premises of
the channels they work with. This requires the confidence that the content can survive intact as it travels from interface to interface . . . based on a principal of flexible response, or working with different coalitions, being able to move between the different entities in the vast media landscape without betraying their original motivations.'' (David Garcia and Geert Lovink) (1)

Resistant Media is a research project, the intention if which is to critique the assemblage and reassemblage of fragmented cultural images which drift through the grid of cultural possibility. It is an ongoing inquiry into whether it is even still possible to develop an art practice grounded in notions of politics through the internet.

As a reference point, it could be said that "La belle epoque" of video art in Australia was arguably the 1980s, when the medium had shrunk in size and price to become virtually ubiquitous, and video access centres provided facilities and expertise around Australia. Artists and activists tested the potential of an egalitarian and innovative mass media form, whilst at the same time cities themselves began incorporating video technology into their hardspace structures, both as means of civil surveillance and as apparati of commerce and advertising.

It became obvious early on that mainstreamed media generally wasn't interested in broadcasting non-formula video auteurs. However, video festivals, alternative visual art spaces, performance events, MTV video clips, raves and community television provided transmission vectors for video artworks. Barely out of adolescence in the 1990s video art has become an orphan, deserted by momma artworld and its always absent media mogul poppa. There was always the renegade cousin pirate radio of course as a reminder of what could have been, smelling of teen spirit and anarchic attitude. As video art flat lined its way into the 90s a new phenomenon was grabbing the attention of ma, pa and the 'burban sprawlers - the internet. The bastard child of the military and the academy was now producing its own dark siblings - media activists, net artists, word pirates - along with the blue-eyed darlings spawned from the coupling with commerce. New rhizomes of creative activity are flourishing in the data swirlpool -- net radio, web tv, online avatars.

Using the model of resistant media and electronic disturbance as expounded by visionary theorists/activists Hakim Bey and Critical Art Ensemble, the intention for Resistant Media is to provide a space for artists and cultural activists working with tactical media to conceptualise activist strategies.

The project, exists solely on the internet as web exhibition of works by participating artists , a listserv, where the artists in this project, other artists and writers contributing to Perspecta99 and the general public will have an opportunity to discuss the politics of art and the internet and develop tactical media strategies collaboratively. The Perspecta forum will also be streamed live on the web site during Perspecta.

If 'The medium of video was born in crisis' as suggested by Critical Art Ensemble (2), the internet has now provided a ubiquitous and accessible space for artists to directly participate in and critique crisis in communications discourse in the late 1990s. Or has it?

How artists and cultural activists deal with this challenge varies hugely. Francesca da Rimini's work dollspace, as an example, does this by engaging with deeply personal issues, and at the same time positioning this alongside the pragmatic political concerns of the Zapatista movement as exemplified in the work of Ricardo Dominguez, who collaborated with da Rimini, with their work being juxtaposed against one another to produce a poignant work which raises questions around concepts of the personal as politic and politics as personal endeavour.

Scot Art and his colleagues at Autonomous Organisation engage with very real current government policies regarding censorship and the internet in their current work. Autonomous Organisation will be hosting the listserv discussion. For part of this project, Scot will moderate discussion around issues of censorship, art, sex, and death.

Sam da Silva will explore whether artists engaging with tactical media are commodifying movement or struggle and appropriating this as 'art' practice. Perhaps tactical media might genuinely be about re-positioning art discourse in order to actually lead to social change? Josephine Starrs will explore net.activism in terms of whether a temporary autonomous zones on the internet is even possible when the structure of the 'net is currently so surveilled and market driven. She asks questions about whether the tactics of hacking and crashing websites is effective or whether, indeed new technologies have effected art activism. Is 'tactical media' a new movement with a fresh manifesto or simply an extension of the leftist activism of the sixties and seventies?

"Artists and activists are increasingly collaborating on projects that make use of the rapid advancements in communications technologies for the purpose of resistance. Often inspired by Hakim Bey's idea of the 'Temporary Autonomous Zone', spaces are created where the flow of corporate, or mainstream media power can be temporarily reversed. The distributed and hoax-vulnerable nature of the internet, along with changing electronic borders has given rise to 'Net.Activism' which seems to have, two main types of strategies: the tactical use of the communication opportunities provided by the internet for 'campaigning' in the service of various causes; or for disruptive action, ie. hacking web sites, interfering with search engines, data bases, etc."

Andrew Garton, will encourage collaboration towards a decisive media-action, combining skills and resources participants might make available. The intention is to discuss words - tactics, failures and successes employed by net activists, and to develop actions for planning and producing media action.

Rick Vermey explores the internet as a site of cultural exchange through an internet exchange project between artists in Bandung and Perth. Given the current political climate he describes it as " a risky enterprise, but the enthusiasm of all involved and the experimental nature of the process has led to a common point of contact based on different cultural experiences. The project encouraged the artists to seek out and occupy a common ground of shared experience via web-based dialogue. Rosanne Stone sets the context for the project very effectively: '... consider the history of communication technologies as the study of social groups searching for ways to enact and to stabilise a sense of presence in increasingly diffuse and distributed networks of electronically mediated interaction, and thus also as ways to stabilise self/selves in shifting unstable fields of power. (3)"

The key question being addressed though this project is whether or not notions of resistant media are simply self-serving, or whether artists, as activist, can utilise communications technologies in order to reach their target audiences. Or do we simply communicate with ourselves?

This will be an ongoing project for the duration of Perspecta.
Its success is contingent on collaboration!

Amanda McDonald Crowley
curator: Resistant Media
Director: ANAT
with special thanks to Francesca da Rimini for collaborating on the conceptual development of this project.




1. David Garcia and Geert Lovink
The ABC of Tactical Media, Nettime listserv, May 1997,
and Netttime Reader #4

2. Critical Art Ensemble "The Electronic Disturbance" , 1994
http://mailer.fsu.edu/~sbarnes/ted/tedbook.html
3.  Rosanne Stone, 'Virtual Systems', In Jonathan Crary and Sanford Kwinter
(eds.), Zone 6: Incorporations, Vol. 6 of "Fragments for a History of the
Human Body."

 

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