Ele Carpenter sent following theses:
Strategising Tactical Media
Immersion in tactical media tools and antics has enabled some artists
and activists to work together for a while – but the fundamental
differences are too great for real collaboration: activists continue to
mimic the mainstream whilst artists produce unused tools.
Is it possible to work towards longer-term strategic visions? What do
you think is missing from the discourse and the practice that can help
bridge the gap?
Where is the cultural shift needed for political change coming from?
Is new media the political imaginary for art?
New media practice and theory charts the evolution of free
communication networks and tools. The development model of open source
has its roots in self-organisation; creative commons is a realization
of the principle of the freedom of information. Why is it that the
visual arts is only beginning to take the socio-political imaginary of
self organization seriously through the model of open source?
Does the ‘coolness’ of technology and the wealth of new media theory
give credibility to social networks as art, that the ‘woolliness’ of
socially engaged art failed? Or does new media’s ability to side step
the art market, and government agendas enable it to practice what it
Or to put it another way – is new media the new avant-garde that
enables artists and activists to work together? And if so where is it
My response would be the following:
Tactical media can (and maybe should) not be looked upon outside of the
realm of social struggle, movements and political issues. This is the
problem discussing the problematic relationship between artists and
activists as an isolated topic. Yes, it's all true what Ele writes. But
it also changes in concrete situations.
The problem of outdated and self-referential museums and the art world
in general is, in the end, not a problem of activists and the general
public but of these institutions themselves. You either care about
issues and society or you don't. If you do, you engage and get
involved, show solidarity. If you don't you're just yet another closed
castle or boring office. Who cares?
Ele is right in that concepts do not travel that easily from one
context to the next. We can see grand parallels. But they may as well
remain parallel universes. Zizek's latest book deals with this issue.
Yes, the art world is lagging behind. So does the aesthetics of
activists. Instead of claiming who is the most avantgarde, these days
the discussion seems to be: who is the most behind? Only Generation
Zero seems to be the perfect cool informed. Those in their early
twenties, the rest can be written off. I don't mind this view.
New media is ghetto, as is activism, likewise the MySpace youngsters.
But do not give up hope. There are times that people break out, create
unexpected alliances and coalitions and make things happen. The alchemy
of this is rather mysterious. There is no recipy. Lenin had some but I
am not a Leninist. One strategy would to keep on trying and utilize the
tools that we all have. Ignoring the Zeitgeist is important. We have to
mind less about newspapers, watch less TV and Web and perhaps do more
stuff that we really find really interesting. Stop keeping up with the
Cool Johnsons. Maybe you already do this.