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[- Art vs Resistance
By joerabie, Section whatever...
Posted on Sun Oct 19th, 2003 at 09:54:37 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
This continues the discussion started in the guest host "Agitprop" discussion.

An important thread developed concerning the nature of resistance in art. When does an artwork (or statement, or Tactical Media action) surpass its own meaning to become an act of resistance? I suppose, when it draws a hostile response from those being targeted, when it deals with aspects of society that have been confiscated by corporations or political rule.


[ --------------------------------------------- ]

Some examples:

The Nike Ground project ( is a performance, a work of guerilla art, by the European art group 0100101110101101.ORG and cultural Internet platform Public Netbase. Nike has threatened them with legal action if they do not withdraw their project, for a sum of 78.000€ (about 70.000$). In this way Nike denies the artist's right to engage in critical discourse concerning the forces which control society.

Many ISPs, including those hosting Indymedia sites, have been threatened with legal action by the Diebold Corporation. The Diebold Corporation manufactures electronic touch screen voting machines. There has been a great deal of criticism about the violability of their software, as well as against the corporation itself for its links with the Republican Party. (read the "Independent" article). Diebold's machines are covered by Intellectual Property laws - any revelation concerning their products infringes trade secrets, and is considered a felony. In this way, the rights of corporations come before the rights of people to control the veracity of the democratic process. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken the defense of Indymedia Italy in this case.

The problem is that activists do not have the financial clout to resist litigation. "Intellectual Property" is a new form of totalitarism serving to enforce consumer conformity rather than political conformity. One may say that it is obscene to use the term "totalitarism", since one is not threatened with torture, death or the goulag. Yet millions of people are kept in poverty or are dying in the south, because this is the equation which maximises corporate profits.

How do we pool our forces to fight this?

[ --------------------------------------------- ]

Art vs Resistance | 4 comments
[new] when is it resistance? (Avg. Score: 3.00 / Raters: 1) (#4)
by joerabie on Tue Oct 21st, 2003 at 07:18:02 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

The comments in this discussion and the previous thread refered to by Ryan are important for situating art in the wider context. I remember, when I was growing up in apartheid South Africa a big argument in a poetry summer school between those poets (James Mathews...) who said that poets could not allow themselves to write anything outside of the political struggle for fear of being irrelevant, and others (Uys Krige...) who said that poets MUST be political but CAN write about daffodils.

Resistance and art make sensitive partners in so far as the romantic mix allows the latter to coopt the former for personal prestige, as Brian Holmes said. Nonetheless, art is one of the tools available for the struggle, and is no less pertinent than many others.

But when there are people who have put their lives and destiny on the line, suddenly it isn't a game anymore, of being clever or tactical or provocative or esthetic. Suddenly I am in deep water relative to real acts of resistance.

As in the following, by the political prisoner, Jafar Saidi:



"Since we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal, we have been making as much noise as we can here in the "belly of the beast." Others are quick to remind us that probably any sound is an exercise in futility, yet we must let no opportunity pass. We must speak out and speak the truth. In fact imprisonment and conditions in prison, including the constant reminder of our isolation, are intended to drive a political prisoner into a position where he or she feels that they are completely forgotten, that all of their former words and actions linked to the people's struggles were futile gestures and senseless acts of a meaningless individual sacrifice; reducing us to a position where we finally say: "The people have forsaken me, why should I sacrifice myself for them?" For political prisoners, the act of breaking through the walls of grey silence and attempting a symbolic link with the outside world is an act of resistance. And resistance, even at the level of asserting one's rights, of maintaining one's ideological beliefs in face of any systematic onslaught, is in fact the only way a political prisoner can maintain his or her sanity and humanity. Resistance is the only means of survival for those of us who are here because of our struggle against the injustice. But this is not an easy task, since the primary purpose of our jailers is to silence us and keep us forgotten, isolated and away from the struggles in this society.

"So here I sit in the Huntingdon State Prisons Maximum Security isolation unit resisting the only way I can, attempting to approximate the sound of Joshua's trumpets that brought down the legendary walls of Jericho"...

You can visit his website at

[new] media critique (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#3)
by Anonymous Stranger on Tue Oct 21st, 2003 at 06:09:51 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME

I would say that one of the most hitting critique these days is the big p2p file sharing scene that has evolved across the (postindustrial) world. although an opportunity more or less for the relatively rich, including the working class in many first world countries, high speed connections and relatively cheap home computers take control over their own desires by downloading products for free and thereby discommodify (is there such a word? well, you know what I mean) the message often laying implicit or explicit in the products lyrics, scripts, product placements etc. in many ways, the commodification of public space is not that hard to deal with when more and more people are taking it for granted that commodities should be free. I wouldn´t go so far as to say that the 01010100101001s nike square is useless, but I am convinced that the discommodification is really happening and therefore does not need to much representation (such as artwork etc.). or maybe I am just way way to optimistic... henning, malmo, sweden

[new] art AND resistance? (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#2)
by ryangriffis on Tue Oct 21st, 2003 at 01:23:22 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Hi again joe, thanks for continuing this line of thought. i agree that it's of extreme importance. i think the nikeground is a decent example. from what i read, it sounds like some ad hoc coalitions were formed in vienna to oppose the supposed nike invasion, which seems to be a welcome reaction for 01 and netbase. at least, that's what i would want to happen. in this sense, the project provided a narrative that is interesting to certain recent art historical models (tactical media, culture jamming, etc) but also engaged the object of the narrative in a very real way - the belief in public space. i don't really think it's beneficial to separate the action into a dichotomy the way i just did, but i'm still not too sure how to talk about it another way. the Diebold case is just plain scary.. and should be the most talked about domestic political news in the US as far as i'm concerned. on another note - did you read the Brian Holmes essay and responses here? seems to have some similar interests with the discussion here. ryan

[new] re:search (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by franilich on Mon Oct 20th, 2003 at 09:15:00 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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maybe it's time to use the art of invisibility, give a try at the poetics of the jihad. i believe if action is taken without any kind of signature or name, then it's harder to find out who are the responsibles involved. and still poetry happens.

it's incredible to see how the demonstrations in mexico city, are becoming much bigger and rapidly growing in violent acts. the impotence among the multitudes and the circled a's in the walls seem to be the only way to show discontent and have at least a minimal effect in this part of the so called south...

too bad it's very hard to resolve things on the long run with hit&run tactiques. sometimes i wonder if tactical media is to resolve and find solutions, or only make smart and punctual commentarys.

Art vs Resistance | 4 comments

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