Under the title
"Emergence of Community Based and Migrant E-Strategies
in Southern Europe" the Aire Incondicional
show at the Shedhalle Gallery in Zürich, Switzerland
provides a platform for a number of multi-media
projects from politically active artists and community
groups based in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.
By focusing on tactics of modern technology in interventionist
activism, the exhibit leads a path towards the virtualizion
of cultural and political borders, the deconstruction
of globalization and the rebooting of the new media
revolution. Spearheaded by Platoniq, a Barcelona
based art/activist group and conceptualized by Susana
Noguero and Olivier Schulbaum, the show also underscores
methods to empower migrant communities and facilitate
a dialogue on the concept of public space.
In line with
their aim to bring activism directly to the people
and facilitate local discussions on topics of worldwide
interest, the opening week of the show included
several workshops, demonstrations and discussion
panels. Part of the exhibit even turned mobile when
several individuals from the represented groups
ventured on a mini tour to three fellow Swiss cities
– Lugano, Geneva and Basel. In Geneva they joined
with the Forde Gallery to present a cyber media
laboratory for the exchange of information,
freeware and e-changes while Basel saw a
collaboration with the local group Plug.in.
in Zurich, the exhibit boisterously comes to life
with the help of repeated tape loops, video projections,
mouse clicks and the steady whirring of CD burners.
The site plan is purposefully arranged so that the
individual project stations are side by side and
often overlapping in the high-ceiling expansive
gallery area. Physically there are very few barriers
between each project, save for bare wooden structural
dividers and tents. This floor plan is quite ideal
in that it helps to familiarize and orientate the
viewer physically with the theoretical concept of
virtual space in constant flux. In this constructed
public arena, the exhibit becomes something different
for each visitor, depending on how he or she is
prepared to interact and build connections with
the divide between the projects are only loosely
conceptual and thematic, as each presentation falls
into one, two or all three central themes. "Free
Entrance – Virtualizing Borders" characterizes
projects that utilize the potential virtual space
between physical and information boundaries to inform
and represent migrant communities in Southern Europe.
"Home(wire)less" highlights the use of
modern communication technology – especially the
Internet and wireless media – in redefining public
space and fostering open discussions between artists
and communities towards building up better social
networks. "Drive in / Burn Out" enables
and supports alternatives to copyright publishing
through open networks and copy-paste technologies,
bringing along blank CD’s for data storage and information
downloading is highly encouraged.
The concept of
interacting with the exhibit, giving feedback and
literally stuffing one’s pockets with knowledge
to carry and pass on is perhaps the most important
element of the exhibit. To reiterate this theme
physically and to make it easier for visiting patrons
to collect their data, Paola Sinisterra offers for
sale his Freewear design wearable blankets near
the exhibit entrance. Each blanket is sewn with
numerous pockets, to be stuffed and filled with
CDs, pamphlets and other subversive materials. The
inexpensive throws are also ideal for persons not
yet acclimated to the harsh European winters, as
they can just as easily be stuffed with newspapers
to provide insulation.
At the nearby
Drive-In/Burn-Out computer terminals, patrons can
begin their take-away collection by downloading
MP3s from web music labels, films from the Platoniq
archive or choose from numerous "useless software"
applications presented by the Alku project Imbecil.
Providing this data openly direct challenges the
mainstream media industry to restructure or die.
Home taping did not kill the music industry in the
1980’s but copyleft publishing in the internet era
is finally pushing for structural change.
is also rapidly succeeding to redefine language
and the written/spoken word, represented in the
exhibit by two very different projects. Enrique
Radigales through his Idealword project creates
internet formatted sketch drawings with hidden text
from such banal sources as read.me files and manuals.
The words are only visible in the hypertext source
file or by selecting and copy-pasting into a blank
document. The goal is to "confuse the technical
genre" and highlight the new forms of communication
demanded by modern technology. Oh the other hand,
Italian programmer Jaromil has dedicated himself
to using this new language to provide innovative
free software programs. Released under the name
Rasta Software, some of his projects have included
innovative dj and vee-jay software and a streaming
ASCII text video program. Recently, together with
a team of programmers from around the world, he
has successfully development a bootable CD with
a fully functioning Linux operating system.
hacker tactics with architectural theory leads to
the team known as Hackitectura. Their current endeavor
is a software program called "Al-Jwarizmi"
which aims to decentralize und broadening the multi-media
structure of the Indymedia-Estrecho project. By
building up a digital architecture database and
a fluid territorial bridge the software aids the
overall project’s aim of opening and virtually transcending
the geopolitical border between Europe and Africa
at the Straits of Gibraltar. Housed in the same
exhibit tent are three monitors simultaneously screening
several documentary videos produced by Frontera
Sur RRVT (The European Southern Border in Real,
Remote and Virtual Time). Through their videos,
the informal collective of artists and cultural
activists hopes to draw attention to the plight
of migrant workers entering Spain via the Straits
of Gibraltar. In their opening night presentation,
the group touched on some of the central issues
surrounding this exploited class of laborers and
reiterated that all of Europe is largely affected
by the goings-on at this southernmost strip of Spanish
Like people crossing
borders, information also longs to be to be free
and whether legal or illegal it will find it’s way
into the public sphere. On simultaneously running
televisions parallel to the burn stations, is a
main crux of the exhibit – Jordi Mitjà’s video documentaries
of street vendors in Mexico’s capital city preparing
and selling pirate CDs. Produced in 2003, "Burners
of Dreams, Economies and Rhythms" and "Viva
Pirata" are filmed from a neutral standpoint,
framing not just the vendors but the city and it’s
inhabitants as subject and actor in this black market
exchange. In a city starkly polarized between the
horribly rich and the abjectly poor, these "dream
burners" have succeeded in hijacking the tools
of new technology to overcome the barriers of poverty.
based collective Rotor appropriates the urban system
in quite another fashion. In their hometown they
provide constantly updated maps and adventure tourist
tips for traversing Barcelona’s construction sites.
In doing so they reclaim the space for public use
and comment on the shallowness of the city’s ever
growing tourist industry. Their action in Zürich
translated into providing the means and the detailed
instructions for building a raft from commandeered
construction sites remnants – especially the very
floatable and brightly colored plastic emergency
barriers. During the workshop the group facilitated,
the tactic of "turning the barrier" was
successful enough to end with a jaunt on the lake.
The spirit of
fun and activism also pervades the work of 0100101110101101.org.
In their presentation for this exhibit the group
displayed their 2003 Vienna culture jamming action.
Posing as Nike employees they publicly announced
the company’s intention to rename historic Karlsplatz,
"Nikeplatz." They set up and staffed an
"Infobox" at the plaza and recorded the
reactions of locals when they were told a giant
sculpture of the Nike "swoosh" was planned
there. Under the moniker "nikeground.com –
rethinking space" the group invited the public
to ponder the possibility that cultural icons are
as marketable as a pair of sneakers.
The groups El
Perro and Portugal based Zé Dos Bois offer their
audiences similarly consumerist inspired replies
to the issue of border crossing and migration. El
Perro designed a Powerpoint-esque presentation documenting
the "Wayward Traveling Box" where they
have recycled a product of the elite class – the
wooden crates used to transport art pieces – and
converted it into a means of transporting a person.
The box comes complete with running water, light
and ventilation and is guaranteed to keep the transported
individual well hidden. Meanwhile Zé Dos Bois turn
the prospect of border crossing into a game. Through
their interventionist action "Transfer"
they act as a first contact and welcoming committee
for unhappy American citizens wishing to emigrate
to Portugal for a more fulfilling life. At their
computer terminal in the exhibit and through their
like transfer requests forms are ready to be filled
out and submitted for processing.
such simple artistic parodies Zé Dos Bois and El
Perro succeed in upstaging institutional structures
and shining a light on the ridiculous process of
migration. One of the most lingering images of the
exhibit is also the most simple – a poster
from Zé Dos Bois’ "Parole" project presents
a newly designed map of Europe. Nothing has been
altered except that the map has been turned upside-down,
with Iceland now a south-eastern island and Portugal
and Spain most northerly neighbors. This disturbing
perspective shift makes it clear that borders are
only theoretical constructs that just as easily
can be turned on their head.
is on display at the Shedhalle, Rote Fabrik in Zürich,
Switzerland from 14 February 2004 – 04 April 2004.
The artists and groups featured are: 0100101110101101.org
(Italy), Alku/Imbecil.net (Spain), Enrique Radigales/Idealword
(Spain), Jaromil/Rastasoft (Italy), Rotor (Spain),
Zé Dos Bois (Portugal), Hackitectura/Al-Jwarizmi
(Spain, Morroco), El Perro (Spain), Jordi Mitjà
(Spain) and Frontera Sur RRVT (Spain, Switzerland).