Greece’s crisis: Debt as white war.

The diving well at the Aquatics Center, drained of water.                    Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Last thursday I received a call from Santander, a Spanish-owned bank in Mexico offering me my fifth credit card. One of the advantages they offer me is to transfer my pre-existent debts from other banks to theirs, obtaining a lower interest rate. This sounds cool, but isn’t it a bit dumb to acquire more debt instead of cash? Actually it ain’t dumb. We were taught that precious metals and nonrenewable resources back up paper money and coins, but they don’t. Today’s money is nothing but public debt: an endless chain of who owes whom. Banks don’t give a fuck if you pay them or not. If they did, they wouldn’t be calling random people to offer them credits and loans they can’t afford. When you commit to pay a loan, the bank creates more money out of nothing. You owe them money you don’t have, but most importantly, money they don’t have. Because of that, it is not strange to see banks offering you bonuses in exchange of deposits, and actually, when you get a credit card, you are committing to periodically provide the bank with cash. They always lack of it, and because of that, they prefer us to spend money digitally (internet, debit cards, credit cards, checks) instead of physically. They also launder money because of that. A bank’s capital is backed up by debt. Once the debt has reached interest that are out of proportions they sell it to a third party. Banks ride, take advantage, and get rid of debts. It is a twisted scheme of pump and dump, which is legal because the people loosing money aren’t wall street investors. Collectors then buy your debt for a small amount of cash and harass you to win money.

The biggest problem is that we lack of a financial education. Specially, in arts and humanities, people show little or no interest in economics, finances, stocks, etc. This is our biggest weakness, and the greatest opportunity for banks and loaners to control us. When Santander’s representative called, he demanded me to give him two references (which would probably have been stalked with credit card offers). I told him I knew no one. They insisted a little bit, but eventually decided to grant me the credit card without references. No one would give a loan to a person who refuses to give references, except banks. If one does not know how to use a credit card it’s easy to drown on oneself’s interests, which is what they are looking for. Once these are higher than your available credit, banks generate even more money, and once you use all of your salary to pay the previous month debts, you will never grow again economically. It is destruction disguised as aid. It is white war.

Let’s go back to the problem which originated Occupy Wall Street. Debtors wanted to pay, but on lower and affordable monthly amounts. Banks refused, committed embargoes, and didn’t even sold the mortgaged houses they stole. They left them abandoned to fall apart. The behaviour of Europe with Greece follows the banks’ logic, mainly because it is regulated by them. Hence, it follows the logics of investments. When you loan, you invest: You spend a big amount of cash and in exchange you receive monthly payments, which in long terms result on a much larger amount of money. Today, Greece’s exit from the euro seems increasingly likely.  On June 30th Greece failed to make a €1.55 billion ($1.72 billion USD) payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the biggest default in the fund’s history. The country has at least suffered a loss of 25% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a debilitating rise in immiseration and the unemployment rate—which now stands at over 50% among young people. Austerity always means less jobs, and because of that, Greeks reject the measures imposed on them.  Now, if Greece fails to make the payment of €3.5 billion due to the European Central Bank (ECB) on July 20th, it is likely to leave the euro, and possibly the EU. If they couldn’t pay €1.55 billions, how the hell are they gonna pay more than the double? In 2012, Greece’s debt was the 158.339 % of its GDP. This means greeks owe almost 60% more than what their country produces. Their debt follows the euro rules, so it is established according to the face value of the euro (if yesterday you took a loan of €5, today you owe €5) and not to its global value (the one when compared with other coins). If Greece is expelled from the euro zone and return to a local coin their debt will still be the face value of the euro. So as their economy continues to plumber, their debt will raise even more.

With public debt totalling €168 billion in 2004, it’s clear that the Olympics alone did not bring about an economic collapse. Yet the Athens Games epitomised the structural problems that had bedevilled the country for decades. It’s not just a question of how much money was spent on the Olympics, it’s also how it was spent and specially where it came from, which is the World Powers. After a period of austerity to tighten up its finances and qualify for euro entry in 2001, the Greek government loosened the purse strings. The Olympic games were just one of several areas where public spending was unchecked and funded by unsustainable borrowing. Again, why do banks loan money to people knowing they won’t be able to pay? Hosting the Olympic games cost almost €9 billion, making the 2004 Games the most expensive ever at that point. Within days of the closing ceremony, Greece warned the euro area that public debt and deficit figures would be worse than expected. The 2004 deficit came in at 6.1% of GDP, more than double the euro-zone limit, while debt reached 110.6% of GDP, the highest in the European Union.

Of all the hype surrounding the Olympics, some of the biggest tends to be economic. The event is often billed as a boon to business for its host city — a two-week burst of tourism and valuable TV time, as well as a spur for much needed infrastructure investment. The bid process leading to the election of a host city for the Olympic Games is split into three phases (each lasting approximately one year) and is governed by the Olympic Charter. During the Invitation Phase the National Olympic Comitees (NOC) are invited to declare their interest in bidding to the International Olympic Comitee (IOC). Then, during the applicant phase, the so-called Applicant Cities must answer a questionnaire prepared by the IOC. A group of experts then examines the answers, after which the IOC Executive Board chooses the official “candidates” from among the Applicant Cities. This is followed by the Candidature Phase, in which the Candidate Cities must submit a file in response to a second questionnaire from the IOC. This covers a wide range of topics, including the Olympic village, transport, security, accommodation, sports and venues, the environment and marketing. An Evaluation Commission then analyses the various candidature files and produces a report for the IOC members, allowing them to judge each city’s ability to host the Games. Then the IOC vote and elect the host city. So, if the IOC takes about three years to elect a city, why on earth did they elected Greece? Before the games, the country was facing already economic trouble, and building all the Olympic’s infrastructure creates jobs, which later disappear. The biggest problem is that the things you need for the olympics are almost never the things you need for daily life. Most stadiums which are built for the games are expected to fall into disuse after the tournament. In Greece, the aquatics center, the beach volleyball arena, and the softball arena fell apart. In addition, the massive Helliniko Olympic Complex, where many events were held, was abandoned. The only answer is control and power abuse.

If debt is war, desire is it’s fog, which uses peace and tranquility to spread panic and control. Ironically, only the third world and developing countries forgive debts. Europe doesn’t owe money to Latin America nor Africa. After the WWs, in 1953, Greece forgave Germany’s debt. Five years ago, Germany demanded Greece to sell them the Parthenon, the Acropolis, and the Aegean Islands, arguing that Greeks needed money to pay their loans and that cold cold Germany could benefit from Greece’s warm weather. This is a kind of wicked pawn strategy to drain Greece with no mercy: out of cash, and out of goods. It is in the end, centralisation. This strategy is quite common on sports events. For example, the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968 and the FIFA World Cup of 1970 were use as a catalyst to end the Mexican Miracle. This ensured the Mexican dependance on the US to distill its own oil, offering an alternative market to the Arabian Peninsula and to the Persian Gulf (which had previously served as an alternative market to Mexican oil after Lazaro Cardenas’ oil expropriation). Brazil will follow the same path, which will weaken Mercosul and power up the Pacific Alliance. Foreign debts are the route used by the World Powers to drive capital out of developing and third world countries into their banking system. They control growth, hence they control production. Its a way to turn our countries into dwarves; they look as if they could grow, but they never will.

Because of this, voting no is quite an understandable decision for the Greek people. Can we really judge a country because it tries to achieve growth, specially when debt is the only way? Except OPEC, which has been tried to be dwarfed through War on Terror and currently with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, every transnational alliance neutralizes a potentially emerging world power, even if it is part of them. The question is: where is debt’s war taking us?, considering it is not only a world conflict but a power conflict, because World Powers control its dissident population through debts too. Desire is the sickness, and debt is the symptom. When economy is used as a war strategy, the only way to counter back is through economic terrorism. Proudly, Greece contemplates only two options: having its debt forgiven or collapsing the Euro.

Alonso Cedillo

<alonso@prizon.mx>

The ungrounding of naphtha and culture in Iraq and Syria.

Apamea—seen here on Google Earth April 3, 2012—is covered with looting holes and clearly shows the massive destruction of the war. ISIL is believed to be using the proceeds from such plunder to help finance their insurgency. SATELLITE IMAGE COURTESY OF GOOGLE EARTH


The cartography of oil narrates our planet’s events. Today, together with Saudi and Iran, Iraq is among the top 3 nations in the OPEC.  Saudi is a valuable ally to the USA so they wont’ be invaded, and the States won’t set again its feet inside Iran. However US military bases in Iraqi soil remain active since 2003. The US invasion has never ceased, and today western petropolitics are deleting the Iraqi culture and heritage as collateral damage.

Iraq, the cradle of civilization, produces about 3.3 million barrels a day, and is OPEC’s second largest—and fastest growing—producer. Along with the Syrian oilfields the Islamic State o Iraq and the Levant has captured, its archeological looting has provided enough cash to heavily arm themselves up. Today ISIL controls the Ajeel (north of Tikrit), Qayara, and Himrin oilfields. If chaos continues in Iraq, the country will not reach its potential as a producer. Everything turns global when we realize Iraq is expected to provide 50 percent of the production growth of the OPEC. The Kurdish territory goes through Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, occupying an area near 392,000 km². The territory houses most of Iraq’s, Iran’s, and all of the Syrian oil fields.

Today, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is in between the Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq. The southern, Shiite-controlled oil fields are the richest in the country (producing about 2.6 million barrels a day), and the northern reservoirs are pushing Kurdistan to move toward sovereignty and take control of its own oil exports. So what happens when the collapse of Iraq is resulting on oil being taken off the market and resulting in cheaper oil prices and conflicts between Kurdistan and Iraq as the Iraqi-Kurdish oil deal collapsed? At the currently lower oil prices, any severing of the deal can, at least in the short run, affect both sides’ war efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and further fragment Iraq. This establishes a pest-like cycle, in which ISIL and the West are the main winners.

syria-oil_3083033b

A file photo of oil fields in northern Syria Photo: David Rose/The Telegraph

45 years ago Iraq was one of the most liberal middle eastern nations. The country had instituted a mandatory primary education system and was working hard on adult literacy. It was common for people from around the Arab world to visit Iraq for college education. Saddam Hussein declared that local folklore was not Kurdish, Arab, nor Turk, but the folklore of the Iraqi people. For the Ba’ath Party (and for Hussein) the Mesopotamian past became an important ideological tool for creating a strong national identity. Thus, the political problems were somehow secular. The enemies were Hussein’s opposers, weather they were Sunni or Shia.  After Hussein’s overthrow the Iraqi government shifted form being Sunni to Shia, and since then, extreme Sunni groups have been trying to regain control. Hence, the secular and political reasons of the inner conflicts of Iraq were eliminated and replaced with religious, just like it happened in Palestine.

In February 2006 the famed golden dome of the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra was destroyed in a bombing committed by members of an Al Qaeda in Iraq cell. As a consequence, within two days, more than 130 people were killed and 200 Sunni mosques destroyed in retaliation. But today’s conflict in Iraq and Syria is mainly a problem between extreme Sunnis on one side, and Shia & moderate Sunnis  on the other. For ISIL, the main enemy isn’t the West but whom they consider the Islamic infidels (which are Shia and moderate Sunnis among others). You can search on youtube for ISIL’s recordings of Shia mosques demolitions or see this video collage I made.

It is important to recognize that the disaster that has befallen Iraq’s cultural heritage is the result not of merely personal ineptitude, indifference, and ignorance, but of a constant effort of controlling petropolitics in the Middle East. The modern war-related pillaging began with Napoleon, who carried back for the Louvre as much as he could from Egypt and other countries he invaded. Hence looting is the mother of museums. Gertrude Bell is best known for having helped draw the borders of the present-day Iraq. But her nation-building efforts were also grounded in a deep interest, particularly in its archaeological past. She excavated ruins in Turkey, Mesopotamia, and explored sites throughout the Levant. Hence Iraq’s museums were conceived and still are a depository of pre-Islamic antiquities mostly collected by foreign excavators for the sake of foreigners. Leonard Woolley made discoveries at Ur, the putative birthplace of Abraham; the German excavation of Uruk-Warka and Jemdet Nasr found the earliest known form of writing; as well as the Oriental Institute’s excavations of a sixteen-foot-tall winged bull at the Assyrian capital, Khorsabad, and in the Diyala region; the British digs led by R. C. Thompson, Max Mallowan and his wife, Agatha Christie, uncovered the temple of Ishtar at Nineveh too. By law, everything the Europeans dug out of Iraq was divided in two. One half belonged to Iraq, and the other one (usually the most valuable one) to the archeologists, until Saddam Hussein changed the legislation (And the same happened in Afghanistan. between 2004 and 2006 the Brittish government seized between 3 to 4 tons of plundered items smuggled to the UK).

7071_fullsize

Sotheby’s Western Asiatic Cylinder Seals and Antiquities from the Erlenmeyer Collection Part I London 7/9/92 Sale 1913.

Looting in Iraq really took off after a surge in international demand from collectors, especially but not exclusively for cylinder seals. Seals became the rage on the antiquities market following the sale by auction of the Erlenmeyer Collection in 1989. By 2001 prices had reached as high as $424,000 for one high-quality cylinder seal sold on the New York art market. ISIL knows that the museums and sites they loot and destroy were dug and originally built for Europeans. Hence it knows how much the West values those places and objects.

Once, the last absolutist Ottoman sultan, Abdülhamıd II said “Look at these stupid foreigners!, I pacify them with broken stones.” Today, Al-Baghdadi must believe the same. Mesopotamian antiquities, however, were not to become the object of passion among collectors until Niniveh was found near Mosul by european archeologists. It is the profit motive, not jihad, which has led ISIL to attack Iraq’s and Syria’s cultural heritage. Not only past archaeological research is being destroyed in the process, but potential future research is being destroyed as well. The worst is that the endangering of archeology seems to justify a financial support to one of the most feared terrorist groups.

zeta 7

The theft of petroleum from the Mexican state-owned Pemex oil company brings los Zetas Cartel billions of dollars in profits. They have also branched out into coal mines in Coahuila

ISIL is definitely ungrounding the land’s culture and oil. Today just as the drug cartels who milk the pipelines in Mexico do, ISIL sells cheap oil to the world. As political disorder plumbers the oil prices in those countries, the first world can buy oil for even lower prices. Kurdish traders agreed to buy ISIL’s oil for half of its international price and paid $1,500 for each tanker to pass through the Peshmerga checkpoints in Kirkuk, Makhmour, Daquq and Tuz Khormato areas. Those traders are the naphtha-launders. It’s not difficult to imagine who buys ISIL’s oil from them, nor to understand why many people say the US knew they would create a terrorist cell and decided to carry on because of economical interests.

Since late 2013, more than 90 percent of Syria’s cultural sites lay in regions of fighting and civil unrest, leaving them more open to plunder. The situation was so grave that the International Council of Museums published an Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk—from bronze swords to delicate glass bottles. There’s no doubt that Iraq and Syria are loosing their most precious treasures: oil, and their Mesopotamian past. As long as those can flow into the European and the USA markets, war won’t stop, not in Iraq, Syria nor the Levant, and neither in Mexico.

alonso@prizon.mx

My Second Life with Nimda Corp.

secondlife-postcard (7) 

Diego de la Vega and Signor Justy sunbathing at the Lleratnac Field.


I signed in for the first time to Second Life on 2007, though I successfully managed to socialize with people until I logged back in and enlisted into the Partido CyberPunk (CyberPunk Party) leaded by Diego de la Vega Co-Op Corp 5 years later.

I had an interest on virtual worlds by the time and thought about moving my studio inside Second Life (2L) expecting to find the Web 3.0 . Somehow inside 2L I saw the possibility of building objects that would help me clarify my ideas around art theory. So virtual landscape art helped me structure my opinions and ideas around our post-capitalist era. By changing dollars for linden dollars I realized my money was worth more in 2L than in Mexico. For 50.00 USD I could hardly find a room to use as a studio in my hometown, but with those 50.00 USD I could rent a hectare inside 2L. For me it was always interesting how megabytes were converted to meters inside computers, transforming information into space. So one of the first things I built was an offshore oil rig. For me the oil rig was the strongest symbol I could find to state my thoughts on how oil and information play similar roles in our world (and that the economy of information will eventually overcome the economy of oil). So I named my oil complex Lleratnac, which is Cantarell written backwards, the name of an aging supergiant oil field in Mexico.

I consolidated Nimda Corporation inside 2L. A cultural complex, a boat club and military bases were located around the Lleratnac Field. Those places represented my three main objectives: to push the propagation of knowledge through the internet, to use the internet to get in touch with previously inaccessible lands and people, and to use digital data as a defense weapon. So Lleratnac was both, the epicenter and the source for all, just as the flux of information is the epicenter and the source of all my work as an artist (and even of my actual job).

Today, digital information shares with oil the characteristic of being the tellurian lube which traverses Earth’s body. I began thinking on how to build a pipeline for digital information, until I realized Digital Maoist (DM) pages like fb are pipelines themselves. So the point changed to how to drain them effectively. To drain the DM information reserves is the only way to flip the coin. We control the veracity of the data stored inside the reserves (which consists on DM websites’ main resource) and we can push ourselves through the pipelines and reach some of the millions exits of them in order to milk the fields. It is the shift from cyberpunk to datapunkism and to the clandestine milking of datapolitics. Today the internet is a solid body that we need to drill. By making the pipelines holey we can milk and inject them with altered data to damage the coherency between the surface of DM’s solid body and itself, in order for the outside (which nourishes DM) to gradually but persistently emerge. DM pipelines prostitute themselves. They play both roles, they are our whores and our pimps.

Digital data doesn’t really recharge nor benefit the wealth of the corporations nor the website’s users, but the internet itself, for the internet is the high acolyte of data, as well as been its most powerful enforcer. Because of this, just as oil, the internet cannot be politically distilled. Hence, digital information is following the same path by being militarized through regulation laws.

Although I’ve used spacial metaphors to explain Nimda’s role on the web, the internet is not a space nor an entity itself that has something to say. It’s a tellurian composition of data and void. Because of that, after the collapse of the Desert of the Virtual (which was the Lleratnac Complex and the original Nimda Corp HQ location), Nimda Commerce Bank provided the funds to consolidate the extinct Saffron Coast and continue the drilling holes that could degenerate the whole through a network that operates in Santiago de Chile, Washington DC, Monterrey, and Mexico City. Today Nimda Corp and Diego de la Vega have helped to settle again a Refugee Camp for the Saffron Coast netizens at Casa Dandelion to continue the digital drilling, because the true internet revolution is about rendering its civilian web-surfers intrinsically consequential.

alonso cedillo <alonso@przion.mx>

With Brett Stalbaum.

Brett Stalbaum is a research theorist specializing in information theory, database, and software development currently working for C5 corporation; Lecturer at the University of California, San Diego, Department of Visual Arts. A serial collaborator, he was a co-founder of the Electronic Disturbance Theater in 1998, for which he co-developed software called FloodNet, which has been used on behalf of the Zapatista movement against the websites of the Presidents of Mexico and the United States, as well as the Pentagon.

Stalbaum has been part of many other individual and collaborative projects, written on net art and its context/aesthetics, and is a past editor of Switch, the new media journal of the CADRE digital media lab. Current projects revolve around landscape experimentation and theory, both in collaboration with C5 and with the painter Paula Poole. Recent theory work includes Database Logics and Landscape Art. Current projects include GIS software development focused on the creation of a database, related libraries, and utilities for use with GPS, digital elevation modeling, and other applications.

image

Gun Geo Marker, Brett Stalbaum, Mobile App.

Katia- What were you working on before you co-founded the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT)?

Brett- I was exploring a number of different ideas as a graduate student in the CADRE MFA program at SJSU in the mid 1990s, but around that time (97) EDT became one of three sorts of trajectories that are still part of the practices and projects I choose to remain involved with today. Ricardo Dominguez and I met online. We were on an email list, which was the social network of its day, and long story short, we just started working on EDT performances with a tool I wrote with Carmin Karasic, Floodnet. Other projects that were important to me at the time included C5, where I developed an engagement with locative media that outlives C5, and live on in some form in the more recent walkingtools.net lab that is managed between UCSD and UNIFESP. But especially important to me was the opportunity at CADRE to teach – as instructor of record – CADRE courses. This was a unique aspect of the CADRE MFA; instead of being guaranteed TAships or anything like that, we were able to compete for full responsibility teaching gigs. And really, teaching in the Computing in the Arts field is my core passion.

K- How did Zapatismo influenced your work?

B- We were safe here in the United States watching these courageous people take on the Mexican military (and its US advisers) with wooden prop guns and a paper airplane airforce. As Mexico murdered, the Zapatisas responded with creative strength, immense humanity, and courageous front line protection of their own communities. And poetry! And their own media. So you can imagine what we learned from them, their example ended up deeply influencing the development of the electronic civil disobedience. When you see people risking everything, it was suddenly not hard to facilitate virtual sit in protests (share in by tens of thousands of people) against the then President of Mexico and Pentagon.

image

Zapatista Floodnet, Electronic Disturbance Theater.

K- On 1997 you participated in Landscape Painting as Counter-Surveillance of Area 51. One year later you programmed the Zapatista Floodnet. For you which is the importance of incorporating tactical media into art?

B- I think you might have some sense from my earlier answer just how good an experience – and I think my cohort would agree we all had studying with Joel Slayton and CADRE generally. The Area 51 project was a performance that intersected both network spaces and physical spaces. We did a plein air landscape painting performance for the private security contractors who guard the border of the no longer so secret base, but why? Because the signs said no photography or sketching, but nothing about landscape painting. And it was a really affective experience for us all personally to be engaging a very remote border that was more like landart and performance art that landart and performance art. I have been a back country and desert exploring type for much of my life, but suddenly so many of the things I had been studying (land art, outdoors life, performance art, technology in the landscape, the internet) all were able to interoperate in this productive and sometimes scary way. I was investigated by the FBI for a project having to do with emailing just about everyone at Nellis Air Force Base with spam about our project. (The story of how I attained the emails really reflects the internet we still know today.) Another project by colleagues in the program was legally threatened off of the web. (Until it somehow reappeared many years after;-) And we got to work with the legendary Area 51 land use activist Glenn Campbell, who unknown to us at the time was working with and artist by the name of Matt Coolidge at the Area 51 Research Center. Later when Matt qua CLUI was supporting Paula Poole, Christina McPhee and myself with this GPS Expo 2006 thing that happened, we discovered that missed connection. I have written a lot here, but yes that was a very important project to me personally.

image

Transborder Immigrant Tool, Electronic Disturbance Theater.

Now as to your question about tactical media, it and art have really been historically bound since well before the former term was uttered. Dada, Happenings, Media Jamming, Flash Mobs, Memes. All enclose tactical interventions designed to ephemerally rewire what Norman Klien calls scripted spaces and of course, scripted media. Art is at its core about rewiring, redefining, and reinterrogating itself as it explores new frames. It is not teleological as much as it is testing ranges of possibilities experimentally and constantly. Its role in the research university has become behaving as strange attractor, re-situating not only what art is or might be, but also productively intersecting with (and sometimes productively misunderstanding) other fields, while entailing them in some of our strengths (project/studio based research, a culture of critique and ideation, and spirit of experimentalism and adventure…) So art – at least at the the research university – is always tactical. Artists are also relatively inexpensive as researchers go, and researchers with big grants sometimes peel off a little for artists to explore new possibilities for their discoveries. So when you are relatively poor, many kinds of light, quick, parasitic and totally necessary maneuvers come to replace the kinds of long term strategic chess playing that many other fields and departments have the resources to engage with, but overall it creates a lot of complimentary relationships and interdisciplinary research opportunities.

K- Why is it important for you to work with geolocation?

B- For me geolocation is the best way get at the intersection of the real that data has long derived from, and more recently the data effect. The effect which data itself actively enters into a conversation with the real to produce the actual. Data engages in a feedback loop from its original, through us, back to its home ground (literally its home ground in the work I am most interested in), culminating in the production of our cultural and even geophysical experience. There are so many powerful things that can come from data interoperating with landscapes (physical and social), and I think we have only recently begun to understand this or scratch the surface of possibility, including political possibility.

K- Why do you think it’s important not only for arts but for our entire society to be    conscious  about the role of data and the data effect in our daily life and social structure?

image

Transborder Immigrant Tool installation, Electronic Disturbance Theater.

B- A lot of the reasons I think this is so are fairly apparent, the larger democratic implications government and corporate data surveillance. What is curious to me however is that the public largely views privacy as a right, but at least in the U.S. context most of the already fairly limited rights to privacy specified in our constitution were largely eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court under our previous Chief Justice, William Rehnquist. Today, there are very many in my country who just don’t understand that their perceived “right” to privacy really largely does not exist. There are a few notable laws like HIPAA where our legislative branch has passed privacy laws, certainly. But what limited privacy protections that do exist are very piecemeal. And I understand of course that the situation is very different within almost any latent nation state or, for example, the EU which has been a leader in privacy rights.

There is also an important reverse side of that coin to examine as well. What about the public’s right (including individuals, governments, corporations) to observe the commons? Police have always been allowed to follow people through the commons as part of investigations, for example. Yet to many, newer databasing of the public commons using technology from cameras to license plate readers feels like an invasion, as if the quantitative and dromological aspects of the technology have created a dangerous new qualitative reality. And that is likely the case. But does the practical given that surveillance is now too easy and too ubiquitous override the “right to observe”? If you believe the fundamental notion of the commons – which in the U.S. are our First Amendment protections for the press and freedom of assembly – then you can’t jettison the role of observation in the public domain. It is a fundamental property of the commons. I’ll admit I find the EU’s concept of a “right to be forgotten” a very regressive and dangerous concept.

image

Gun Geo Marker, The Gun Geo Marker UI shows nearby gun danger sites reported by users.

So if indeed data mining and search have indeed substantially transformed our older legal assumptions about what our rights to be databased or not should be, then first we need to embrace that it is our 18th century notions of private and public are themselves seriously broken, and totally unable to address the contemporary situation. We need newer concepts that are more nuanced and granular, because the naive notions of a “right to privacy” that many carry with them also implies a loss of rights to look, see, observe and record. A terrible example of this in the United States have been “Ag-Gag” laws, where some states have passed laws making it illegal to record images of (sometimes disturbing) agricultural practices from the public commons. For example animal rights activists using drones to observe and report animal cruelty, even if the drone or a photographer remains on or above public property. Or especially tedious are police assertions of an equally imaginary right not to have their activities in the public commons recorded by the public who employs them.

Artists have of course been active in creating provocations on all sides of these contradictions.

K- Why is it important for you to keep your works with data running on a tellurian level?

B- Well, we live here. Our spatial experience, where we are, where we go, the neighborhoods, or wildernesses, and by extension the totality of our cultural and economic experiences is perhaps the most deeply personal and constantly present phenomenological aspect intersecting our identities. Everything we experience happens somewhere we are, including the collapse of space enabled by networks because we can have these simultaneous windows into there(s) at the same time as the here. And through simulation, virtual heres. How space becomes an expressive form is an ancient and most certainly evolutionary and neurobiocultural aspect of at least humanity, if not every living thing that moves. Locomotion is the primary biological concern for our entire kingdom (in a biotaxonomical sense of kingdom), so moving through this world has roots far deeper than the experience and works of the first locative media artists who were prehistoric, small scale non-industrial societies who have been creating rights-of-passage, pilgrimage and other mediated walks probably since our ancestor species first stood up, but clearly in the prehistoric archaeological record of Homo Sapiens. So to me, it seems very natural to explore what the new possibilities are. That is our job as artists. How is the most ancient form of art (sorry painters) altered or otherly enabled by the confluence of database, GPS, ubiquitous mobile networks and the incredible computing power that can be held in one’s hand today? And augmented reality, I’m just stopping a really long enumeration here. For me, my the question is how can we walk, indulge in syntagm with our feet, and reorder our realities with our contemporary technologies of inscription? (I’m not rejecting “virtual worlds”, I just don’t work with them.) It was hundreds of years before Guy Debord cut up the Cartesian/Mercator map and introduced us to the walking remix, and discovered the power of getting lost. What can we do to re-explore our world with big data in ways that big data was not intended to be used? I love this thing we live on and want to know it new ways. For a lot of traditional environmental artists this is a little or a lot transgressive, but I’d rather align myself with eco-sexuals who are not afraid to get a lot transgressive with the earth. It may sound odd because my more formalist work is not, not, not about sexuality at all in fact, but I do draw a lot of inspiration from Beth Evans and Annie Sprinkle. In my own way I’m interested in opening up good new ways to love this thing we walk on too, and making it better to walk on. Differently, but with the same love.

image

Analogous Landscape by C5.

Installation view San Francisco Camerawork, 2005.

And you know, I work with collaborators – EDT 2.0 in particular – to try to make this a better world to walk on through spatial intervention and critique of the horrors of dislocation. This is not formalist work at all and really is about intervening as a group in some of the murderous neo liberal aspects of human spatial experience. But that work too, I would argue, is quite parallel in its spirit of transitivity and code switching. But this is perhaps better explicated by any of my many collaborators or all of us as a different mixed voice than any one of us, especially me given the narrower kinds of coding work that tend to be my larger contributions to those projects.

K- Do you believe in concepts like cyberspace or singularity? I imagine you do not, but could you tell me why you don’t, or if not why you do?

B- I’d rather just use “virtual” than cyberspace actually, something which I view as bearing a much closer relationship to the actual than the mistaken notion that the virtual lies in opposition to the real. I’m a Deleuzian in that regards. The singularity is a fun idea to bat around and I do think something will happen. But when it does, if it has not already because we tend not to notice the moments of transformation, it is going to be noted somewhat more prosaically than many take it to be beforehand. We will talk about it like we discuss the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, or agricultural societies to industrial ones, or industrial to information or information to experience economies. And like most futurist projections, neither our worst fears nor our best hopes will really work out exactly the way we thought they would even if aspects of either do pertain, and our economies will have to evolve amidst a lot of new uncertainties. I think it is time both to think about AI as something that possess equal rights, while at the same time not necessarily fearing for it. We should be expecting it, like parents might joyfully expect a baby. We will need to develop a better sense of working through problems and developing a shared objectives of progress, progress which I think we will certainly agree necessitates preservation of biological ecologies and solving a lot of really difficult problems. I would start planning for a social wage now, because we will see intense new waves of layoffs and displacements of how people live, but of course it is fair to say that this is already part of a long term trend since at least industrialization. All in all, it will be an overall win for humanity and the machinic phylum together, nevertheless with shitstorms similar to all past economic, political and cultural transformation.

http://www.walkingtools.net

http://gungeomarker.org

http://www.paintersflat.net

http://www.c5corp.com

O SAY CAN’T YOU SEE

Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants v Buffalo Bills

You see, we are all mourning. I was born and raised and still live in ‘Mexico’ but I grew up on MTV, Friends, and 97% of the music I played was in English: I started thinking in English. Writing in English is so much more natural to me than writing in my ‘native’ language; I’ve received racist backhanded compliments for these skills in NY (none taken). I stopped identifying as ‘Mexican’ a long time ago, if I ever did (nope). Nationalism and patriotism are backward attitudes to me—and those are kind words. I often (very often) whistle, hum or sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Some of my friends are stunned when they hear me, but I just love the tune: Even smart people (still) believe in nations. America has perfected some of my favorite ideas: I’m all about ideas.

Since I was very young, just like a huge percentage of the world’s population, I guess, I wanted to live in America. I loved that song, before I could understand the words completely (I mean the one from West Side Story). I went to art school, (which could also be blamed on this Americanized cultural background when one considers how out of touch with the ‘Mexican’ reality this decision was) and art has always been a huge part of how I came to know and experience the world since I was very young, mostly through books.

I first became aware of the current clash between West and East following news regarding the Asian art market, back when I was running a gallery. I had always found contemporary Asian art a bit unimpressive (too flashy, virtuosistic and highly visual— I’m into ideas) and most of the names impossible to memorize. I’m a product of the West, if nothing else, I used to think. I read about the inflated auction figures, I studied the highest grossing artists and I even became incensed by this politically-motivated display of what else? power. Now, this war is fully raging. The dollar could have been killed by the yuan last year, or two years ago. The US made their move, and the ‘Mexican’ power elite (?) approved reforms allowing foreign investors access to oil and gas reserves in the country. Then America got involved in Syria, during the Arab Spring™, to export Democracy™, and then the media started dropping hints about a NEW ENEMY™ and then THINGS HAPPENED and OBAMA SAID THINGS and now they are bombing Syria but it’s actually ISIL™ they’re after. And Irak. And it’s all so crystal.clear, and I mean: did they think that the dollar would be a world reserve currency forever, or that they could just keep printing money, or that capitalism was sustainable??? So yes, we’re mourning. But what a dream it was. Such great ideas— what could have been. I honestly feel like crying rn.

(Daniel G. Lozano, from NUEVAS TETAS ™)

Starbucks coffees are flavoured with the semen of sodomites and you should stay away if you don’t want to get Ebola.

starbucks

As the drag artists Adore Delano and Bianca Del Rio became part of Starbucks‘ new campaign, pastor James David Manning of the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem warned that Starbucks coffees are flavoured with the “semen of sodomites” and that the coffee shops are a ground zero for Ebola, which according to him is spread by upscale sodomites.  “Stay away from Starbucks if you don’t want to get Ebola. And especially the Starbucks in the urban areas…” Pastor Manning advices us.

The fear and ignorance on Ebola has spread faster in America than the virus itself, and as it keeps on spreading, a discrimination very similar to the one lived (yesterday and today) with AIDS gets stronger. Fed by a background provided by Hollywood’s epidemic movies, Ebola, a pathogen we know little about has infected the American psyche. We have no cultural memory of what we are supposed to do, or think, or believe when Ebola is on the loose, except what movies and series have told us to. So… The Rise of the Planet of the Apes showed us that viruses spread through airports, so let’s close our airports to Africa, and let’s do it now… as if migrants entered the States just by air… and why do we expect that will help not only us but the rest of the world too.

Some weeks ago the Pentagon’s entrance got shut after a woman vomited in a parking lot. 22 people were quarantined for hours on a shuttle bus because the woman had briefly been on board. Authorities founded she hadn’t contracted Ebola. Irrational fears about the deadly Ebola virus are running wild across DC and the rest of the country, despite we know the virus is transmitted only by contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is symptomatic. The fear for Ebola started to spread after the death of Thomas Duncan and the infection of 2 nurses in a Dallas hospital. One of those nurses took a flight with a 99.5-degree fever before being diagnosed, potentially exposing the other 132 passengers to the virus. However, to shut down the flights of an entire region won’t avoid the disease from spreading. Perhaps we should also remember pastor Manning that none of them were gay.

The truth is that on the first place, the Ebola outbreak has become critical, because Africa lacks of a proper health and disease control infrastructure. Ebola has been known to science only since 1976. As an exotic disease that until this year affected only Africans in rural villages, Ebola hasn’t been studied as closely as, say, influenza or HIV.

Europe, and the USA have drained al the diamond-mining countries and believe that its population is dispensable. The world depends on African natural resources to maintain not only its jewellery industries but also the cellphone, car, batteries, and the airplane industry, as well as well as on their gathering of electricity and oil.  And the world always buys goods from the best seller, even if it fuels violence in countries like Sierra Leone or D.R. of Congo. Just in 2012, Africa produced 27.3 billion USD out of its gold, silver, and diamond mining enterprises. No matter where they are, call it Monrovia or Washington DC, people from West Africa are most of the time exploited. More than 161,000 African immigrants live in the Washington region, including almost 10,000 from Sierra Leone and 6,000 from Liberia, the Census Bureau reported in october. West Africans in the States say they are getting excluded from society because of the fear generated by Ebola.

Besides the usual urban racism lived in the US because of the disease, The Navarro College in Texas revoked the admissions of all students from affected West African countries, including Ebola-free Nigeria. The Carnival Magic cruise ship was turned away by Mexican authorities at the port at Cozumel because a passenger had potentially handled sealed blood samples from Duncan at the Dallas hospital. Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michel du Cille was disinvited to speak at Syracuse University because he had covered the story in Liberia three weeks earlier. A school district in Northeast Ohio closed a middle school and an elementary school because an employee had flown on the same Frontier Airlines plane on which Amber Vinson had flown. The problem is they did it on different flights.

This kind of things are exactly the same that happened in the beginning with AIDS. With a crescent population of HIV+ of more than one million people (and growing), what can possibly make us think that we took the right path with AIDS, and that now we’re taking it with Ebola? What have we won by attacking outbreaks with racism and ignorance? There is no reason to fear an Ebola infection unless a doctor or CDC member contact us and tell us so. However, there is a reason to fear the massive dead of people living in West Africa. Quarantine can very easily not only violate a wide range of human rights, but in so doing accelerate the spread of diseases like Ebola. Only a response that is built on respect for human rights will be successful in quashing the epidemic. Every single person treated for Ebola must be treated with dignity.  

In theory, a single virus particle — a virion — is capable of being infectious and after, replicate billions of times killing the host. But Ebola in humans spreads only through direct contact with virus-laden bodily fluids. That’s why a person who is infected but without symptoms will not spread the virus initially: there is very little virus present in the blood, and it is not yet present in other bodily fluids, so there’s no risk of infection. Plus Ebola is not as transmissible as airborne viruses such as influenza and measles because the virus does not have an affinity for the cells deep in the lungs. Researchers say a person can become infected with Ebola, never develop symptoms, never become contagious, and fully recover, becoming virus-free — without knowing any of that happened to him/her.Today the main worry is that Ebola victims suffer the disease in unhygienic conditions, and their caregivers struggle to keep themselves clean. Burial traditions include close contact with the bodies and sometimes take place near water bodies. Under such conditions, a pathogen has no problems to evolve in a way that enables a new mode of transmission.

But let’s rewind a little bit. On 2010 President Barack Obama said the U.S. was overturning a 22-year-old travel and immigration ban against people with HIV. The U.S. has been among a dozen countries that ban entry to travellers with visas or anyone seeking a green card based on their HIV status. In 1987, at a time of widespread fear and ignorance about HIV (quite similar to the one we’re starting to live with Ebola),  the Department of Health and Human Services added the disease to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the U.S.

In 1993, Congress made HIV infection the only medical condition explicitly listed under immigration law as grounds for inadmissibility to the U.S. No major international AIDS conference has been held in the country since then because HIV-positive activists and researchers cannot enter. Besides the US, according to the advocacy group Immigration Equality, the countries that ban HIV-positive travellers and immigrants are: Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan.

More than 1 million people live with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and more than 56,000 new infections are reported every year. So has this ban helped us? The only thing it surely caused was stopping people from getting tested and this helped the disease to spread. The World Health Organization on Friday sent out its latest update on the West Africa outbreak, officially listing the United States as having three cases (Duncan, Pham and Vinson) and one death (Duncan). Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have had 9,191 cases and 4,546 death. As all of you know, there is no licensed treatment or vaccine for the contagious disease. But ironically the US holds the patent of the human Ebola virus, so probably when the cure is developed the country might even profit out of it, so God bless America…

<katiahaus@aol.com>

Are we’re plugged into the Matrix, and is it working as a dreamworld?

One of the reasons I though warrantied our life is happening outside the matrix is that instead of a dreamworld we exist on a living nightmare.

The deal is that if we remember The Matrix trilogy, Earth seemed to have the same issues we have today. Poverty existed, wealth centralization existed, hierarchies existed, unemployment and pollution existed, so our society hadn’t improved a shit. Humans were fucked in the virtual and in the real. The only positive aspect could be that machines would’ve built a containing camp for mankind. Plus, finally a cross-species bond would have been established between the remaining earthlings: humans, and machines.

Both of my folks are ambientalists, so I heard them complaining during my childhood about global warming, and disasters like Chernobyl and Bhopal. Later, in my teens, I felt scared when they told me about the garbage patches, that until today, together with the arctic meltdown give me the creeps. The truth is that everything has gotten worst than what we believed it would be. And I’m pretty sure disasters and environmental loss will keep on existing in higher amount. Humans are most of the time, the headache and the reason of the suffering of every single kind of our companion species, and also of other thousands of humans.

The question that makes my head spin is, would the virtual world be fucked because the machines had granted us free will inside it? And why do we fuck things up? What I have come to accept is that in the near future things will probably get even worst. And it will be in every aspect, ecologically, culturally, economically, etc. I guess we can’t escape from entropy. It seems that fate doesn’t lack a sense of irony.

It has been said since the day we got online that the internet is just like the real world except that while using it, it’s easier to find people who have the same interests (and those aren’t necessarily positive interests). Humans are the ancestors of computers, and through the last 200 years, the power of humans has been accelerated in some ways and undiminished on others because of our machines. [1]

In 2016, the International Commission on Stratigraphy will examine the existence of a new geological period, the Anthropocene. According to Bruno Latour [2], as we have explored space, “we have realized that there is no longer any Frontier; no escape route except going back to Earth” (Actually the idea of Gaia came to existence thanks to the visualization of Earth from outer space.) “So the direction is not forward, plus ultra, but inward, plus intra, back home”. We’re forced to stay on Earth, an Earth which’s online and physical worlds are beginning to blur, letting us see that that humans have changed the planet forever and for everyone living on it. The proposed name for this period is the Anthropocene.

So the usual question regarding my words is: how does this relates to art? Yesterday I recieved a comment form an unconventional painter telling me artists are artists and not super heroes. My answer was and still is, that being conscious and spread out consciousness is quite far from being a super hero, it is actually more our moral obligation. Today science and art aren’t that far away. Perhaps once they were, but since science has been seen as a mediating visual activity, visual arts have offered themselves to it as a fabulous resource.

Both science and art have been living a struggle for centuries. The first one to separate itself from its epistemological past and, the second one from aesthetics. And as they’ve succeed an interesting phenomena has occurred, which Latour has defined as “Vascularization”. The term vascularization is commonly used to refer to the normal or abnormal formation of blood vessels, naturally or induced. Our vessels are the part of the circulatory system that transports our blood throughout the body, so as vascularization occurs, new routes are constructed.

Humans are border establishing creatures. Everything has been divided by mankind, even thought. We think ontologically, conceptually, aesthetically, politically or economically. We also produce (art and other things) on that way. This isn’t only boring, it has brought misery to us. That’s why as long as we keep the flux of information running steady through art, vascularization holds a bright future for it.

Art is always a mediator. As Luis Camnizter says: through their work, artists learn to communicate, and the public learns to make connections. That is why art is full of mediators. In fact the more mediations the stronger it becomes. For example, the more I read about the intermediary steps that build up an specific artwork, the more I like it or dislike it. The most important reason which I consider art should stop ignoring our planet’s problems (and put an end to the “art is only art” statement), is that in it, people do not have to build a stable hierarchy of the mediators to find acceptable a certain fact stated by it. As Latour says, “in art it remains slightly easier than in science to be constructivist and realist at the same time”, and it is also easier to send messages that can target an specific part of our population that usually do not care about science nor our environmental issues (or that believe those are another man’s concerns).

Of course we can think art is only art, a useless paraphernalia meant only for decoration and making money, and not care about the current problems of our planet (which is where art exists, and also where all of the materials that have allowed man to make art came and come from). But as Virginia Wolf said: “think we must”! Living and working in the artworld is what has transformed art into our weapon. So how can we use art to help mankind transform Earth into a recovering and a recovered planet? Doing this doesn’t makes us super heroes, but luckily that is not the objective. However it will grant the survival of all earthlings, hence the survival of art. The best we can do is to be responsible and accept that the change and our future depends on all of us and not only in science. Just as Scott F. Gilbert has said, we are all lichens (as lichens always live among filaments of a fungus in a mutually beneficial relationship).

Katia Haus <katiahaus@aol.com>

[1] http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/Condition.html

[2] http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/131-ANTHROPOCENE-PARIS-11-13.pdf

[3] http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/66-GALISON-JONES-pdf.pdf