On extracting data, and its art and craft.

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Data art started long before the internet, but for some of us, facebook (fb) for a long time served as our Cantarell Complex. On 2012 I accidentally began leaking it when I created drik magazine and later its archives. Today, quite more consciously, I can say beneath my internet data projects a reservoir of information has been formed, and this has happened on different data-based projects by other artists too.

Servers are attached to our soil just as onshore platforms are, soaking on data from all of their users. The internet is the equivalent of a pipeline but with the shape and function of an ouroboros. It’s a two-way pipeline, draining information from us and vomiting it back through our computers. Data flows through the internet into and from same wave territories (Santiago de Chile, Lima, DF, Nuevo Leon, Costa Mesa, and Washington DC) where we distill it through our computers in order to gather our resources, just as it happens in the rest of the world. The internet isn’t on the sky; we do not store data in clouds, we store it in servers. The floating internet concept is a lie in order to prevent us from realizing that the internet is grounded by a powerful tellurian nature.

On Cyclonopedia (Reza Negarestani), Dr. Hamid Parsani identifies oil as a tellurian lube. It’s the element that allows mankind to happen (contemporarily), and that is abundant on the gulfs of Persia and Mexico (among other places). Oil represents power and wealth, hence it represents control and sabotage too (ex: the Nationalization of Mexican Oil, the Arab Oil Embargoes, Saddam Hussein’s burning of the Kuwaiti Oil Wells, the Energetic Reform in Mexico, etc).

Data is quite similar to oil. Oil is the product of the passing of thousands of years, and information stays exactly the same. Oil wasn’t magically formed, and data inside the internet (and outside it) is never borne out of nothing. It is always the result of human life, and that is precisely why Lanier coined the concept of Digital Maoism (DM).

Sites like fb are considered great exponents of DM, since all the data they hold (and which constitutes the tellurian lube of the digital) has been uploaded by its users. At a glance it seems only fb profits from the data we gather for it, and in most cases this is true. However, fb and other companies’ profits depend on the behavior of its users. We need to fill DM with holes. We need to transform it into swiss cheese; then wait for data to fill the void and drain fb and other DM sites with no mercy.

Since the presentation of Swarm at ARS Electronica ’98 on the hands of the Electronic Disturbance Theater, in support of Digital Zapatismo and the victims of the Acteal massacre, art underlined how the concept of sitting gained effectiveness if it blocked the flux of data instead of the flux of people. In 1967, just a day after the Six Day War had begun, countries like Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain decided to use oil as a weapon and embargoed the US and the UK for supporting Israel. This led to the formation of the OAPEC, an organism that in 1973, executed a second embargo. This time the oil price was raised by 70% and the Arab countries stated their oil production would be reduced by 5% each month until Israeli forces left occupied territories in Syria and Egypt, which had been gained by Israel during the Six Day War. The embargo had little to no effect on the economy of the Arab nations, while all major markets of the rest of the world faced the 1973-74 Stock Market Crash.

We can use data as a weapon too. DM is not a house for data, data lives outside it. We control the production and digitalization of data, the tellurian lube that allows the existence of fb and other DM companies. We can pump data through it in order to drain what we’re looking for, and then pump it out in order to profit from it. This is why I believe 21st century art needs to be data-based.

The art world came into existence since the French Academia as a Napalmic entity, one made of an inextinguishable fire that can flow/flood into every corner of culture and won’t disappear until it consumes itself. It is this very nature which requires it to burn out. But it is its hunger for recognition and legitimization what has inspired it to generate strategies to keep the fire burning perennially. It’s because of this that art and culture have been burning all that surrounds them for centuries, becoming one of the communities of the world’s greatest enemies, and burning them ceaselessly too. This way, not even painting or sculpture were our friends. However this doesn’t mean they can’t ever be.

Data has been flowing through art since the beginning of art, just as oil has been there since the beginning of civilization. Art has also been used to gather data for centuries. We do not need to transform art into a data bank. Art has been a data bank since the beginning. We need to start controlling the data and its flux. Data has a liquid nature too; it tends to flow wherever it can, and we can make it flow through the art world (which today occupies important territories in education, power, business, economy, banking, and tourism, among other areas). The art world is nothing more than fog of war. It is the same fog described by John McTiernan’s The 13th Warrior, covering the Wendol and their serpent of fire while they murdered humans to consume them. By using data as a weapon and incorporating it into art, we can transform art into a gigantic tank in the fight for freedom that uses the same fog of war to strike with a powerful backlash. Art should no longer be a trigger for action, its time to counter back and use art as a war machine.    

alonso cedillo <ceo@nimda.co>

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The Myth of Acteon

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ὁρᾷς τὸν Ἀκτέωνος ἄθλιον μόρον,

ὃν ὠμόσιτοι σκύλακες ἃς ἐθρέψατο

διεσπάσαντο, κρείσσον’ ἐν κυναγίαις

Ἀρτέμιδος εἶναι κομπάσαντ’, ἐν ὀργάσιν.

(Look at Actaeon’s wretched fate

who by the man-eating hounds he had raised,

was torn apart, better at hunting

than Artemis he had boasted to be, in the meadows.)

The unalterable fact on Acteon’s myth is a hunter’s transformation into a deer and his death in the jaws of his hunting dogs. According to Callimachus, Artemis was bathing in the woods when the hunter Actaeon stumbled across her, thus seeing her naked. He stopped and stared, amazed at her ravishing beauty. Once seen, Artemis got revenge on Actaeon and forbade him to speak — if he tried he would be changed into a deer — for profaning her virginity’s mystery. Upon hearing the call of his hunting party, he cried out and immediately was changed into a stag. He fled deep into the woods, and doing so he came upon a pond and, seeing his reflection, groaned. His own hounds couldn’t recognize him with his new shape and turned upon him and tore him to pieces.

Actaeon is thought by many to symbolize ritual human sacrifice in attempt to please a God or Goddess. The dogs symbolize the sacrificers and Actaeon symbolizes the sacrifice. I first linked Acteon’s myth to art thanks to a book by Octavio Paz that changed my life on 2008. Several years later I bought the book again just to search it to find Paz’s metaphor between the figure of the artist and Acteon. This time I thought it was one of the most conservative books I had ever read and toss it away.

In relation to the hunter-hunted transmutation, I believe every emerging artist from the 21st century should focus on achieving it. According to Paz, every artist needs to shift from an observer to an observed figure. However, I believe Paz omitted a decisive fact. In order to complete the circle, the deer needs to be not only devoured, but unrecognized by the hunting dogs. That’s what I believe all the artists emerging on the 21st century should do: to be unrecognized and devoured by it’s watchers (at least the ones we’re aiming towards “changing” something).

The biggest myth in art is that creativity is something exclusive for artists. Since the french Academia, the art world had educated mankind to judge its works as something good if they can’t make it, and as something bad if they can. Artists deny they copy because they fear to be misjudge or unoriginal, when in fact, every artist on earth has copied another. And most important, we’ve all seen objects or works that are what we wanted to do (Actually that was the moment when we decided to become artists). So automatically people outside the art world considers themselves inferiors. They believe they can’t paint, experiment with space, sculpt, draw, take photos, etc, because what they do does not look like Helmut Newton’s or Rembrandt’s creations on the very first time they tried to make them (it’s pretty obvious for artists that this is impossible to happen, but actually our public believes that it does happen).

Basically our function on this planet has been reduced to make its population think they’re dumb. If someone had an idea before you, then it’s unoriginal, hence useless. People believe they do not have the right to create because they’re not good enough. They’ve grown hearing that their ideas do not matter in culture, because everything they like and understand is junk culture and needs to be forgotten. Things like football, pop music, Vanity Fair, Playboy, GQ, Cosmopolitan, or Vogue. This is actually quite funny, cause Alfred H. Barr always taught about art and culture using those magazines, and this was by the time the MoMA opened! And remember, it was MODERN art! So why do we keep anchors an still rely on the french academia after more than two hundred years?

Actaeon also may symbolize human curiosity or irreverence, and that’s why I’ve chose it’s figure for this text. There’s another enormous myth around art: A work of art can change the world. I do not understand how some people buy this shit. Artists won’t change a thing as long as they exist as a separate class. Artists and their helpers are the nobility of culture; we’re no different from Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, living the golden age inside galleries, museums, and even at “independent” spaces. The only way in which art can change the world is if it’s executed collectively by mankind. The question is, will artists finally let go art? or will we keep it in our hands for another two hundred years? I believe the art world won’t let go. That’s why I hope the world to guillotine us, and I’m definitely doing everything in my power for that to happen.

A.C. <alonso@prizon.mx>

You can participate on a discussion about The Myth of Acteon thread by joining integrity mailing list or by sending an e-mail to integrity@wiki.drik.mx  (Will need to be approved by one of the moderators).