Please join us for another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.
This Tuesday we’ll be talking to Federico Geller, a founding member of the Buenos Aires-based group Abriendo Caminos / La Comunitaria TV, a collective which uses popular pedagogy principles to carry out training workshops on media tools — including video, radio and other art-related practices — with groups and communities whose use of media is all to often as consumers rather than producers.
“Communication”, the group asserts, “is a human right that is curtailed when the media of expression and distribution are concentrated in a few hands alone. With our own media, we seek to multiply the voices, the perspectives and proposals that enable us to move toward a more democratic society.” On this basis, the group works very concretely to construct and share popular communications tools to produce a diversity of voices — and above all to open spaces where voices typically dismissed as noise make themselves heard as necessary and dissenting parts of the conversation in an non egalitarian society. The collective also works towards producing documents and records of social struggles, and on political intervention in public space using different types of visual and other media. It produces Radionautas, a weekly radio program in and for Don Orione, a densely populated but neglected neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
What does it mean to use art-related communications tools and practices for such purposes? To deploy them in lifeworlds so far outside the framework of the mainstream artworld? At the very least, by suggesting that these tools and practices are potentially empowering — and may even be threatening to an unequal social order — they seem to stake out a very strong position with regard to a question which has come up countless times in the course of our discussions this year: What does art bring, if anything, to the collaborative endeavors in which it partakes? By seeing art as competence rather than object, as a tool rather than the end product, they believe that art does have a crucial role in lifeworld transformation. The type of television produced by La Comunitaria TV in the course of the workshops jars expectations geared toward the horizon of the mainstream — suggesting that the post-conceptual practices we call “plausible artworlds” are often very close in terms of their values to the mainstream they are seeking to escape. And this becomes clear in comparison with the collective work and world of Abriendo Caminos, an artworld utterly unlike any other we have examined, focusing on the desire to give world extension to the overlooked and the unheard. And perhaps the reason why the group’s latest project is called “Que Viva la Diversidad!” — whose subtitle alone explains the kinship with the outlook of Plausible Artworlds: “Los mundos posibles son mundos diversos”
Week 49 TUESDAY: Abriendo Caminos / La Comunitaria TV
Greg: Hello Scott it looks like he's there.
Scott: We need Federico.
Greg: Let's see. I'm not seeing him in the list of callers here.
Scott: Hey Greg, his status is offline so he's probably bumped down to the bottom. He said that they've tried to turn it online and they can't seem to do it.
Greg: Oh he's calling now so what should I – let's see.
Scott: Everybody just say decline. We should probably tell him not to call because that'll confuse everything there'll be two calls. Decline and yeah he should be in the list down with the grey x's.
Greg: All right here we go. But let's see. Let's try it here see if this will work. All right we got you.
Federico: Okay. There was something broke.
Greg: Yeah it was a little tricky. This is Greg by the way.
Federico: Who's speaking?
Greg: My name is Greg and I'm also with Basekamp just hosting the audio for this evening.
Greg: So welcome. You're there we've got you still. Wonderful. Anyway hi. So how…
Greg: Stephen, are you going to give an intro or I'm not sure how we were going to …?
Stephen: Yeah. Federico, can you hear me?
Federico: Yes I can hear you now but just two seconds ago I couldn't.
Stephen: Okay. So there maybe moments when this doesn't work, if that happens just let me know and we'll let you know and then we'll like repeat stuff.
Stephen: That's how it works when you use capitalism apparatus for free it works as well as it works.
Federico: Either sometimes.
Stephen: So listen, Federico welcome. It's great to have you with us. Actually I'm pretty excited about this discussion, this potluck, it's the 51st one or the 50th one that we've done in this year, examining what we're calling Plausible Artworlds or those kinds of art sustaining environments, and also of course beyond that life sustaining environments. And when I was talking to you not that long ago I guess about two weeks ago in Argentina we were just incredible in chatting about one thing and another and it just suddenly came up that you were working on a project, which in so many ways resembles the spirit of what we hope in Plausible Artworlds. In other words, this idea of what you call Long Live Diversity which is a project that Abriendo Caminos sort of linked into. But the idea of this is they need some to demote and diversity.
And in fact possible worlds or what we call Plausible Worlds, which are slightly more than possible ones because they actually exist, are diversed worlds. And I think that nothing can be more in tuned actually with what the incredible diversity that in the last 50 weeks that we've seen, not really seen but we've heard. So you're here you're the only representative of a collective which is very broad and very diverse in itself. And you're talking about three specific projects. One which I don't really know anything about which is Abriendo Caminos, the other one is one which you've been working on I think if I understand correctly a little bit longer, which is called La Comunitaria TV Community Television, and a third one which I just mentioned Long Live Diversity which is a newer project. But just, and I'll stop with this one remark, is that some of the people on this discussion have already met you but perhaps didn't know that they met you. I know that Scott Rigby. Scott, are you still with us?
Stephen: Scott you've actually met Federico on a previous occasion. It was on the occasion where you met me at a Paypax Arts in I think it was 2004…
Scott: Oh you know what.
Stephen: …when Federico was involved in a discussion around the notion of reciprocal ready base representing at that time a collective in which he was involved at that time which was called The GAK the group with [Algejaraio]. And so I don't know if you recall him but he's sort of been sometimes in the shadows and sometimes in the spotlight of discussions that have been most important to me involving how art can connect to politics. So Federico I'll leave it at that and I'll turn it over to you if you want to present why you do what you do and how you do it, and since when and where it's all going, then we'll certainly jump in. Thanks.
Federico: Thank you Stephen. La Comunitaria TV and Abriendo Caminos is the same project really. The La Comunitaria TV is like the video branch and Abriendo Caminos is the collective where we have the video TV for those radio and graphics. So the modern growth is Abriendo Caminos and La Comunitaria TV was the project that's serve as [inaudible 07:38] TV, which had our own entertainment and we began to make some TV emissions around 2004 to middle of 2005. And it was a very interesting experience with a very low rating, that means just a few people could see or sign them and because most of them have cable TV.
But was it very interesting for us who have the experience and to begin to work with media language and beyond towards it and the media TV went on after we decided not to make more TV emissions. So just for making TVs these problems about the name, not the levels of names, and sometimes they're more important than others. And I remember when you were talking the meeting we're having with in New York we have very good memories of this situation. And I remember we had very nice discussions and other [inaudible 08:44] at the gallery but those are the conflicts we have the [inaudible 08:48] Timeout Magazine.
Stephen: Yes because they said the opposite of what we were doing, exactly opposite.
Federico: That was very interesting the [inaudible 09:00] experience no but you were making such a big effort for explaining how I can change politics of life and the magazine was inviting people to see how I could do anything about that now.
Stephen: Exactly it was beyond belief but you're right exactly that was true.
Federico: But I remember also that we have this program where the schedule was basically traded with the demonstration against the world. But was a massive situation in New York it was very impressing for me to see these schools, to be in New York demonstration. And I remember that there were a lot of people there and I was very excited.
When I read the newspaper the next day it was incredible to see how most of the headlines were talking about some kind of failure in the demonstration because just when you're before there was this massive historical demonstration before the war started. I don't know if you remember this.
Stephen: No I remember it very well. And I mean we decided not to do the talk at the gallery we decided to take part in the demonstration and then go to the gallery from the demonstration after distributing relevant material in the demonstration. So you're absolutely right the whole thing was spun, even though it was a very large demonstration, as being less significant than the previous one. You're right yeah.
Federico: Exactly. But if you see the story covered of the demonstration I think that this year they were one of the biggest demonstrations in human history but they were making a comparison with the demonstration of the year before, before the war started. And just talking about the cost of, talking about rating and about the effect of things or the work we have been making with the Abriendo Caminos and La Comunitaria TV is a very low rating work it's not something that has a massive effect. Only like residence it can have massive effects only when it's part of a more collective experience. But what we're doing now, most of the work we're doing, is to make work of bases. It's not what we call here in Spanish it's [inaudible 11:33] it means working with the bases.
Stephen: Yeah grassroots, grassroots.
Federico: Yes grassroots exactly. Grassroots work. And they use to make people produce their own media their own radio experiences and programs and to share time. And where you have quite a way from any kind of mainstream at the moment have been a very, very interesting experience, not only talking a collective but as an individual to mean – because in the moment we met I was in a very strange situation working with GAK. And we weren't really like touching the rising of this moment one of the driving of the political arts after the Seattle non-effect. But after this year after we split in those years to 2004, 2005 and I decided to return to this school and to be working in a place that is 25 kilometers far away from the downtown.
Stephen: Right. Yes it's very far, it's a very poor working class densely populated neighborhood right.
Federico: Exactly. But at the same time as we are doing this kind of grassroots work we are also trying to connect with some other subjects and not be reviewed to [inaudible 13:08]. This has been attention in the group all the time as thinking how to value our time, how to share time and to feel that we can do some groundwork this grassroots work, but also to participate in broader conflicts. For us it's very important to create into work with a coaching too no.
Stephen: For sure.
Federico: And in this moment we are also sharing [inaudible 13:38] time with a [inaudible 13:41]. You know Stephen and maybe the other members there have been some trials, in this moment lots of trials to, not only the military but also the civilians that took part of the Argentina dictatorship and we are helping with videos and graphics for promoting the social participation these trials.
Stephen: Yeah that's important maybe you could say a little bit more about that Federico. How you do that? What's the history of that? I'm not sure everyone is so familiar with that story.
Federico: Well I think it's interesting to know because it's very original I think. The situation in Argentina we have this terrible dictatorship. It was one of many but the last one was the worse one. And there was a political decision but was shared by many institutions, many social [inaudible 14:39] or Argentinean society that was the examination of a very broad territory that was composed by many political organizations. Some of them were armed but many of them were also, most of them, were grassroots organizations. And where it's calculated that 50,000 people were killed during the dictatorship was between 1976 and 1983. And when the dictatorship finished and it finished after the Venice or Falkland War that was the reason that they thought they had to finish was not because of the inner resistance but most because of this international trader.
When democracy arrived and all these crimes were revealed and they came to make trials and remained responsible of the dictatorship or just and some of the medium ranges also. But because of the military pressure and the pressure of other capitalist specters the trials couldn't go on. And then [inaudible 16:01] President a right to go forward he made implementation laws to release or to set free the military of the dictatorship. So this is the beginning of what we call the Impunitive Time now. The long years were they lost absolutely impunitive about the times of the dictatorship. But there was a very strong response of the CV society that wouldn't respect this opportunity or the situation where the media and the strongest representative of the political power tried to talk about some kind of specification, to look about forgiveness and the sociopath theory that Argentina was in some moment kept by two different things. Them on the voice on the right or them on the voice of the extreme left and democracy was to forget and forgive and just taking care of our press in the future.
But the Human Rights Organization mainly [inaudible 17:16] and their equals and they appeared in the late '90s take a very strong role, not only administration but also political world and communication role, in the legal world also. And just in 2003 the impunitive laws they were renewed or destroyed and the justice could make trials again. So it was a very original situation but since Sebastor more than two decades something that was supposed to be this perfectly important suddenly its [inaudible 18:04]. Nowadays like there are many, many trials happening here with society and in other provinces many stories, many histories that were kept under lock now are appealing them.
Stephen: And that's a really important thing. In fact just as an anecdote but it's a way of kind of making it tangible is that originally we had suggested you would talk, not tonight but in two weeks on the 21st. And in fact it works out better for you to talk tonight because as I understand on the 21st there's a very important judgment which will be handed down in an important case. Could you say something about that? And also that'll be a way to say what you do tangibly and materially and concretely when they're in the case of these much belated trials.
Federico: Okay. The 21 the sentences I don't know the Spanish word for this decision of the child supporting time that people have to be in jail or be berated. Now there's a lot of expectation about this. What's the word in English for this?
Stephen: Yeah the sentence, the sentence will be handed down. Yeah.
Federico: Okay. The sentence will be on 21 so there is to make a [inaudible 19:30] bell with heart and music and be waiting for the decision of the judges in the front of the tree of that building no. And it's a complex situation because the legal condemnation is just about of this what we're trying to do is to [inaudible 19:52] this legal condemnation with the social condemnation and that's our ability to call people, to join and to show this situation it's a real event. Not only is it happening just in the courtrooms of the criminal of justice.
Stephen: And so how do you do that? What do you do? I mean I know what you do but I'm asking you because I've participated in these carnavelist social condemnations but could you describe it?
Federico: Well there is these situations where you have been I remember like I think two years ago, no one year ago maybe, no two years ago.
Federico: Because I thought it was a but now it's not but now he's…
Stephen: Iris Sedgeway yeah.
Federico: …because the situation was too slow and we want him to hurry up. And there is a lot of work are interventions or printing material for sharing with social organizations, going to school and top with students making the kind of work we do we were talking with chancellors about making medias and talking about present, about past, about history in our life. And we are also making more for this arrangement work that many of the places that were used for killing people some people call them Concentration Camps but they're very different to the Tramos German Concentration Camps. But another expression also is [inaudible 21:34] and there were many of these places more than 300 maybe 360 the whole country. And some of them now are being used by Human Rights Organization as memory plates.
So there are a lot of activities also and they're really a problem. There is a lot of communication and creative work we are using to promote memory and to give these things a lack. We'll start making [inaudible 22:12] but they are in for what page? Page I sent you where we're the recording side of the situation. And we're making now a longer appeal about capital [inaudible 22:25]. Capital [inaudible 22.26] is a place that still works it belongs to the Army. And what's the biggest of these places? It's a place where more than 5000 people were tortured and killed. And [inaudible 22:42] is not a very famous place there are others that are very more famous than this. So we're now trying to make a media to the standpoint happen there. It's not very clear how was the organization of the situation but it was a trial going on and now we have a more clear picture. It's like a puzzle where you have to find different pieces and put them together their contradiction. It's very interesting work.
Stephen: For sure. And so you do this as a collective but what exactly does your collective bring to the operation?
Federico: Part of the media recording…
Federico: …because it's very interesting the situation that part of the trials are being recorded officially but the images are not being allowed to be communicated until they have the final sentence. So it can happen two years or three years for the images the official images to be shared probably quick. So in some way you have a blackout of image in most of the situations of the trials; there are no image about this. So one of the ideas we have was to call students art students to go and draw during the trials. And we have a good success because there was a lot of people going there and just drawing situations.
Some of them may release their drawings some kind of expression is absolutely subjective but we were collecting all of these drawings and they will be published next year with a description of the sentence of the trial [inaudible 24:42]. So this was a strategy to try to break these blackouts of image about the trials. Some of the situation can be filmed there are very specific moments where you can take your camera out and make some pictures, but there're just a few situations. I think this is a very interesting thing because we're very conscious that we're no image, there is no information. It's very difficult to talk about these things when you don't have images. So the work we're doing is part of the media recordings of the situation that can be filmed and filming the activities that are around the [inaudible 25:27] and also the graphic designs for all these situations.
Also we're making a map that you can see in the [inaudible 25:39] web page with an interactive map where there's also printed material where you can see the Argentinean map and you can see the points where you have trials and which other situations are having these trials.
Stephen: Do you have a link that you can send of that to us?
Federico: Yes. What I see here is the things we can log off and also something that just because problem with [inaudible 26:11]. I can send you an email if you want.
Stephen: You can send it in the text.
Scott: Stephen for some reason I'm not sure why we're able to add them to the conference but we're not able to…
Stephen: Okay. Okay.
Scott: But you know you could either send it to email or – is it off of one of the three, is it off of…
Stephen; No it's on the He-Ho side. I'll find it I'll get it for you.
Scott: Okay cool.
Federico: I can send it to you in this moment.
Federico: Maybe you can pull them.
Stephen: I will.
Stephen: For sure yeah.
Federico: Because in there you will see in the first page part of the work we have been doing is just they're in the opening page.
Scott: I just had a quick question in terms of my lack of knowledge of the political system there. If there's this control over images to what extent are the images you produce suspect to be censored or taken off the internet or like to what…
Federico: No there is no – that's not the situation. The situation is that the image we are producing are perfectly even we don't trace any kind of censorship. The problem is that in most of the trial the situations were these guys are there being judged you can go there and follow the situation completely but you're not allowed to bring cameras or videos or photographs. So we're not having the situation to record.
Scott: Is there any sort of understanding as to why or is this always the case?
Federico: No every tribunal has different laws and different information. So some of them we could go and film, but for example, the ones that are being developed in the capital in Buenos Aires you cannot do it.
Stephen: Do they give any sort of reason?
Federico: Yes it's because of protecting these guys before they are condemned.
Federico: You should take care of them no.
Stephen: Okay understood.
Federico: But it's not only that it's also some way of by saying this is totally farced. It's totally farced where many, many sectors you can picture it in a country where the justice was also part of the dictatorship. We don't have a real democratic justice at this moment no.
Stephen: Right. Right.
Federico: The trials are also very important because they need conflict inside the justice institution.
Stephen: So I don't mean for this to sound like you're providing a simple service but to whom are you speaking? Like who's your audience with this work? Is it anybody who will see it or is it for a particular section or sector of the public?
Federico: Well to be true there are [inaudible 29:36] and a specific audience. The desire is to make the wider audience that is possible but what is a specific audience it must be taking into account the support of social organizations the verified of installation of groups where the memory work and the human rights history is important for building identity.
Stephen: So in essence you're building an archive. This is something we talk about a lot I think in our…
Stephen: Yeah okay.
Federico: In some ways an archive.
Federico: But we expect to be a very active archive. We want to use it as tools using only as tools for [inaudible 30:19] people to participate now.
Stephen: Right that's great. I think that's exciting.
Federico: Yes it is because also it's very happy because it's not that culture society is really taking care of these and it's not that everybody understands that this situation is very important for the present and the future.
Federico: Because it's such a bad history that not everybody wants to see [inaudible 30:47] because only to here again and on the testimony and the people that were in culture there and the things they saw it's not a [inaudible 30:57].
Federico: So many people are really happy. Actually most of the Argentinean society are satisfied with just this time when you arrived and this is very important because there was a low moment in Argentinean history and you could feel that this thing was not really important for the whole but just for the people that had been in some way [inaudible 31:21] like this. Finally it was really important and I really think that the clarity of the Kissinger Program was a very, very, very, very extent deal than relation of the punitive. And this is a very fascinating question because you have from this [inaudible 31:46] to this moment you have a very strong economic development and capitalist experience, but at the same time you have a lot of work regarding human rights and very lax of the human rights movement.
So it was some kind of [inaudible 32:05] between their [inaudible 32:07] and the economics with some very important gestures from the state where the past was being kept away. Some of it was something that you could talk about much. And you can see that in the TV many programs in the film production. You can see that there's some kind of common culture where many people participate.
Stephen: Now that's a point, if I can just interject, that's a point Federico that I'd like you to elaborate on. Because I remember when you first stated, and maybe you'll have to go back a little bit in time, when you first told me you were working with this new thing called La Comunitaria TV you gave me some links to go and look at them.
Stephen: And you gave me a warning. You said "You know this is not going to look like the kind of conceptual art that you're used to looking at. It's not going to look like high production value television." And it didn't and I think that's what is so unbelievably great about it actually is that it doesn't look like everything else it doesn't look like anything else. Could you talk a little bit about the aesthetic experience you've had of doing this political type of work?
Federico: Yes. We're having lots of discussions now about these because we have an aesthetic but this is something to a great extent is due to technical tools. We are really working with a very simple video camera and normal computers. And we have some kind of cheap aesthetic I think it's due to the tools we have, but at the same time we realize that we cannot fail because we have part of our work is relationship the problem with the mass media.
One of the first works the La Comunitaria TV made was a map of the big media groups to show the incredible amount of concentrations of TVs and radios. Well the same thing with this happened in the whole world. This incredible whole world concentrated in the production of images. And we are sure that we cannot do the same type of very sophisticated image production and we also believe that there is a lot of contamination of these and sometimes work and other times and with very simple images. It's also a way of saying "Okay we're a talking in a different language. Now we are not part of TV we're not part of the mainstream. This is a work which you have to see in another timeframe, another [inaudible 35:03].
But at the same time we need to be a little bit more, we need to work better with the images. And we are trying to have some experiments where we can have more sophisticated addition work because we see that we are living in a world where the people are watching a lot of images, a lot of things, and some way they we're handling with so many languages that to keep someone attention for 10 minutes or 15 minutes is also quite complicated. But the work we are doing now as we're not making this TV emissions but we are meeting groups showing the [inaudible 35:48] and using the [inaudible 35:49] as material for discussion allow us to create an environment before we showed the images and to create this openness I was referring to. I don't know if this answers your questions Stephen.
Stephen: No it answers it in a way that I wasn't expecting. It's kind of takes it in a different – well it opens up a whole new perspective. But I was really thinking more of the nuts and bolts of that experience we have. Because Federico I mean I know you don't want to talk about the GAK experience and it's not what we're talking about tonight but what I found most compelling about the GAK and it's through the GAK that I met you…
Stephen: …was that it was a type of conceptual art of the highest level of political corrosiveness because in fact it was somehow releasing the total logical imperative of conceptual art on the real, it was unleashing it, it was making it dangerous. It was actually not about the consumption of signs and symbols but about participating in their production. And I mean I can give countless examples and I've written about it and the point is not to talk about that but it's important for people who are listening to understand that you came from very unusual – I mean it's almost unique to, well it's not unique to Argentina because you do find examples elsewhere, but it was a very particular case of using conceptual arts skills with graphic design and political activism.
And then you took that to La Comunitaria TV and the results looked very different. I mean it was a kind of a shock. And I think that was a really interesting move. I think it's one that almost no conceptual or post-conceptual artist who would dare to make. Now I just wanted you to kind of talk about that experience like what it was like to work with those people you know.
Federico: Okay I think it's as you say the GAK wasn't in any situation where there was a lot of discussion about the visual production. And what makes a single analysis of the political situation and then really trying to discuss very deeply about which where the images and the awards that could be [inaudible 38:27]. And this denounce was related to punitive time and punitive times we're talking about now. So we were trying to make connections between past and present. And I think punitive was part of the normal social life and [inaudible 38:50] saw very strong effects to see these images because these images didn't refer to the things that many people think or really have image about this.
So sometimes it's very simple images or very cheap images you were appealing to thousands of people and in some way were sharing your point of view. In some way I think that the graphic work or Abriendo Caminos and the La Comunitaria TV the thing that follows this kind of work. I will send you this production because I think I only share with you the media but it's also the writing on the graphic material. But the fact that when you're making grassroots work and you make a collective, another thing about Abriendo Caminos collective, the collective would make with all our groups for making grassroots production. You have to decide a listening with the people that you're working with who are making a new video. And in some way your language will be some kind of mixture of the presentation culture of the gross that they're participating.
So it's very different to work in a group or artist that has this culture or conceptual art and this close when you're working with that young group of people that lives on the outskirts of when I'm [inaudible 40:21] and from fear you have to create an email situation and decide together which way this will be told. So it's a very single language where you can see [inaudible 40:35].
Now but also I think the work about urgency, about working in this situation of denounce [inaudible 40:48] this very addition to the work you can make when you're working grass root work and you're talking about different things and this very, very low work now. So you're not trying to shape people's attention about the problems but to create a video that will be part of discussion. It's a video that the downside of this whole we'll share with the families. This is a very complete audience I think who we are dealing with.
Stephen: Greg you had a comment about that. Videos is a great discussion.
Greg: Yeah sorry I was unmuting the mic. Yeah I mean I think in our sort of video culture now the discussion is less about sort of an exchange of ideas based on what's occurred or what we've watched in a YouTube culture where you're just reacting and there's no dialogue. It's simply a one way discussion, but I love the idea that you were thinking about videos which create, or as Stephen's written, spark a discussion. I mean I think that's really poetic it's also very useful. I don't know I oftentimes don't think that videos create discussion but rather stifle discussion in many respect. So I like that sort of positive activist's sort of stance that you're sort of taking by saying that.
Federico: Yes or this believing that you'll be there we create a discussion but this is the way that we're working the [inaudible 42:37] to be there so you didn't [inaudible 42:38] them or whatever. We use them in social situations right.
Federico: So you are talking we're in a group of 30 young people that they allow you and you allow them and you have to break ice, you have to start a dialogue, you have to create some kind of common ground to begin the discussion and to create new work and with it we produce the video or starting it. I think it's a very, very useful way of people understanding what you want to talk about and what do you want to do then. And it's not believing that the object by itself will opening discussions in a spontaneous way.
Greg: Right. Yeah no that makes absolutely perfect sense. I mean I know that when digital video became sort of a consumer based medium and we said "Oh look at how digital video will democratize the entire process for all people know that we can all make films.
Greg: You know that's exactly the problematic thinking that I see associated with videos in general. So I think what you're saying makes perfect sense. The opportunity the ability is there but without extending that into sort of the trajectory of whatever the goal of the group that's sort of an empty rhetoric.
Federico: Exactly. Yes, yes I don't believe that. We're being more democratic because there is a lot of media. I think it's a very big problem what you're talking about because this production we're seeing in so many cameras and people showing them in their face or in their blood and etc it's also a lot of noise. But it's a lot of production it was never so much production of images. And that doesn't mean really that we are communicating more.
Greg: Right. No I think that's it too like what you just said there's a lot more noise, there's a lot more to compete with you know.
Stephen: So in that case Federico what do you mean by diversity because I wanted to bring you onto that other project. Kaveeve and I did that we've actually…
Stephen: What is [inaudible 45:05] exactly then if it's not noise, it's not more of the same what is it for you? What are those voices that you want to bring into the picture? I mean not only why do you want to but what are they?
Federico: I think it's very difficult to talk about diversity. Diversity is I think something very good that appeared in the last years of the political value. As political value where any kind of future we can decide has to be the open to many ways of living life. And I think that we wanted to talk about this, about the problem of diversity we're showing the social more related to the problem of [inaudible 46:01] because Argentina is a place where grass root is not being discussed as much as it should. We're a country that has an image that we are very democratic mixture of phrases. There are very natural trained expression about this.
And finally we talk about the [inaudible 46:23] it's the place where they race is mixed. But what we have really was a very strong political immigration or the shadows of this country decide that this place was this moment in 19th Century was turning them to black and looking for more black and more white and European image. They brought lots, lots of people from Europe to Argentina. And this is now for the first time in Argentina say in the last 10 years and I'm talking about the Italian after this the [inaudible47:05]. The problem of diversity of our regional groups in Argentina began to be part of their change.
So slowly we're talking about diversity in relationship with the cultural diversity of Argentina has been neglected because of this very strong and powerful wide European sender culture. Well those who are diversity in the biological sense because the Argentina now is leaving these incredible moment of this whole big expansion where most of half of the ground can be culture is being used for transgenic [inaudible 47:50]. Maybe it's the country with more transgenic perfection in relationship with total amount of land with no money in the total sense but in the [inaudible 48:01] tense where the most incredible enchanted place.
And this is terrible because lots of natural environments are being destroyed and this some kind of green carepics is being created. And we're losing lots of biological diversity. So in a way we were trying to tolerate diversity using human diversity and biological diversity as values tools to protect. But we didn't show too much diversity or human or biological but we were talking about the obstacles for enjoying diversity. And these obstacles were two we were talking the main obstacles for enjoyed diversity and the ground of the soybean production and the biological aspect and the racism the undercover racism and the human aspect.
And also connecting what you were talking before about [inaudible 49:09] it's not the [inaudible 49:11]. Also what's her reaction of the famous [inaudible 49:20]? Do you remember another word was possible [inaudible 49:23] and some kind of rejection of that? We have to think in another world but it's not like that. Now we have to open the possibility of many, many potential worlds not trying to picture which is the world we have to be altogether.
Stephen: Exactly. Well that's exactly why I say it's very much in the spirit of Plausible Artworlds and it's the reason why we didn't call it possible artworlds because Possible Artworlds would have been, I mean for us, it would have been to give an enormous huge cake and it would be to have caved in completely to the mainstream artworld that likes to call itself The Singular Artworlds.
Federico: That's right.
Stephen: And to say that other worlds are possible is to say, yeah but they don't actually exist they're just kind of possible. It's just like these pipe dreams that exists sort of parallel to the sad reality. No I mean I think the point that you're making if I understand it correctly when you say that [inaudible 50:27] is that it's not just that easy you don't just sort – you can't just say it that way you have to say that if diversity exists then other worlds exists, at least in an embryonic form.
Federico: And I think that as you people and us and so many people around the world we're really creating this sorts of the works not this embryonic form of possible works. And I think it's very hard and very impossible and it's not even desirable that we share a common match of her world we have to go on with our experiments. But if we think back there is a world that exists now and I think that joining and the way of joining is to fight against this world. Now I think we can have our agreements in the ways of [inaudible 51:16] the production of normality. We have a common front on many, many fronts indeed but there is one world now, we know that there is one world.
Federico: And part of where some of us need to create new things the type of worlds someone must be also to fight against the normality. So when we're talking about the possible world is to say we have to protect a little of diversity but we have to join also in starting against normality.
Stephen: Federico I'm looking at the front page of your Web site the [inaudible 52:00] Abriendo Caminos blog spot and there's a map there, a purple map.
Stephen: In the middle there's Clarene. What's this project about?
Federico: Yes this image you're seeing is just the back of the big media map I was talking about. Clandestine is just a lot of people the main part. It's the main group in Argentina.
Stephen: Okay it is the map I see. Okay.
Federico: It's an interesting situation we're working with this. We're making a mural about this media group and one of this Clandestine Detention Center because it's a very, very heavy story. Claudine was a very important newspaper was created in 1945 and just under the dictatorship was only one newspaper but important for the medium class. But during the dictatorship they began to grow because they made a very sound business the military [inaudible 53:06]. In this business was some kind of gift the military were living to Clarene it was a plan for producing newspaper. The paper for the news. Argentina dictatorship was important most of the paper was using for their tabloids.
So [inaudible 53:26] with all their newspaper like [inaudible 53:30] and there were some were having their own paper factory, so they have very, very cheap paper for producing. They could control most of the prices of the paper for all their newspapers. And in exchange of that they were some kind of minister of information for the dictatorship because they were giving the nice picture about what was happening in Argentina not printing news about the disappearance or the tortures I'm talking about all the achievements of the dictatorship. Now they knew our work the dictatorship the military will remember by self couldn’t do. That was the media one.
And after this after having this new business they began to grow out and the democracy arrived they bought a very important radio and then a TV channel. And then during the national expansion of the Men and Gorbaman they began to grow up and having lots of TV channels, cable TV, internet and suddenly they were the main media group of Argentina. And with this very, very interesting it's also you know that in Argentina there's an organ problem we've got many children where children disappear working by families, military family's relatives of militaries…
…were changed the names were changed and they were not [inaudible 55:10] of these new families. So there are 400 of these children of Clandestine in the hands of these families. There's 100 of them that have been identified and [inaudible 55:23] but this is not a problem. And it was 32 of these kids were given to the owner of Clarene during the dictatorship. And this is a big problem that now has also legal consequence now that there's a child about this. Or the countries waiting for the DNA analysis of these kids this girl and a boy that refuse to give their blood for checking with the genetic databank. But the fact is that the woman the person as their mother is the owner of Clarine.
So I showed you also patterns of the war we're doing now connecting the past with the present and Clarene is the main political party fort his current problems with the government.
Stephen: Yeah. Can I just say something because it's clear what you just said but if you have never heard this story before it seems so unbelievably insane…
Stephen: …that it might be difficult to understand is that the people who were arrested some of them were women who were pregnant and before they were killed they were allowed to give birth to their children, then they were killed. The children were given to families of the military dictatorship and to their friends. So it means that if the owner, the woman who owned Clarene who was infertile actually was given two children those children their mother was murdered shortly after their birth.
Federico: They had two different mothers.
Stephen: Their origin was never acknowledged. And what I think Federico is saying is that beyond the human horror of this 400 cases of it is that if these people are not cooperating, if they're not doing a DNA, if they're not saying I want to know where I came from, is because there's a tremendous amount of money at stake, which shows the complicity between big money, big media and military dictatorship in Argentina. So just to clarify that.
Federico: Thank you. It's just as you said it's something unbelievable this is for making a Hollywood movie because there are a lot of plots and situations. Like for example, in some moment justice decided to go by force and they wear underwear for making DNA analysis.
Stephen: It's not funny but it's so insane.
Federico: But finally they have this underwear of the lady. The guy for some reason was not using underwear in this moment but his pants out. They were at home now it was not on the street or in the [inaudible 58:19] but when they made their [inaudible 58:22] analysis they found not one they made but three. So these people were prepared for the situation.
Federico: And they were close but were contaminated with other people's DNA. So show you a very complex situation between the justice, the police, these firemen, the government, it's really something very, very hard. I think it's just an example we're talking about a very complex club where you see that all these situations are not finished. They're not finished by many reasons but one of them is where you have the habit of children they don't know their origins and they have a cloud of impunitive on them on [inaudible 59:13] of people that could help the parents out with reality but they are still keeping some kind of secrete Clarene.
Federico: Oh it's really depressing what is happening.
Stephen: Just to shift I don't want to take all the time from other people, but just to shift now one of your projects is the Tasha Dehara Mentas the [inaudible 59:40], so the workshop of popular communication tools.
Stephen: What do you mean by tools? I mean could you unpack that a little bit?
Federico: Yes communication tools is all these matters we're talking about is making a [inaudible 59:58] or is making a poster or a mural or a video or a radio program. And what we do is we go to culture centers or we go to schools and we work for some days, normally with junk guys 16, 17, and 18. And what we do is to make them work in communication. So we have a format that we have we're always showing this media map. We talk about concentration of communication in a few hands. We talk about the consequence this has in not only the political but in the shaping of identity, in the shaping of the [inaudible 1:00:44] etc. Then when show one of our medias but it's this [inaudible 1:00:51].
Stephen: All right yeah.
Federico: It's a very strong video because you can see a very powerful [inaudible 1:00:59] in the videos its powerful because it shows this situation very well where you have thousands of guys in the street in front of the apartment of [inaudible 1:01:08] that was one of the men responsible for the dictatorship. And what they're shouting their they're singing there they are expressing their feelings about that. They're facing the police to be able to express their rejection. And after we talk about this we make a connection between the media map and history. This take normally just one hour and a half. And then we decide well it's very important that all of us be able to create our own communication during the next three days you will choose a subject, something you are worried about or interested about. Into the subject you will have to choose one message, just one message an important message to share. And I call in a message to better [inaudible 1:02:04] a strategy of communication. So it's a very nice work to do these people.
Most of the children are in schools they are very [inaudible 1:02:14] and oppressive. And the time that we are there they can have the experience of deciding by themselves. It's very antonymous in a way or some kind of work to decide together what they want to talk about. And what is incredible is the activity that young people have and the eagerness to do things. This is work we make with the [inaudible 1:02:40]. And then entirely after three or four days working with them we have communication or two. We have media normally or we have a graphic production and then we have to decide a way we need this to be. Many times their projections in the schools or in the culture centers where they invite their families and there're always some kind of shock because what is interesting is the children are more readily in school or in these spaces. Also the young people that put more energy for this situation so this change also some relationship between them and their teachers and their families. It's a nice work.
Stephen: Who do you work with when you work with these kids? I mean there's you I kind of know your background you're a biologist become conceptual artist, and for a long time political – I should say one thing also about you that I know is that after living in exile during the dictatorship you made the conscious decision to be a political activist and always to work anonymously. So it's not like you hide your name but you never sign your name to projects right.
Federico: Yes. The work of which I share is Abriendo Caminos work so I share this work with [inaudible 1:04:11]. And we are not always together there are always two or three. We split the situations. So it’s the most intensive work of Abriendo Caminos to work here.
Stephen: What about this motion of anonymity? That's a question of which actually is pretty interesting to us when we think about worlds. Actually I didn't even mean to ask you that question but now that it's come up I want to pursue it a tiny bit. How does that work? I mean you're more depersonalized than anonymous because you'll say oh yeah we work with [inaudible 1:05:06] and so on and you don't hide your name. But one of the problems I know that you have with the GAK was the names became a little bit too important the way they are in the artworld. But I think it's more than not just self-promotion I think there's a kind of politics to it and I'd like you to say something about that.
Federico: Look I'm not against using your name because finally we use it in some spaces. We're not hiding or working in the [inaudible 1:05:41]. I think the discussion was to have a common name not a powerful collective name and I think during the GAK times and also Abriendo Caminos the discussion was to say okay we have to build a collective identity and we have to be very aware of all the problems that are connected with the names because in spaces like the artworld, not only the artworld more so the media world, but whatever culture of work the name becomes very, very important or you have this connection and conflict between resources. And resources money capital or social capital or there are a lot of noise about this.
So I think that also it's some kind of way of putting the pressure on the egos of saying that we're enjoying this time we're sharing this time not for making an [inaudible 1:06:44] but because we want to create something that is new. But at the beginning, for example, when I started to make political work in the university we also had this strategy with the group I was working with. But also in the beginning of the democracy you feel some pressure that you didn't want to be very, very shame. You were not very sure about what could happen if you used your own name for everything you did. So it was also some way of protection. Now the situation has changed a lot because we have this formal democracy for 50 years and I think with all this development of revolution of the web the political of anonymous is really reduced.
So I think there are very different reasons to work in anonymous way but I think it's good for a specific situation it's not something you really have to do. I think that it's good that Argentina also a very long culture of being anonymous because it's a country where you had more time under dictatorship under democracy. So protecting the identity was something shared by a very wide territory of different social organizations was a way of protection. But when we were talking about this problem with GAK more than safety I think it was it was this rejection to the way that the artworld would be which means [inaudible 1:08:34].
Stephen: Yeah right.
Federico: But I can [inaudible 1:08:41] lot of the media world and I'm very happy to know the names of the people that are doing the nice thing. Everybody every can do it's going to be the same person all the time. I think we should play all the different activities. In fact we are not the same person all the time we're not the same person with the people we love or with our family or work. And we have a lot of schizophrenic pressure. So I think it's good to be aware of this and be able to put your name on some situation and then another name for another situation and playing with different identities. I think they only want to discuss our way of starting to do these. To say "Okay I'm not the same guy all the time, now I can change my name for every action." The name also is part of the action so sometimes you can have really nice names for an action that can also help to give them a new meaning.
Stephen: Very definitely. Greg did you have a question because I have another one but it's kind of goes in a different way. Do you want to pursue that a little bit?
Greg: No not specifically. I mean I think this whole chat has been really amazing about how we've been talking about all these different things. And I really am curious, and this is something we always ask our guest, is what does the future hold. I mean I know that a lot will happen what did you say on the 21st, but is that the next sort of stage of this project or are there things that you'll be looking to complete in the next few months or year?
Federico: Well it's a good question. I think it's a big problem because the situation that all the work of the human rights is trite against impunitive has a big problem. So many people participated it was not just a few guys. You could dedicate all your life to follow these guys as they went through trials and not doing anything else. And even in that case you couldn't put them all in child. So I don't know what's going to happen now but the situation of 21 is original because it's one of the first trials that's going to end and we have the sentence, so it will be open in this situation.
About future well there are a lot of questions. We want to go onto work this grassroots work. And I don't know what we are going to do with the trials of next year. We are in a moment of lots of discussion inside the group of how to dedicate with time because what we were talking knowing this chat I think it's the potential that there is when we do the work in a specific territory and there are all these problems of human rights and natural situation the media groups also needs lots of time. So we've seen all the time divided, not only because we have to work for surviving but our free time or political time has also many, many fronts which have to decide what we're going to do next year. What will be our main focus?
Greg: Yeah it sounds.
Federico: We will go on all these situations of trials will go on because we are just a group that are making part of this work of issues and all the friend organizations are going to go on with this. But this is really an open question because there are not many experiences about it.
Stephen: Federico I have two kinds of questions very different. I mean when we last spoke we talked about what I think is a very interesting conceptual project that was done by a young, well it was put together but it wasn't done by him he just put the book together, by a young guy called LaRosa called [inaudible 1:13:03] Gabrielle Lopez about the third disappearance of a man by the name of Lopez. Lopez who was first sequestered kidnapped by the military dictatorship but somehow survived. And because he was a key witness in these trials they're ongoing disappeared again, in other words he was kidnapped and probably killed when [inaudible 1:13:36] killed. And there was a big human cry and then he disappeared from the media.
So this project that has been done by a number of different artists but what they call the third disappearance of Julio Lopez right. Julio is it or Gabrielle?
Federico: Yes Julio.
Stephen: Julio Lopez. And so they've made it their point that no one shall ever forget that there is so far no answer to how it is even under democracy, even under a government that pretends there's human rights and democracy in Argentina that they cannot answer the question why it is that a key witness has disappeared in the middle of a trial. And even though they know who did it for reasons of political power can't say who did it. Now you could say such problems exist in the United States they exist everywhere but what was interesting to me is what your analysis of it was. And I thought it was interesting artistic perspective is because you said it's not an interesting question to say where is Julio Lopez if you don't also associate it with a different question. Could you unpack that because I was really fascinated by the way you described it to me last week?
Federico: Yes I remember we were talking about that and it was a very strong shock because it was a new disappeared after more than 20 years. It was like a nightmare that was common but again this is not only the case that this happened also woman who Santa Fe promised that was killed in a very strange situation but she was also witness once this [inaudible 1:15:26]. But I think that the problem is that the Julio Lopez was showing the police, the police of Buenos Aires that is the biggest police force in Argentina, was not under control of the government not the strict government control. Because it was the mafia everybody knows that the mafia. We do in Argentina we want to make a remake of Godfather the [inaudible 1:15:58] actors we'll be using a police unit. And so it's a very strong complex situation.
But when this happened all the human rights group they had to discuss how are they going to go on and I think it's a part of human flesh. But finally they could go on because also they were inside the police there are also different events. Now the police is not a [inaudible 1:16:31] but also being used by many groups to say okay this justice movement has now a very sound meaning because the problem still exists but the police has done so many people he used the feeling of Julio Lopez saying he was in this trial of justice so he has a chance to go on.
So finally what I think is saying just where is Julio Lopez is neglecting that we know that Julio Lopez was disappeared by a very specific mafia inside the police which is related to some guys that were being judged. But the main problem is that we're living in a territory where there is a very complex [inaudible 1:17:16] of forces between the friend Air Force and the [inaudible 1:17:20]. It's a very complex situation how to deal with that. If you have a image when you have a government and the government control all the territory of the police you're living in another reality.
Stephen: Absolutely. I think it's – I'm fascinated by the way you analyze this because not only does it make art into a kind of a useful – your outlook means that you take art to be a useful strategic tool. And you just don't sort of make an artwork about some sort of form of social indignation. You don't say "This is a scandal. Where is Julio Lopez?" You use art in a strategic way to produce certain results in the world, and yet I feel you're doing it in a way that doesn't instrumentalize art because a tool can be an instrument.
Stephen: But this is a kind of a machine more than an instrument somehow. It don't know because you can see the danger right. You can see that if it's just about trying to produce some kind of immediate result and to measure the power balance and so on. But in fact it's more about pushing on a number of different buttons at the same time. Because you're not saying let's not ask that question because we might embarrass the government.
Federico: Of course.
Stephen: There's no censorship right.
Federico: You have to do something about you cannot neglect this way is very different to go and ask the government and only the government instead of going and ask the police directly.
Federico: I think it is part of the left culture we have a conversation where you try to say we're all the same, police are all the same, they're all the same sharing some kind of disturbing state of [inaudible 19:27:6]. And I think it's very important to be able to make [inaudible 1:19:34] not to say okay not all these situations are the same we have to be able to make difference contrast, not for accepting them, not to melting with them, but to say okay this is all about complete shit and this and anonymous shit and they're not one for fracture, they're not diversity inside the shape like not being able to deal with any complexity of life or political.
So in position to the Julio Lopez affair I think the answer was to talk about Julio Lopez to ask about him but putting your thoughts and the creativity team and going on with the justice situation.
Stephen: Right. Okay. And the other question, I said I had two questions because following up on what Greg was asking about what the future holds, the other question is that I have a kind of a skewed view of Argentina because I see – I mean my friends or my network in Argentina is largely based on sort of conceptual artist who are also political activist. So I have an idea that the entire country is sort of extraordinarily open minded and progressive kind of project, which I know also is far being the truth. But one of the particularities of your group as opposed to anybody else I know is that you have done a lot of work in the south of the country.
And when I say the south of course I mean with the Mapuche Indians. And I've actually asked that question to other groups for whom I have a lot of respect. The [inaudible 1:21:29] for example and I said yeah "Abriendo Caminos they work with the Mapuche Indians why don't you have any contacts? Why are you ignoring that whole social dimension?" And they say they just don't, I don't know, they're not point in there. So how does that work for you? How is it that you are point into that community and what kind of work are you doing with them and what will you be doing in the future with them?
Federico: With whom?
Stephen: Well I don't know exactly with whom, but I know you have done work in the south right…
Stephen: …of Argentina.
Federico: Yes. This is going to go on because we have friends living in [inaudible 1:22:13] and they work all the time with this situation. So we try to go and we try to create also situations with them. But going to the first side of the intervention is that I really think that they're happening just to the political [inaudible 1:22:37] you become here. We're feeling quite far away from this specialist spaces. In this spaces it's normal to talk about relationships between politics and us and that means a lot of accumulation of previous and former debates. And in fact now we're not talking about that. It's not a problem. The contact I have with this group of people is very sharp and it was I think three or four years. Because I think that there are some limitations very strong limitations either discussions about that are being held that it's a small world.
And I think this small world would be more productive and more creative in another moment of history. I think that there are moments of more activity of more political activity like we have in the 2001, 2002, and 2003 when you have a population of people mixing and where you have a special openness in the people that want to make a sensitive part. But they're also some kind of recluse where the participation of artist is not as creative. I think one moment of this I'm talking is the person nowadays. I think that the possibility that the artistic groups they make a collaboration and it's very open to the situation of society.
Stephen: Right. Okay.
Federico: And this is a moment of a lot of I think creative work that's been happening and is happening in outside group not only social organizations. But of course there are moment people were mixing. We have very encouraging moment in 2002 and 2003 with the media classes and the working classes were mixing in these teams and they were sharing a lot of their production material and subjective production. And that was a moment that is not happening in the same way. I think it just happened.
Stephen: Okay. Well I feel like one question I always have, not always but often have for our guest and it seems like an oversimplified question but doesn't really get to the heart of the matter, but that is I noticed you had mentioned that you're a biologist or at one point you considered yourself to be a biologist. And I'm wondering do you see yourself would you call yourself an artist? Would you feel comfortable calling yourself an artist or do you believe that it's silly to even think about that, or how do you think about that term?
Federico: I was talking with my brother two weeks ago about this and I told him that I'm not an artist. He was laughing at me because he thought it was like some kind of very childish attitude for me.
Stephen: How come did he say why?
Federico: When I travel I put myself as a teacher when I have to feel this when these things you have to feel the airport I put teacher. I think it's only because I have conflicts with the art world. I think a lot of my work can be thought of as an artistic production.
Federico: Well I started biology and then began to do graphic work always with the political but I think if my country [inaudible 1:26:44] because I think we cannot generalize our countries with the whole world. We share some problems but I don't know when you go to a place like Germany where you have millions tens of thousands of artist living your political discussions are very different when you go to a city like Buenos Aires where you can have maybe [inaudible 1:27:11] at this being the political.
Federico: It's a very small world you know everyone.
Federico: And in some places I think the one half can be more strong and more political than another. If you got to [inaudible 1:27:26] you will find many groups [inaudible 1:27:31] an incredible constellation of groups then your attitude to outcome would be the same. I think art is a very powerful thing. It's a very good way for talking about other matters also. And in Argentina you have to talk in your words it's very strong any place. You can start talking about art and to talk about history or about human sensitivity or biological problems that are there. But we know that in many, many places art still has a very strong [inaudible 1:28:00] and the same work by itself creates some physical attitudes and obstacles to talk about the police.
Stephen: Yeah I think that's as this whole evening has been very insightful and well considered. It's a term that I struggle with often because I earn my living by teaching so I consider…
Federico: What do you teach?
Stephen: I teach media. I don't know how else to categorize it but my background is in Art but in media based arts. So I always was very reluctant to take on this title of artist and yet as soon as I started teaching it just kind of became a natural way of defining myself in an area that was not the art department. So it's funny how I fell back to art when I was outside of the art world.
Federico: Of course.
Stephen: And now what you said is very resonant with me. It's like I recall why I was so resistant to necessarily call myself an artist but it's probably out of laziness to some degree.
Federico: Yes. But I think it's good that we can train ourselves to give different answers in different situations. And to be able to say I'm an artist and to be able to say I'm a teacher or I'm whatever. I am [inaudible 1:29:47].
Federico: I'm a researcher or do I have to paint this house inside? It's very [inaudible 1:29:55] if I simply play with the schizophrenic and I have to go…
Federico: …because we're suffering a lot with that. And being a schizophrenia in society is putting us have to deliver us perhaps it's schizophrenia it's not trying to be different.
Stephen: Well said.
Federico: Now we have to look at the democratic way in which all of the different identities can be and contributed to happiness but now I have a certain to just one.
Federico: I just think the uniqueness seem very hard to achieve very shape.
Stephen: I think we are great.
Federico: I hear that you have like the magic because it's in here. This whole discussion around slackers.
Federico: But when your concept is published we can share it.
Federico: And when I say we I'm talking just about myself.
Stephen: Listen I think maybe that's a really good note, we I'm just talking about myself, that sounds like a pretty good note to end this discussion. For me anyway it's 2:00 in the morning here or it will be in two minutes. So Greg thank you for anchoring this with your usual eloquence and thank you Federico for joining us from Buenos Aires to talk about these really fascinating approaches. I mean we have I must say diversity has been the watch word and the principle of certainty but tonight was a particularly diverse example of diversity.
Greg: Yes absolutely. Yeah thanks for joining us it's been really amazing.
Federico: Also very nice for me to it's like some kind of psychoanalytical situation of the things I like and they were allowed.
Stephen: Schizoid analytic.
Federico: Yes. I would like to know your faces and also to know what you are doing. And I think I not only would like to join more about the project to see the production you have to really know the participation.
Stephen: Wonderful we'd love to have you.
Federico: I think I saw you making love to this local work and this situations they're important in national terms. Yeah I think it's very important for us interchange with people with other realities. I think something that's very good for the potential and plus afterwards this way of interchanging.
Stephen: Feel free to join us next week if you're so inclined to over the phone. We're not going to be doing it so regularly in 2011 but there will be a few – I think we won't be able to resist having a few…
Stephen: …discussions from time-to-time. But anyway feel free.
Federico: Okay thank you we would like that.
Federico: So until next Tuesday. Thank you very much.
Stephen: Thank you. Goodnight.
Federico: We said goodbye.
This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.
This week we’ll be talking with Branka Curcic and Zoran Pantelic of new media center_kuda.org, an independent organization in Novi Sad, Serbia, which brings together artists, media activists, and researchers interested in the political uses, creative misuses and social repurposing of free and open information and communications technologies.
“Kuda” means “where to?” and that open-ended query is pretty much the conversation-starter that underlies all the organization’s activities and programs. Initially, the question was quite literally about the world in which the small media center was trying to emerge. Its current day offices, and former activities space, is situated between a post office and a fishmonger in an industrial working class neighbourhood far from the city center. The original set of old computers that made up the center’s internet café were discarded Bavarian government machines from the 1990s, picked up by kuda.org director Zoran Pantelic, who hauled them to Serbia shortly after the NATO air raids, reconfiguring them all with Linux operating systems. Those prehistoric beasts now stand on a selfmade bar in one of the rooms of the center. Today as before, for all visitors to kuda.org, Internet access (on much newer machines!) is as free as a free beer.
Kuda.org’s work focuses on questions concerning the interpretation and analysis of the history and significance of the information society, the potential of information itself, and its influence on social policy making. New Media Center_kuda.org opens space for both cultural dialog and alternative methods of education and research through a series of programs, including kuda.lounge (a series of presentation, talks and lectures — some 100 events since 2000), kuda.info (providing free internet access), kuda.production (a matrix for publishing and exhibition) as well as offering free bandwidth to artists and activists.
Clearly, the world in which Kuda.org operates is utterly at odds with the mainstream political, cultural and artistic landscape of post-Socialist Yugoslavia and contemporary Serbia — a lifeworld adverse and often hostile to the types of practices kuda.org thinks of as “art”. Looking at kuda.org’s track record, one cannot but wonder whether worldmaking is not inevitably informed by a performative “where-to” logic. But at the same time, kuda.org has provided a platform for assembling answer’s to its eponymous question — one that seeks to extract its own consistency from the components of the assemblages which it has produced. The enduring question is how to do just that over the long term — how to assemble plausible collectivities that function as counter-currents against all the seductions of fall-back positions, become aware of their own pitfalls and blindspots, while finding ways to realize their potential, risking themselves in the face of others.
Week 48: kuda.org
Scott: Hello can you hear us okay?
Stephen: Can we hear him okay?
Scott: Super awesome.
Zoran: Can you hear us Scott? I'm going to turn this up a bit.
Scott: Yeah I can hear you. I think everybody here can probably hear you really well.
Cassie: Yeah sounds good.
Scott: Yeah so we're here with Michael, Chris, Cassie, Matthew, Quinton and Scott and there may be some other people trickling in. Just wanted to say hi to Branka and Zoran.
Stephen: Well let me introduce you to our – Scott are you guys hearing me okay?
Scott: Oh yeah.
Stephen: Okay. I wanted to introduce you to our two guests who are sitting right beside me here. Zoran on my left and a little bit further the extreme left…
Branka: The extreme left thank you.
Stephen: …Branka. Adam are you hearing us okay because Adam is reporting breakup.
Scott: I wondered if it was just because you stopped for a second or…
Scott: …initially. Okay cool.
Stephen: Good. Well you want to say a few words by way of introduction Scott or do you want me to say something?
Scott: Oh not at all just wanted to say hello first off. Hey guys thank for the intro.
Scott: And hi to everybody else on Skype. We have a short write up but yeah Steven it would be great if you could give a super quick intro. Here's a short description for everyone if you haven't seen it.
Stephen: And it seems that I didn't make too many serious mistakes in the little write up except that I forgot to add that across the street in this working class neighborhood there is a park called the 88 Closest Park in honor of Martial Tito. And in the middle of the park there's a very large red star which kind of sets the little bit the ambiance for this neighborhood.
I'm not going to say really too much because I sort of wrote what I had to say but just that Kuda has been kind of one of those exemplary honing artworlds and I'm really glad that I guess it's the 49th, 48th week of the year we're finally able to actually talk to them. The Kuda played a – I'll let you guys fill us in on the details – but you've been around for awhile now and you've played a really instrumental role in promoting free and open information technology culture as way for creating an art sustained environment and also for creating another political sustaining environment. I mean I think if it's for you art and political action, culture action are quite indistinguishable and that distinguish is really very much in tuned with what we've been calling Plausible Artworlds last year.
So Zoran, Branka I'll turn it over to you. Do you want to like just give us a presentation of what this is all about and why and then we'll start firing questions at you.
Branka: Wow! So I think you should start basically because you were the starter.
Zoran: Yeah. I see what you said now it's already the case. And yes it sounds like we actually took a lot of the – we learned a lot also in the [inaudible 04:26]. Basically we started to snip and to establish ourselves as well and to invite as much as possible people from all around to be our guest here. And in this place here since 2000 to 2006 or '07 was a public space where we were to invite as much possible people who was started to be almost like part of the scene to share and to change all these knowledge and some particular aspects of new technology.
So last year has actually been we can talk more precisely of this relationship between our components. From the very beginning was actually just pulled when we actually more deeper and to learn about to this aspect. Later on according to some experts and some divisions what we actually developed it's also very much consist of the personal religion because at the moment for us actually we put that as a core structure of the organization. And during the year we actually established a lot of events includes a lot of the collaborate. So that's eventually the structure at the moment. And according the banquets are our personally responsibility it's also developed the tracts of our interest or some platforms of the projects and phenomenon work they would like to work. So I'm not going to say anymore and maybe Branka can just jump in.
Greg: But maybe Stephen has a question sorry.
Stephen: Very specific question when did you [breaking up] what year?
Zoran: It was actually the end of 2000, actually officially the program 2000-2001. The next year already came.
Stephen: Right. And this story about actually bringing the old computers down from Germany that is reported to be according to Snyder is actually true.
Stephen: And you put them all together and you made it into an internet café actually.
Zoran: Sort of yeah. That was actually a free access point.
Stephen: A free access point.
Zoran: For the neighborhood.
Branka: Let me say that daily practice on the public space…
Branka: …was to have a free access in this as you said working area of the city. And you have to understand it's Southeast Europe that 2000 infrastructure was not really developed so they actually had quite a lot of people coming into use the internet. It only became relatively obsolete to have things in taxes because of course technology came to the homes, infrastructures got better. So actually they function as a free internet access and free access to the library quite large library we've collected over the years. And then usually with some evening programs.
Yes some local artists or art critics giving a lecture, presenting the movies and discussions. So basically the public space was established not as a gallery space, not as the exhibition space, although we both for example come in there from the artistic background let's say, but it was intended to be place for discussions because we felt like really big lack of this kind of a state in indecision maybe all say in Serbia.
Stephen: Yeah I think that maybe for the – I don't want to overemphasize local specificity but it's true that with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s when the war that left Serbia extremely ostracized. Not only that getting bombed b the US Air Force, but left it ostracized from many progressive people throughout Europe. And so it must have been kind of a solitary experience and I imagine in that sense that technology – I don't want to make it sound more than it was but kind of a linking to the rest world and get other information. That must have been a pretty important political thing to do. I mean it's important for us to talk to you today so it's always important to talk to other people. But in those years that must have meant more presses no.
Zoran: It is I mean the ratio and the role of technology was actually much more very related to that end of the table was very interesting because it was a really important channel to get any of the scope, to be part of the [inaudible 09:33]. So for a lot of people it was a kind of really opportunity for a partner to kind of emerge already. But later on was actually decided we could be perfect especially when it was actually becomes professional from the agency and the telecoms and etc. But just because of this imagine and this kind of a search and this kind of critical approach was actually difficult even for us and was actually very important and we actually crate – first I must say it was actually very focused and we actually started to realize and to become more clear for ourselves to understand and how to retro. And then later on we actually started to give up as a more established platform. Branka.
Branka: Well I have to say that although at the end of the night is this whole intimate thing and the new technologies and the promise of that world that came with that kind of ideology somehow for a brief moment worked out maybe from giving the people a different kind of a new access to something outside of Serbia. But from the beginning, as Zoran said we started in 2001 basically things a bit changed, and from the very beginning actually when we started our interest was in the very beginning to explore what's going on in this critical internet culture or critical new media culture. So it was never looked at it as a kind of, I don't know, California ideology but what California ideology was preaching basically. But more to see what things behind the culture the functioning but kind of an alternative to maybe the settled practices existing within that internet culture. And that's, how for example, in the very beginning we got the public methods from Vienna. They were quite, let me say, influential, important for our own work.
Stephen: Can you say a word about that?
Branka: Now it's something completely different it changed over time. This corporate organization and the name of the organization now they're called Burle Information Institute but back then they used to be a public internet based Institute for Progressive Internet Culture Network Culture, I forgot sorry. And they were originally from Vienna from the early 90s they started with this course, like you said, critical net culture. And not only that they were quite, like you say, critical in trying to act against, for example culture policies in Vienna, commercializing of misusing the whole public funds and many different – actually in a way also [inaudible 13:22] of the works. So but I wanted to say besides from this fickle media discourse but later on we actually did eventually many other things.
So when Stephen is saying our connection with art I'm still a little bit wandering what it is? What kind of connection is – what is political regarding? See that's something interesting that we can talk about or you can help us to figure it out.
Stephen: Well maybe – I know definitely that's what I'm here for – but maybe before that it would be important to talk about specifically your programs because you have about three or four different programs.
Branka: We have many…
Branka: …over all these years. So basically with those just to feel us and to feel people here with, let me use this phrase, typical internet culture. So for the first three years basically organizing lectures and presentations of really different people, from those mentioned from Vienna Florence Mider and Collective Berg. Really people quite kept wanting people really if it's important in that moment. A little bit we started to organize in 2003 with the [inaudible 14:57] for example because this kind of tutorial, but let me say not typical tutorial practices, are also like important for us.
What is interesting in my view of people that we are talking to actually of interest is that we're actually very well documented all that was going on in our space. We installed a little system of surveillance cameras inside our space so we were a little bit moratoria actually of what's going on but it gives us really nice possibilities to preserve all that like the same knowledge to use over the years. And since a couple of months now after almost a year it's finally available on our Web site so you can download or watch many different lectures that were given here in this.
Stephen: So this is like kind of an archiving of critical and creative culture basically.
Branka: Yeah like you say.
Stephen: First of all you produced it and then you archived it.
Stephen: But that archive is kind of a last you can have a history also in terms of practices today which is really quite essential.
Branka: Well yeah sure.
Stephen: Can we send a link to one of those things?
Zoran: Let me see where is it.
Branka: It's here but maybe you archive like Sales for example.
Stephen: And it's like 127 like that.
Branka: Yeah it's like 60 or more.
Scott: I was actually thinking – yeah sorry excuse me – I was actually thinking it might interesting if you don't mind, though I wouldn't necessarily always recommend this for these chats, but if you wouldn't mind giving us a kind of an intro to how to navigate your Web site. Just because I think you've set it up in a way that seems to match your programs. I thought and since it's sounds like anyway the beginning of your project it was setup as kind of an internet portal of sorts, maybe your Web site is pretty important it might help people to get a better understanding of the project overall.
Stephen: Okay you want to do that?
Branka: Yeah sure. That's actually a very good idea sometimes I forget. But it's actually on our Web site all our programs are quite well documented at least we try to have them well documented. So we started from this lounge of video archive just to maybe we also a little fascinating because we just setup this kind of a video archive on our Web site but also some video kind of a clue what kind of initiatives in people we were interested in from the beginning. So you see here one of the most inspiring things for us in 2003 was to have breaks of them discussions with critical art ensemble for example. I mentioned that since I guess you know that of course…
Stephen: Yeah we can paste that in for example.
Zoran: That's good.
Stephen: For example.
Branka: For example yeah, but this actually those studio operate much connection with those early years like I say 2004 is quite like I said biggest part of our activity. Then this is like in the main menu on the Web site its Kuda.lounge Kuda.info is basically the home page. Like the information connected to our own activities and on the right sidebar you can see that Zoran's choosing some kind of familiar or interesting events that we like to inform people about.
So Kuda.lounge you click on it there is like from 2001 to 2006 basically very well documented also video archive, but also a little textual like you say report about it. So you can see over the years how things also changed for u 2002 was the most like exploding one that I can get over, I don't know, 20 or 30, 2003 a little bit less because we started already with tutorial practice and also with the publishing project. And then time you can see that the number is a little bit shrinking to 2005 with a little bit more.
And then since 2006 we actually started a little bit to abandon our own public space to recreate it into the virtual space more or our own working space since we started to collaborate more with a couple of institutions in the city like. All those lectures held in 2006 were actually hosted by the museum of contemporary arts. Here actually was, for example now, hosting Stephen. There is a link in a couple of ways to go with the museum which is completely another story it's not really like all, like you say, museums of contemporary art where is total hierarchical organization. Like for example some of the cities in Western Europe. It's also quite flexible I can say. It's very easy in a way to establish the contact and to work it.
Stephen: Okay so the question was, Kuda.lounge is the largest part of Kuda activities, is that what you said, or did you say it was the largest part of some?
Branka: It was.
Stephen: It was.
Branka: It was. So maybe I can go just a bit more further. Perhaps you can see all the different…
Stephen: Yeah is this from the archive on Kuda production.
Branka: Yeah and there you get your exhibitions you get the publications to organizing [inaudible 22:32]. A project them some richer projects, rest of conferences, a little bit of media productions and some campaigns, and like you say, other lectures which we organize. But let me say that maybe those who the business in publications are something that we directed our main activities for 2004 forward. Exhibitions I think they're not given all of the documented here because some of them are also examples here in the actual product still going on. Because they are like for example collaborative projects that the lodging spending over a couple of years sometimes very difficult to put them under different categories on the Web site.
Stephen: If we look at them, I mean just off the top of my head I notice that they're largely I mean they're based largely around digital media in many cases. They're always collective almost always. They're invariably dealing with political issues and they're I think almost always an exception drawing on the political potential of conceptual art right.
Branka: Yeah I mean that was cool.
Stephen: We think of position of object and never…
Stephen: I mean I could ideally think that you didn't but…
Branka: No. Maybe I should just give a couple of examples. For example, that those are like also different types of exhibitions. Some of the exhibitions for example are like you say imported. Like all the information goes all the exhibitions were produced by this nearly public message collection. But we felt like it's a really good moment to present that and to have it in Serbia. And that's really to basically containing some of…
Zoran: That's a different story totally.
Branka: To Jim my good friend he actually lives in new Philly.
Zoran: Very good.
Branka: So estimated to summarize somehow it's really, really about the art object. It's about concept, it's about maybe the most trying to contextualize art practices, not the actual object this is something that's really at least interested in but…
Stephen: If you contextualize it that's…
Branka: Try to contextualize it because to this notion of having the like autonomous piece of art is really not sustainable since long time ago but it was never interesting for us to look at the art as something isolated. I'd always put it in – and to try to look like the social, what some kind of economic background, production to this condition from that particular. And it's just I'd never really the art they're more interested into art practices, art as some intent or successful social engagement out of the process, out of the collective practice. It's something that we are trying to experience into practice our own.
So some of those exhibitions are actually already done for example, we did also this additional alternative economics of certain societies, one also actually [inaudible 27:20]. And then didn't object it was quite authorized it's really one author because he collected over the years interviews with really different people coming from different backgrounds and disciplines about possible or plausible alternatives in the economics and like we say social kinds of organizations. And I want to just you to pay attention the continuous odd place. This is something for example that is totally from our production our practice from the scratch.
Stephen: The continuous art class.
Stephen: Great credit.
Branka: Yes. And in subtitles and other New Orleans guides are from the 60s and 70s. So basically there was a time of the breaking point in 2005 to start a little bit to go a little bit further in connectional to local context and how we felt like it's the right moment for that. So we decided to look a little bit in the history of [inaudible 28:40] basically something that the sphere might connected with international conceptualized of the 60s and 70s but it was slightly important for us to look in now our own backyard and to see what their kind of challenges that really are trying to build a little bit upon. Those were – maybe you can say I talk too much.
Zoran: Yeah okay. Basically I can just add in principle what you actually said is usually its actually collaborative practice. But to find out very interesting for us that all those groups from 60s I mean mirror [inaudible 29:26] and other side was actually pretty much concerned about this collaborative work. And we find out very interesting for us and something that we're actually doing and practicing very much is something that we actually find out is a very, very clear caricature and a very practice until just recently.
Stephen: Okay. You thought you were inventing something and in fact you find it very interesting.
Zoran: And we find accordingly we actually know it was the lack of [inaudible 30:00] that's their lives.
Zoran: They're actually playing on some kind of machine parts. And that's the reason why the following parts of this publishing parts were actually called a [inaudible 30:11] because it's a little bit, it's never really done on a proper way. And then all those guide actually from the moment actually we put much unknown on the school in the education system.
Branka: Guys and girls.
Zoran: Guys and girls. And then we decide to work with them and then to try to establish at least to make them a strong spotlight on whatever. And to create something more clearer to what is our big now locally. And then it actually starts to be, an especially also.
Branka: This is a collection of the cultural practices like you say and our own we cannot prioritize it its simple. Sorry.
Zoran: So basically as Branka said since 2005 actually we start to reach our scope in certain length in this kind of capacity of the collective. And so then we started to be more active in this research part trying to develop another track of researching our own local base structure on then to going on both directions, going into the recent past and trying to connect with this practice with [inaudible 31:29] collective movements and their own practices and how we can share them to make them more connections with the present production. And on the other side it still connects with the international scene.
So that was actually since 2005 actually we tried to develop on both sides. So this continuing art class it's actually some title which is come from local Serbia gang which comes out in the guys from the product from Young and Newman. To notice how they actually performed public performances in a public space call it public art class which sounds in Serbian language Yamani class. And then continuous art class is actually trying [inaudible 32:31] so just continuing something actually creates this structure and [inaudible 32:39] how we actually include all those things. And that through this process actually still to now actually we tried to in some parts of to this specimen of opening this door, the structural door of the conception moment in Serbia, specifically [inaudible 33:01], we actually start to develop some other aspects of whatever they did. And with some still very active turbulence we actually continue to work.
So just recently actually we just made a DVD about selling [inaudible 33:23] directive from [inaudible 33:27] and essentially the whole process reactivates and to create this closing interaction with the programs from 60s still very active.
Stephen: Wasn't one of the major Yugoslav conceptual art collective after '56.
Stephen: And they were from…
Zoran: No, no, they were from [inaudible 33:50].
Stephen: Yeah. What are some of the names that I should know from Novi Sad?
Zoran: From Novi Sad?
Branka: There are many like individual artists that also joined in the different groups to work collectively. So they for example had a group called Codes. And they in a couple of cases tried to be very provocative. In other words, in some times in physical Yugoslavia like really hard and political times and they really tried to provoke a bit. And they employed from their perspective to call themselves the January Group in January, the February Group in February.
Stephen: I got.
Branka: In fact someone accused them like February Group did this and this…
Branka: …but it happened in March. They said "No, no, the February Group doesn't exist anymore."
Stephen: Oh I see.
Branka: So they finally very short.
Stephen: It's a problem to hear that. That's what we have to do for the exhibition series it has to be basically a linear cycle that changes its name every linear cycle.
Scott: Oh man that's a good idea.
Scott: Yeah I wanted to ask you another question though and I just pasted it but I'll read it out. I really like what – and you know what I just noticed the error on the posted question, but you know I'll go ahead and finish my thought just so that I'm not jumping all over the place here, and then we can get to that. But I was wondering if you guys are, I know you work with other people I mean the archive of different people that you've talked to and other things that you've been involved with is pretty extensive.
The question earlier sort of triggered this for me or the thing that you mentioned a moment ago triggered this for me. I wonder sometimes when people, especially tutorial groups who are involved in archiving, there seems to be I think among a lot of people interested in archiving collective culture in particular a sense of shared ownership and interest in breaking down some of what can easily become a sort of aggressive non-competitiveness for lack of better terms. And I was curious if you guys had had any thoughts or maybe had even been involved in any initiatives to try to merge some of those efforts, especially efforts around the getting a better sense of what collective creativity can be or what collectivity and art can do or the limitations of it and that sort of thing.
Branka: You mean merge like take over or…
Scott: I didn't mean takeover in particular I meant systems where say we're involved in some of that too and so are you, and yet in order to get that kind of information the best way that we can do it right now is browse to one another's Web sites. And of course we can talk to one another like we are now but how often do we really get to do it. And so I think one of the questions that I have is if there's an idea, and I'm not assuming that you have this, that there could be some kind of, whether it's social benefit or just general interest or whatever of this research into collective practice, that can add some value to someone one way or another? I'm curious if you think that there could be some value in accentuating that research or actually – what am I trying to say – mutually…
Stephen: You mean sharing an interest.
Scott: Yeah. Each one contributing to something that could sort of compound, or not necessarily only amplify in a mutual exclusive way but maybe compile or actually make better, if you know what I mean by catenating.
Stephen: Confederate to use a word that is not used very much in this part of the world anymore right. To confederate lack of energies you mean. I'm sorry I was just…
Stephen: That's sort of a joke.
Scott: Sure I think that's my question even though I'm stuttering through it. I think the question is about your level of interest in those sorts of possibilities.
Branka: Yeah. Our experiences really different let me say. And I personally find collective birth extremely important but also very demanding and very hard work, let me say, actually rarely now practice we meet other people in collectives that we can really exchange with. And this is something which is I would say also quite understandable but also maybe a little bit, if I may say so, a bit for me disappointing. Because you can see the people's interest are going really in different ways.
So it happens like many times and after the, for example, funding of one project has ended that the whole group is split or inside of the organizing one project or one network or many different factors are included. How this network or how this collaborative work is, or what basis is it set on? There are many cases that have been invited by interesting groups or individuals to start with new research projects for example based only on the funding opportunities. Of course that's rarely worked but in some cases it works. So I mean it really depends on the many different factors. But what I can summarize really and say this collaborative practice of me and I think for us if I can say, some kind of a sensual way of work, but I can also see how fragile it is. How people are really, really in a really fast moving attention let me say to this kind of a production or work. I don't know if this answers any of your questions but this is what I had in mind.
Zoran: More or less I mean it's actually something but is actually almost the case as you already mentioned before that this kind of collaborative structure it's going to produce more and more sublevels of producing and kind of discussions like platform. It's not necessarily to really produce something which could be kind of a final part of the communication but it's actually going to this kind of level of discussion causes and how we actually learn to really listen to each other.
So basically it's actually depends on the partner or someone who's actually collaborating in a particular phenomenon or some particular event. It's also pretty much interesting for us to learn about cultural differences. And also what Branka mentioned just recently it's also comes to these kind of very personal level when we're actually talking about sometimes a particular work. So in general I think this collaborative central is still getting as any medal with both sides but in general it's actually getting through much more open doors for getting more and more and more productive essential things than we actually never really ended this process. And it comes to be in a very, very exciting way.
Branka: Good questions.
Zoran: A list of questions.
Stephen: We have some questions here. Aaron has a question and he's had it for awhile. So Aaron do you want to ask that question or do you want me to read it out for you? Aaron asks it sounds like the local context that are important to you yet at the same time you're interested in making links with other locations plus the possible geopolitical contact such as critical art ensemble. Could you say what exactly the importance of that kind of interest and exploration?
Branka: Yeah well sure it's different geopolitical context. I mean as I said the local context is really is much of our concern but not only, we cannot look at local context without considering the broader picture as we say. In particularly if you are mentioning the practices the methods employed for example, the critical art example we are taking them as examples there. I cannot say something that could be applied here or there could be. It's not really important. I'm more referring to the methodology of their understanding of what collective and their collective practices in agricultural are they're openness and understanding I don't know current political situation compensation of odd in connection with science giving all those, like I say tune, or in a way several things more to the audience.
Stephen: More visible.
Branka: More visible let me say. So it's more like it's an ideology of them than on the first place there on the political context because I'm not sure I'm clear here.
Stephen: Well I think that maybe I would even disagree with the premise of the question because it seems to me that the people that you're interested in and the reason that we're interested in you is because you're interested in something like a very – I don't know if you would agree – like a contestitory culture. A culture of challenging existence and challenging it with a certain symbolic violence like not simply negotiating with it, negotiating with it but not really, running up against it is hard and proposing something else instead. And I think if I look at the list of guests and the list of projects it seems to me that more than geopolitical diversity it's political dissidence that would characterize your approach.
Branka: Yeah I mean I'm usually very hesitant to use this big words like…
Branka: Dissidence has really particular history over here but since we started to research in our local conceptual art and we are on guard here of closely got interested in particular need. I can say I never lived basically in Yugoslavia. I'm a younger generation but somehow growing up is always something that came after Yugoslavia. But to try to understand what was going on then and to see what kind of a different notion that dissidence had, not just official like common discipline. That's the first reference to me when I see political dissidence. This is not something that I'm interested in this picture of communist political dissidence is something completely, like you say, wrongly presented with a reason. But this is only around the finishing of the grain.
Stephen: Maybe this kind of links into what your friend Sedant said that, who speaking as a close collaborator and admirer of Kuda, thinks that Kuda always has a very good idea of what or who their enemy is. My question to my friends is thus who is the current and unique in your work and how do you envision future enemies in the future? That's a great question.
Branka: The enemies where should we start?
Branka: Ourselves okay. Yeah ourselves that's a little bit connected with this experience of fertility of collective practices because although, for example, we are trying to have this structure without hierarchy or with this kind of motion of sloping hierarchy it's always small misuse of another person's time position etc. That I guess is still a kind of normal for different people trying to produce something or to break productively. They're much, much bigger. This starts from the stage for example.
Zoran: Because the social circumstances change a lot. I mean in general it's actually the whole society actually is very naïve position of unknowledged structure and we learn a lot of this kind of comparative analysis of what's going on in Europe and what's going on right now. And after the war during the 90s it's something that we actually grow up and some program we can create this kind of critical platform for some very strong positions for ourselves. But later on we actually find out that for some kind of social kind of capacity what they actually expect. It actually doesn't exist.
So in that way we can say that we are pretty much not really surprised but in a way with something we already expect them it could be kind of very helpful for the whole initiative and to spare the knowledge. It actually doesn't work on that way so in that terms it's much more enemies than we actually expect. So we had to step back in a way and to really work pretty much in terms very fundamental in a very basic social environment. Turning back to the political relationship something that [inaudible 51:09] actually mentioned now and from the question is something which deals our position and we call it sort of independent position. What does it mean independent? It's actually hesitant o explain the position of the very strongly monopoly controlled by political parties where they control complete very for some reason that just organization actually connect them with the part of the organization.
So what we are doing now is actually something that we are trying to keep our own, let's say, independent position because we are not in a court and we are not in [inaudible 51:50] party but It's the question of how to play me then because they strongest control the media, the public money, all the sponsors and you actually spark the system and you had to negotiate that. So in that way the whole structure of everyday life and negotiation with them will start to be pretty much strong and the [inaudible 52:21] and the least of enemies. And that will start to be much, much more open.
Stephen: You didn't mention his [inaudible 52:30] for example.
Branka: Yeah I was about too.
Branka: Thanks Stephen.
Zoran: Yeah. I would say that the biggest enemy for us here in this moment is maybe more general emotional characterization. So the experience prioritization. It's only the manner of the ownnesses which is really the most fundamental project going on right here in Serbia. So basically prioritization of old public and stakes good factory are also public spaces. And what comes also as a kind of a consequence when I'm mentioning the prioritization in a broader term it's really not only the private ownnesses but the private interest no matter if they are like the powerful position or the capital driven they are like visible in every field, also in the field of culture.
So this transitory of positional liberal yet reality that we have here the good [inaudible 53:49] how do you call it, that we are facing. And it's really difficult as long as it makes step and you see what you are facing to try to somehow pose our tools are very modest I have to say, really, really very modest. For example, we are now producing the one exhibition that we are really enjoy. But I'm also struggling with this a little bit like kind of a cozy position to produce something coming from the culture field that is dealing with the transformation of City of Novi Sad under the new liberal circumstances. So we are making exhibition out of it.
And we are today having discussions with two other people and we are producing exhibition with what does it mean except that we really find it important that we are enjoying. Who do we go to? What do we want to do with it since revealing thousands of really like, not only a characterization of public spaces, but also like criminal actions going on. So it's really a question for me what can we do?
Stephen: So what's the answer?
Branka: The answer is I'm not sure if we should look into results.
Branka: If this efficiency is really our goal.
Branka: So I'm not sure. I don't think that to say this was efficient in those terms. Have some kind of numbers of the variations. But there's something missing and I'm wondering what it is.
Stephen: Yeah. No I think this whole ethos of ownership is an incredibly presidios problem not only here in Serbia but I think just to contextualize it a little bit, I mean in Yugoslavia social property constituted almost all the property. Most of the factories, most of the means of production and distribution were publically owned not privately owned.
Stephen: And now not that long after the end of like a socialistic economy as far as I understand although people are poorly paid in Serbia, they don't have much money they're being paid far much more than the economy is actually generating and the only way that they're maintaining that level of salary is because of the permanent selling off, or the bode as we say in French, it's the sort of the selling off at wholesale prices of the public property. Now as far as I understand there are only two things left to sell it's the electricity utility distribution and the telephone. And once those are gone what will happen unless there's some kind of miracle, which doesn't appear to be likely, there will be an Argentinean type collapse of the economy because it won't be anything left to float it with. And that's what happened under Carlos Maynheim in Argentina.
Stephen: And of course in a situation – and it's a tremendous amount of interaction in middle class Argentina society here is the situation where the political context is even more potentially explosive. I mean it's hard to say what this could lead to, particularly in the context to come back to the whole ethos of ownership where ownership is now sort of seen as, first of all I'm owner of myself it's a way of being in the world.
Stephen: The only public property left is going to be the red star in the park across the street, anything that's of any potential value…
Stephen: …have already been sort of given away.
Stephen: But I think it's the type of work that you're doing. I even actually I just spent to do kind of collaborative action under those kinds of circumstances is potentially it's a lifesaving kind of an operation. I mean you guys when the day comes when the others have just failed because you're owned by somebody else so.
Branka: I didn't mean in that way I thought it was like the ownership of the concept of the ownership growth failed eventually yeah. I didn't get that was he complaining about – you don't want to talk to us about the owness?
Stephen: Feel free to turn on your microphone and ask or give your point of view, but don't feel obliged.
Scott: Yeah I'm getting a sense that there's a question that's sort of pregnant there or should we just move on pass that?
Stephen: Aaron is asking that do you see the ownership thing as a state private for artist issue and Serbia is asking? I think it is truly admirable to think and strategize what the collective is today. Well those are kind of both the same questions in a certain was because one at a time. [inaudible 1:00:19] was asking.
Branka;What Aaron is asking are I don't know I cannot be sure if those are like three different things or one because we are now under the pressure, as we said, of the craze of the product ownness. We had something as a source or public or in combination with the state onwness and that artistic issue I mean it could really quite a lot. For example, I don't know we extend from here what is the owness you think odd. That's something for example Stephen will probably talk about tomorrow because there's this conference here in Novi Sad about accumulation and trying to in a way know how to define it. Monetize and circulate art in those kinds of way. It tends also to prioritize.
Stephen: By the way, that was a remark that Scott made earlier is that the conference is organized at the museum but it's co-organized by Kuda.
Stephen: So his question was so now you have seems to be in opposition to the museum and you have found some sort of way of working together. I mean that's an interesting development maybe you can talk about that as well because oftentimes I'm being very aggressive towards the conceptual architecture museum.
Stephen: And I'm happy that they paid me to come and talk to you. But in fact not really too interested in museum per say if there was no Kuda I wouldn't want to go talk to the museum. But at the same time, a museum is publically owned. I mean it is social property, it's public space. So there that was a stament…
Branka: Okay museum of contemporary art here in Novi Sad I would say really particular position. I mean I wouldn't compare it with any of the museums, for example, as far as I know in Western Europe and museums of contemporary art, because in this position process the state and institutions will also be crumbling down. So the museum of contemporary art actually doesn't own or its founders don't own the building for example. They are just renting the building of museum is ready now flying like historical museum of this area, like you say, of Serbia.
And there is obviously no kind of a political interest invested in the new building which could be of course a kind of a new city identity which could put Novi Sad on the map of me now used the cultural capital creative industries like everything but there's no even that kind of interest in culture here. And this is also something we're trying to fight. Not with the museum because they are all the time they're like changing strategies. But I have to say that there are only basically one of two decent exhibition spaces in Novi Sad. So somehow if you want to do exhibition it's usually in the own facilities. And to try organize exhibition in most places really are struggle.
Let me just put the long story short it is because of this crumbling decent exhibition space. Decent exhibition space is to have at least painted walls and at least to have walls. Because really there's just a couple of exhibition spaces in Novi Sad and not really much of them, more so than actually are privately owned and managed. The museum is really part of the rare public institutions. And besides that it's very important to say that one of our – the public that comes to visit really it depends on the event that kind of public discipline. We always try to do our best to really motivate as broader audience as possible. So I have to say that we have actually reorganize something in museum and we have large audiences more thanks to our own effort than to PR in Museum Service for example.
Scott: So I have a question. Did I just speak before someone?
Stephen: Go ahead.
Scott: Okay. We often ask things like this in these discussions about Plausible Artworlds because we're really trying to get to look at different examples of how people structure their sustained or that make possible or even understandable a creative practice that differs from what's in front of mainstream. I mean from looking at your Web site it definitely seems like the mainstream that I'm aware of there's a lot of difference clearly between the programming that you guys do and the topics that are arrived at.
But I'm really curious about how you guys - oh I don't know it's both structure what you do and they've described that a little bit a bit, but also how people there identify what you guys are doing as art or do they? I mean and if they do, I guess is a multipart question, if they do what kind of benefit do you guys think that the events that you do and the kinds of issues that you're attempting to cover or are covering benefit from being qualified as art in the minds of the people that come.
Zoran: Hey there's a question.
Branka: Yeah that's a good question.
Scott: I mean I'm only asking you because it seems like a lot of the people that show up might not really care whether or not it's art or not. And they may only sort of use that moniker because it's in fact in a museum, otherwise you might actually wanted to talk about some of the other projects, conceptual as they are, something not art necessarily just something else. And if not I guess I was curious about why? And if you can pinpoint anyway what the things that you do or maybe like even a specific strategy that you've talked about tonight or haven't talked about yet helps to accentuate that.
Branka: I had to wait for it.
Zoran: I mean a lot of things are put on the table and in general what Branka actually started to explain in this role is how we actually collaborate with the museum. We had to actually explain that Novi Sad is actually first of all a small town and the whole field of the culture it's actually expressed in a very narrow space. So the whole scale in something where we can present on the bottom of the scale is something that we can present in some phase or some places. And then it's on the top could be let say the Museum of Contemporary Arts sounds very big. But in general the whole infrastructure of country is actually not developed on their terms as the [inaudible 1:08:51] our system on the west.
In general we are living in a society without our critic, without any kind of critical structure than we really extract kind of a variable argumentation. What's beyond and how it contextually comes up. So in that terms the relationship in between some very lawful chronic exhibition in some space and the museum is almost let's say the same. So that's actually the very frustrating position in that terms calling the cultural event, so –called culture event.
In their terms what we're doing is we can also edit as a kind of opportunistic asterisk then through this kind of visibility sharing some value and the bottom of the particular, let say, phenomenon what you present. For instance, what you're actually doing around the [inaudible 1:09:55] from Novi Sad we are very much insist to present in a museum of contemporary just to establish such a particular part as an admitted history in the local circumstances. But on the other hand we actually do a lot of different places which is actually doesn't get any connections to the museum. So in that case it's actually pretty much broke in many different positions. Sometimes you're doing some public actions so we are actually making a new social space and we're actually very much interesting how we should develop kind of new public who is actually the new public for the art production, art production. Who's actually following this action or any kind of critical approach which comes to the artistic actions?
And specifically when Branka mentioned this problem of lack of infrastructure it's a question that we have just two places where we can call it sort of gallery space. So sometimes what we learned actually you are living here in society actually without proper infrastructure the gallery system it means an artist already knew and somehow broke with and laid with it then to be able to adopt for themselves in a public space or some other aspect to promote what they're doing. And in that time check I think that still maybe from your point of view it looks and it's scary it's much bigger than what we're doing. But totally on the local circumstances all this care is actually pretty much narrow.
And it's something again Branka mentioned this our intention to focus on this population section we just simply learned and without knowledge and without proper position that you can articulate very precisely what you're to get and why you are doing this. We would start to publish as much as possible just to share this knowledge and to establish as much as possible this diffusion of knowledge and to create something that it's really impossible at least to criticizing everything what is done in the museum, as well as in kind of a small gathering. So that's something that it's a very complex process I must say. I'm teasing of course. And for us it's actually just to kind of this collaborative process it's very important to care as much as possible to spread and to organize more and more collectives around this, not only with all others I will be more easy you know.
So that affects the way that traveling going up and down is good just because of this unstable situation that we never know what will be happening with the museum because at the moment we have this very good relationship just because of this, let's say, personal relationship in a such a structure of criminal as Branka said. At the moment we have a good relationship with directors so who knows maybe after elections we have a completely different situation so no museum at all. So I think it's…
Branka: Since you k now that, for example, directors of the public culture institutions have to be party members.
Zoran: Yeah. So that's what I'm saying. So who knows what will happen after the election. So that's the way that we actually floating with it and then playing with this kind of structure of visibility in a way. So in that terms sometimes we're actually choosing which event we should particularly or very precisely put on a very strange life in museum. But basically you suggest the following with the media and everything which is actually following the political events.
Stephen: You know what interests me about this is really that the focus is not on art but they really quite decomplex the boat art. Their focus really is on what does it mean to build a collective that won't fall into the traps of other collectors?
Branka: What are the transpartical?
Stephen: We can come to that in a second.
Stephen: But I wanted to say something else. One of the traps is that it's linked to the fact that when we met earlier in the restaurant I said "So are you both artists?" And you both said "No" and you laughed and you said no. And then I had to like cry and work to get the information that actually both were trained as artists but you do not self-describe or self-understand as artists today. And yet you do always work around art. I mean if you were artists it would just be self-interested. That would be a trap of a collective. It's in fact a collective community cannot be based on your self-interest right. It can't be just based oh we created Kuda because we didn't have any place to show so we created this place and now we're able to show our work more. Of course we showed our friend's work too but really we only showed our friend's because they're better artist than us they attracted more audience than we were able.
What I'm saying so maybe if you could comment a little bit about, actually when I push Branka it turned out maybe she actually is a sort of art related practitioner who practices theory. But what is specifically the thing we call art that strange ontological. We always like to say oh it doesn't matter but in fact we know it kind of does matter because it changes somehow everything while everything remains the same.
Branka: Yeah I'm really personally interested in what is political art or what is political in art? And what I learned and still feel like pretty much is the ignorant there because I'm really trying to be careful about it and I think that one first thing to discover what is political in art is abandon this self-sufficient position of feeling art produce like individual producer. And to work in collective would be kind of a first step. And then you are facing lots of other problems to in this kind of a work. And yet this is just me trying to make clear some things to myself, maybe somebody else can help with me, but for sure political art is not art that is dealing with political issues that's rarely the case.
But what is interesting the art or the art practices or collective art practice that could influence in a way the environment that could maybe change something in, as you say, change yet remaining the same. I'm not sure about that second part it does have to do with something that is disconnected with this efficiency subject or not I'm not sure. But yeah.
Zoran: Do you have a question?
Stephen: I've got a couple of more questions here.
Branka: Again you have a question.
Zoran: What does it mean the glue that collapsed?
Stephen: Yeah that doesn't fall into the traps of many other artists. One of the traps may be that an artist collective if it's composed of artists there's a high degree of inevitable self-interest. How can you have a successful collective based on self-interest? I'm pretty sure you can't I mean that would be my answer.
Stephen: I don't know what your thoughts on that.
Branka: Yeah I'm also pretty sure. It's not based – to be based solely on self-interest I wouldn't say that's very short term collective probably then. There must be another kind of common interest.
Stephen: I guess so like some sort of common goal or something like that you mean. Maybe let's just take Aaron's question because maybe it takes some things into more positive kind of direction. On a different note, you mentioned knowledge which sounds a bit like a vibrant knowledge as in stuff you learn and applying the future. Is that a correct assumption?
Branka: Wow Aaron you ask like good questions.
Branka: It sounds a bit like the library of knowledge except you really apply in the future.
Stephen: Maybe what he means is we often talk about like artistic research producing knowledge but it's kind of a little bit mysterious as to what kind of knowledge art is able to produce. I mean it could produce the same sort of knowledge, maybe not quite as well as the social sciences or something like that, but what kind of knowledge would it predict let's say or what kind of knowledge would you predict specifically? I think he may be [inaudible 1:20:03].
Zoran: When I assume the knowledge actually I'm actually focused on this kind of general view of the cultural production. In general that would include all these circumstances but what's going on and what's come up from the educational system and the artists. So what we have at the moment and still it's actually having this kind of myth of 19th Century era of the artists and still it's actually also added this sector of the artists where it actually comes from the socialism which is very, very interesting. I mean in general in socialism that it's actually very specific you know reservation artistic position. They actually already include themselves as a part of the heritage anyway. And it's a very important thing that actually have to be established as an succession for the artists and that they're already immediately start to be a part of this assembly and then comes up.
So basically we have his kind of very weak position of our system that they're actually just waiting from the stage to solve all these problems how they can just express their own quality or bright ideas. So that's actually why I'm actually say to just – and it also comes to this way a lot of artists, and especially the new generation, play at this kind of level of shifting with everything that comes up with this kind of everyday component of advertisement. And they actually make a lot of jokes of some kind of given positions but in general it's something which pretty much relates with this surface of everyday life. It's not really come deeply in the stature of what is really beyond the idea and why they're using some particular medium or any kind of business. So in that term actually I use knowledge just to be more critical for confidence itself.
So that was actually the way we actually approached the knowledge. Just to be able to argue more specifically what they would like to develop in the future. So I must say that capacity in general, capacity of art production in Novi Sad in Serbia is actually not so much developed. And then we actually looking on that to support or to given some kind of a positive kind of mood for any kind of collective we liked to start trying in our native.
Chris: I was going to say I would have no problem with self-interest as long as everybody in the collective got a turn.
Scott: That's interesting what does that mean.
Chris: Meaning if it's going to be collective it's just going to be one or two people and everybody just works on their projects and nobody else gets an opinion or whatever that I would have a problem with, but if everybody had a vote and a turn I don't have a problem with that.
Stephen: It wouldn't really be a collective it'll be some aggregate of individuals wouldn't it.
Chris: Yeah sort of I imagine.
Stephen: I guess you'd have a whole time where some of the parts would just be equal to some of the parts.
Chris: I supposed. Okay.
Stephen: I don't know.
Chris: I guess. Yeah.
Stephen: There's a question from – Branka is the study inside of art or perhaps the outside of knowledge for the art to be outside this powerful position and also to build oneself as a witness to chance is also charged with some kind of power. Now that Kuda is asked to solve some problems that others cannot do, how will Kuda approach these problems which are beyond the description of what it does at the moment? A bit abstract.
Branka: The second part, because they appeared in one minute time but it is already resourcing the kind of reaction that I cannot reconstruct now.
Branka: [Inaudible 1:25:16] can help us with that. Are we fantasizing the idea of the art collective?
Scott: Well I mean I'm actually glad that Chris asked that because on the one had well that certainly is one idea of what an ideal collective is you know. It's a sort of happy balance somehow or like some kind of happy marriage between full recognition of individuality and a kind of trusting togetherness or something like this where you kind of like can all share and take turns in some kind of ambulatory fashion. And true I mean a lot of the many art collectives some of the most interesting ones do operate that way in effect if not in presentation.
And it is a good idea I think to define what kinds of collectives that you guys are interested in and us too probably. If we're talking about the word collective I mean it's such a vast term but it's also sort of generic too it just means more than one thing that we're talking about at the same time. For instance, we've been talking about collective as a kind of like in the local situation there a collective or a public or something like that we've been talking about collective in that way or a larger collective sort of like collective memory or something like this. And then the sort of small tight knit groups that we often describe as this autonomous entities that are self-organized. And there's a kind of ambiguous with an ambiguous radical edge.
And many art groups actually even ones that are structured very differently than the most basic or the most, oh I don't know the most obvious ones, still are all structured totally differently. In our investigations or our – not investigations our interactions with other groups I mean the way that they structure themselves are setup as I mean they vary so widely from one to the other and even changes over time within the same group. So I don't know I think there might be a good idea to describe that. You guys probably have.
Stephen: Maybe you could address it just by talking about how you structured your own life. I mean you call it an organization and sometimes it feels like it.
Branka: It's basically like registered as a nonprofit organization like association of artist in some kind of interest to work together. That's…
Stephen: Done by load it's actually more…
Branka: Yeah it's a legal kind of a definition. But how do we operate? It's something that I would I don't know the closes definition would be that's the commission even kind of as much as I would like to have or its own thing equality. It's more like floating hierarchies so each of us are from project-to-project initiative-to-initiative give a kind of logic input, more entity. But of course there's the kind of discussions before that. So kind of a personal accumulative also plays a role. I for example am very much interested in starting and developing the publishing process. So that's kind of a mind thing but of course I'm trying to connect others to somehow have kind of a consensus about what the theme of the next publication will be. So I don't go and, I don't know, do something totally not relevant to the others.
So we tried to have based everything on the common decision. Of course it's sometimes some projects are more individually done than some others. And of course it depends as I said on the obscenities of people I'm more into the publishing than into the writing. Zoran is more into the organization and management. He's the person who can organize things very well. So someone with a different infinities and different capabilities, I don't know how to define it, the – I have to find the right it's important and so…
Scott: It sounds very much like what Chris was talking about.
Branka: No it's not healthy. So [inaudible 1:30:45] personality somehow.
Stephen;We'll get there.
Zoran: Definitely the [inaudible 1:31:07].
Branka: Yeah it's this script here in a way.
Branka: Thank you. That is funny. It's not really like that but it's…
Stephen: It'll be a great burger if you have them like that.
Stephen: You know what we're running up to 2:00 in the morning here so we're going to have to end pretty soon.
Scott: Yes you guys are getting slap happy over there.
Scott: But yeah for sure it's definitely getting late. You guys are troopers for staying up so late. I really hope that we can continue the discussion at some point about collectives. And actually I mean if you do still have a few more minutes we always try to end right on time at 8:00 but we could end earlier, it's six minutes until 8:00 though.
Stephen: Oh it's only six to well I was looking at the clock it's the wrong time here, sorry. No I didn't want to cut anybody short.
Branka: It's 2:00 am here.
Scott: We could…
Stephen: We'll come back to the collective thing but I just wanted to point out one interesting thing is that at one point in Plausible Artworlds we attempted to identify six different kinds of artworlds that we're interested in. And I maybe can't remember them off the top of my head but one of them was definitely the – maybe Scott you can help me – one of them was art having agriculture. One of them was a plausible art www artworlds and…
Scott: Yeah open source culture and online worlds in a sense. Yeah exactly.
Stephen: Yeah. But in a certain sense Kuda seems to – and another was autonomous production – but in a certain sense Kuda is kind of a reputation of our rather clumsy typology because they seem to be sort of like…
Branka: Going through.
Stpehen: Yeah sort of transversing the…
Bronco: Transversing is right.
Scott: I think that's a good point I mean in fact I think a number of the – not to reduce your particularities, but it's been very difficult for us to look at example and put them in a single category actually. I think what we are – I just pulled up another one of our old whiteboards but the different, not categories but kinds of artworlds that we've been looking at. I think you definitely have aspects of that people that in a process of instituting on some level. And either partnering with taking order in some cases just sort of Trojan horsing or other people transforming. Some just in bed with existing institutions.
And another example, not example but kind of succession in other social experiments, in my mind sort of the opposite of organizational art people who are saying well fuck these existing institutions we're out of here, we're doing our own thing completely off the grid or as close to it as possible. And it sort of sounds like the description of your local environment almost has that built in but yet you are making use of existing structures if you can. We've also like one of those was like what Stephen said art.www.worlds or something, open source culture and online worlds. And it seems like you're beginning to sort of portray that one.
Alternative economies is another kind of artworld or those structured around alternative economies. I don't know if you guys are involved in that as much as just sort of theorizing about it or an interest in that in general. And then the other two were autonomous information production which is definitely you're involved in and archiving creative culture which obviously you also are. So yeah.
Branka: And sometimes I have impression and some people accuse of for being inconsistent with our practices, but I think that's actually the main thing. Consistency for the state consistency is not leading us anywhere. So we are in away trying to accommodate our practices to the moment in time and place and to finish also to other times and place.
Scott: Yeah exactly. I mean it's one of the benefits from my point of view of using the art status at all. There's a kind of built-in inter or sometimes transdisciplinary leaning that you really can draw from or touchdown on any other existing field of study or practice without raising an eyebrow. And not necessarily designate any time to it either any specific amount of time. I mean I'd say that's one of its benefits. You know it's funny like what Stephen was mentioning earlier about your - I don't know if you necessarily said unwillingness to describe yourself as artist, maybe, but at least that you didn't initially yet we're trained that way. I mean that goes to a lot of people I think that are engaged in what some people describe as more open forms of cultural practice or who are interested in or basically interested in some kind of critical community building in general and who draw from art and other fields.
But I think I have to say it's kind of strange that we're doing this series of talk called Plausible Artworlds right. Why would we do we talk to all of these people who do all these widely different things and yet somehow try to like lasso them all together under this and say "Oh you're all artists and you're all building artworld?" It sort of seems stupid doesn't it I mean in a way, but I have to say just on one hand one of the reasons that we do that I think, at least from my point of view, is that artists are really good often, and rethinking the structures of almost anything else in the world. Often except for our own field.
And the problem is that often even when we're making up our own, especially if it's because of limited circumstances whether its location or whatever, if we make up our own path well that doesn't necessarily exempt us from pitfalls of existing art structures. And I don't necessarily just mean institutions with a capital I or big places necessarily but the kinds of structures that are setup that lead to certain results often and that we kind of know what those results are often. Not to say that they might not change in other circumstances that we can't change because I think that we can depending but I think that when we don't sort of acknowledge that we're working with all the benefits that comes with that if not history at least whatever sentiment comes along when you describe what you're doing as contemporary art. And if we don't focus our attention or our thinking to feel that we're working it what happens is all these efforts, all these alternative efforts that we are involved in gets funneled and represented through the existing structures sort of nullifying a lot of the efforts that we're involved in.
Stephen: Well I totally agree with that. I think it's the first time I heard you say that Scott. That's kind of like the reason we do Plausible Artworlds right. You guys want to wrap it up.
Scott: Yes. Michael was just saying he'd like to hear some specific examples of that kind of defaming process as we sometimes call it. But I think now we've actually gone over the 8:00 the 2:00 a.m. limit for you. But I just wanted to sort of mention that if nothing else, not to hear myself talk and I hope I didn't, but for maybe – I know I just had a two hour conversation but maybe another kind of conversation topic opener for next time or for a future exchange.
Branka: Yeah definitely would be great to continue.
Branka: Because it was quite inspirational talk which we haven't had for a long time.
Branka: That was.
Zoran: Yeah something to add just briefly is something you know that we actually do and actually establish something to be kind of a legal body is suggests one of the strategical tactics. Of course a lot of friends of ours and the other artists also in doing some other kind of petitioners and practice which is actually not necessarily has to be presentable. So basically it's a focal question of factual positions and how we deal with kind of art in society. And of course we share a lot of in the image of us but it includes all these circumstances of one of the town where we're from and some of the centralizing and economy of the country where we come from spiritually decided this kind of illegal body could be kind of the proper measure. But who knows maybe next year is always the case maybe summarize to create completely the [inaudible 1:42:21]. So the whole platform of presenting the collaborative works could be presented in many, many different ways. And it's a question of something…
Stephen: Okay well maybe we the word us is a good word to between us is a good one to end the conversation on.
Scott: Absolutely. Well guys thank you so much for staying up so late drinking and talking with us.
Branka: Thank you for inviting us. Interesting as well. It was a great stuff.
Stephen: Thank you.
Zoran: Thank you bye.
Stephen: Until next week.
Scott: Until then guys.
Stephen: Yeah. Goodnight Scott.
Scott: Goodnight. We need some music.
Stephen: Actually we're talking on Sunday right with Incubate.
Scott: Oh hey you're still there. Yeah absolutely we are planning to talk on Sunday.
Stephen: Okay. Bye.
Scott: Until then everyone.
This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.
This week we’ll be talking with London-based artist David Goldenberg, who several years ago launched a website called “Post Autonomy”, which functions as a research platform into the concept and loose-knit movement of “postautonomous” art.
Goldenberg attributes the term “Post Autonomy” to German Conceptualist Michael Lingner, but has subsequently sought to further develop this idea into a full theoretical concept and working practice. If “autonomy” — whatever that term may be construed to mean — is widely understood as the dominant paradigm of modernist art practice (i.e.- a private or at least individual art practice), unpacking some of the ways and means of whatever goes “beyond autonomy” is indeed a crucial task for any plausible artworld today. Thus Goldenberg’s emphatic stance with respect to “Post Autonomy”, which he sees as a reflection of art’s current condition:
“Post Autonomy reflects the state of contemporary art… It stems from the idea that modern art=autonomy, as research or understanding of autonomy, has reached its limits in comprehending autonomy, in that respect art can be seen to have exited autonomy. What comes after Autonomy in art can be discussed by Post Autonomy. Using a practice-orientated analysis of cultural, social, and political forces the aim is to develop a new mental framework out of which art can be reinvented.”
That’s a feisty claim to be sure — and one which has perhaps been implicit in many Plausible Artworld discussions, looking at the various ways art practices have freed themselves from the autonomy-informed structures of the mainstream. But what does Post Autonomy really mean? Is it chronological (art “after” autonomy) or extensive (art “beyond” autonomy)? Plausible Artworlds has often explored the category of “usership” as integral to practices breaking with a regime of spectatorship, Post Autonomy has advocated the more inclusive (but perhaps less incisive and extensive) concept of “applied participation”, linking Post Autonomy to Systems theory, “where the methodology of a participatory practice replaces the orthodox role of the artist, curator, audience.” Does this methodology of participatory practice really challenge hierarchies, thereby opening spaces for art’s reconstruction within the space of Post Autonomy? Is postautonomy a plausible conceptual underpinning for emerging artworlds?
This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.
This week we’ll be talking with the instigators and developers of Pad.ma.
The Pad.ma project is a result of the efforts of oil21.org from Berlin, the Alternative Law Forum from Bangalore, and three organizations from Mumbai: Majlis, Point of View and Chitrakarkhana/CAMP.
Pad.ma, short for Public Access Digital Media Archive, is an interpretative web-based video archive, which works primarily with footage rather than “finished” films. Pad.ma provides access to material that is easily lost in the editing process as well as in the filmmaking economy, and in changes of scale brought about by digital technology. Unlike YouTube and similar video sites, the focus here is on annotation, cross-linking, downloading and the reuse of video material for research, pedagogy and reference. The entire collection is searchable and viewable online, and is free to download for non- commercial use.
For the past two years, Pad.ma has been operating as an online archive of digital video, in essence creating a folksonomy of “tagged” footage. During this period, the focus has been on gathering materials, annotating densely, and growing the archive. At present, Pad.ma has over 400 hours of footage, in over 600 “events”. Almost all of this material is fully transcribed and is often mapped to physical locations.
What are some ways to begin thinking about retrieving and utilizing material from Pad.ma? From the onset, pad.ma has had an API (documented at http://wiki.pad.ma/wiki/API), a programming interface that allows a user to access videos, perform searches, seek to exact time-codes, fetch transcripts, and obtain map data, all of which can be shared by any given online user. As such, Pad.ma’s General Public License (PGPL, http://pad.ma/license) is designed specifically for the reuse of the material on Pad.ma. Through the experience of running the archive, there have been various imaginations of multiple and layered forms of time-based annotation over video, including: pedagogical tools for learning and discussion; presentation tools that combine text and video in new ways, along with essays and other writing formats enabled by rich and context-specific media.
Week 33: Pad.ma
Scott: Hello there
Scott: Well, for the most part, the audio is surprisingly not horrible
It looks like a number of people are contacting right now to be added to the chat, but I’ll wait just a second…
Yeah so welcome guys, thanks for joining our chat at this ungodly hour for you, either staying up super late or waking up just for it in order to talk about Pad.ma, we're really excited to talk about it with you, especially in the context of what we're calling plausible art worlds, these examples of creative cultural eco-systems, the kinds of things that support art practice and help art to be understood as such maybe in a different way because it's structured differently, and it seems like Pad.ma is an interesting example of this, so we're really happy to have you.
Steven: Do you want to take it away or
?: I need one minute, sorry
Scott: Yeah, if you guys just wouldn't mind giving us a short intro maybe for the people here that don't know anything about Pad.ma, that would be great.
?: Well, I have to say that we're missing a few people here and the reasons for that is that somebody who works close here in Pad.ma is sick at the moment and is in Bombay, and Shaina who is my partner is 9 months pregnant and she is in bed and I'm unable to wake her up at the moment…
Ashok: yeah it would be nice to have them but there's also a number of other people involved I think you have the list on your website, and it started off as a meeting of people who in different ways have an interest in [inaudible 0:02:44.9] and I could describe just briefly what that was; about maybe two and half years ago, several of us representing four or five different mini--some small, some large, large barely existing--institutions met and kind of centered around a body of material that was already existing; that was video material that was already existing in Bombay and centered around a project that already in a way predated Pad.ma which is the 0XDB which I'll let Jan and Sebastian speak about, kind of centered around these two existing potentials and things that already were there began to build what is now called Pad.ma and I think that it was really a diverse group, for example from Bangalore, a group of lawyers and legal researchers who had been working around issues of copyright and a lot of the local work of one [inaudible 0:04:00.5] continues to be done by this group called the Alternative Law Firm in Bangalore, there were two large Bombay-based NGOs who had a lot of material from the last ten years around cities, conflict areas mostly in India, documentation of slums in Bombay, stuff like that which was quite valuable because it had been lying around on tapes, as it quite usual in large institutions, and they were trying to get off the ground a kind of archive initiative. There was us, which was a group that was just starting to call itself CAM, but through Shaina's own work as a kind of experimental film-maker and working in video a lot over the last ten years of TV, and the ways it had been around in the Indian documentary film-scene for example, she in particular had an interest in the video archive, and I can describe a little bit more of what that was. Then of course there was Jan and Sebastian who we had met in Berlin and had seen by [inaudible 0:05:22.0] and seen what she was doing in terms of being able to look inside video material rather deeply that [inaudible 0:05:33.1] and so that was the starting point of the conversation. It has since changed shape, this was a kind of early matrix of interests if everybody go that, I'm not sure if everybody is able to hear me I may be…
Scott: Yes, we're able to hear you really well
Ashok: …developments that were in the pot so to speak, around two and a half to three years ago.
Hello Jan, are you here now?
Jan: Yes [I thought it was in two hours? 0:06:29.1]
Steven: I'm not sure what to ask first, maybe you could talk more about each of those components of the matrix, they're all extremely fascinating in their own right, but I don't know if that's the thing to ask you first, maybe the better thing is to talk about what the matrix actually is and what you build together; whichever way you'd like to go.
Ashok: Sure, but maybe, I could do that from the point of view of, well
One of the large components of it, I'll describe in detail one of those kind of situations as I saw it, and of course you have to realize that at this point I'm also speaking for a lot of other people so I could be saying kinds of things that they may not agree with, for example, one of the organizations that was involved with the early inception was [Modulus 0:07:44.2] which is a large NGO in Bombay which has a cultural kind of legal wing, it does very serious legal work around women's rights, all sorts of things around conflicts, class-based, caste-based work and so on, and have been very prominent on the city kind of legal scene, they also have, as part of a two-phase structure in some organizations in India, they have a cultural wing which actually uses funds from a variety sources, this is also typical in the Indian context from typically Modulus' direct would say they use animal husbandry money to do films, you know there was a large amount of cultural work, film production, and so on done with this kind of development money at a certain point from the middle of the late eighties to the late nineties and so on.
Scott: If you don't mind, sorry because we're projecting this and taking a look while we go, we're trying to find a website for Modulus and it seems to be a general term
Ashok: Modulusbombay.org would be the website
So in their case, they had a lot of material, they were trying to get off the ground an archival projects called Godam which, in this particular case had a lot of material around the city of Bombay and a lot of material on Kashmir, and it had been collected in the course of a career as an organization which actually have done rather well. So they had a lot of tapes, they had a lot of material in TV over the past ten odd years and they had done a project on Kashmir they had done several projects on slum and or informal housing situations in the city of Bombay and a lot of this material was then being put together in an archival they were calling Godam which translated into English means warehouse, now they were attempting also to make this material publically available and they were experimenting with various ways to do it, Shaina had been a fellow of Modulus, and was invited to be part of the exercise of imagining what Godam could be and how they could actually make it a more public archive. At that point [inaudible 0:10:48.2] organization which I was involved in, and we were giving birth to this thing which is now called CAM, a kind of organization that is now a non-profit, [inaudible 0:11:04.0]had its own archives which overlapped with Modulus' in terms of the Bombay material and Shaina had been working around [inaudible 0:11:15.2] of distribution of video in her own ways through things like [inaudible 0:11:19.2] television and so on, and so there was a group of people in Bombay who were involved in this discussion around the public archive, and this kind of video memory of the last say ten-odd years since the DV kind of thing had happened in India and had caused an explosion in the amount of production which was not the theme, or was not followed by an equal number of streaming venues or an equal number of even films being shown or seen around screenings and so on, so there was lots of people shooting, lots of material, but not necessarily many venues to screen it and not necessarily a sense that there were platforms that this material could be shared and so on. So this was the context that existed around two and a half to three years ago where Godam was already a existing archive project which needed a kick in its backside in order to--and they admitted it themselves-- which needed a boost to get it out there, all this material sitting in cupboards and actually other people were contributing to and so on was not accessible, was not being productive. Into that conversation also stepped in the software that Jan and Seb had already worked on and maybe it's a good time to ask Jan and Seb to talk a bit about that from their point of view.
Steven: Jan and Sebastian, maybe you can also give a kind of a bit of a history the way that Ashok did of where you guys came from.
Scott: Steven do you mean where geographically speaking? or where politically or
Steven: No, I was thinking of [texts? 0:13:26.3] basically
Sebastian: I mean historically speaking we were coming from a practice of copyright [inaudible 0:13:37.1] mostly and when we met with Shaina and [name 0:13:41.2] when we kind of had our initial discussions and pretty soon gave birth to Pad.ma, the project, Jan and me we had just been running a thing for a couple of years which was called Pirate Cinema. Pirate Cinema was a series of weekly screening we did in Berlin, we started in 2004, and the idea was that we just noticed that we were downloading so many films that we couldn't just watch them ourselves, we needed some help with that, so at the, yeah, it's there, but it's not there there, but Pirate Cinema was in a way they follow a project to [inaudible 0:14:30.9] which was just a huge online [inaudible 0:14:32.8] but Pirate Cinema had more of a physical component in the sense that we had a space for it, and every Sunday we would do a screening of films we had downloaded and you could screen it for free, you would get a copy of the film etc. Pirate Cinema [inaudible 0:14:50.0] has a schedule of what we did, I can paste that too, yes, no that was the problem I mean we noticed that once we'd seriously started to get in the business of downloading either we would become like lonely archivists or we would have to do something that involved more people so one of the things we did to involve more people was of course running this as a cinema, and I mean there were many pirate cinemas everywhere at the time, and all over Europe, in London, in Denmark, and Sweden there were many people we also knew who ran similar operations, but then we also noticed that in order to not become lonely archivists, we had to do something about archiving in a more technical sense which was to do some archiving software. I mean anyone who deals with a large number of files knows that it sometimes is not so much fun organizing stuff that sits on all kinds of different hard drives and so from that Pirate Cinema at the moment, in 2007 we were running this project called [All 21 0:16:05.9] the all of the 21st Century. So this had funding for a one-year long project conference, meetings, workshops etc on intellectual property, and part of the things, I mean when we did the budget we thought we also want to do something practical even though by the beginning of the project we had not really much of a sense of what this would be, we wanted to produce something that could be a blueprint for an archive, and since we were sitting on so many films, we thought ok, let's do something that takes film as a body of… as a medium and let's see that we can do with all the data we have that we normally don't find on the internet. I think 0XDB takes some time to explore, but what we basically thought was A)now that we have so many movies and so many subterms and files for them, actually do one full text search in movies, so for example, something like, I don't know if I have a good link..
and so one thing is, as you can imagine if you have subterms and movie [inaudible 0:17:37.6] or then later with Pad.ma text [inaudible 0:17:39.6] time-based, you can easily reference and retrieve information that is at a particular point of the film and then the other idea was as we had a bit of knowledge about video codecs and some idea about graphical representation of film, what we thought is that film is always so hard to browse on, if you have a huge digital library of films, it's almost impossible to handle it if you don't have the right tools, so one of the tools is maybe something like this
so we try to [extract visual information.. inaudible 0:18:22.8] blueprint-like overview of what's happening. I mean that last link you can just browse over see the subtitles and click on…
So in the end use this data gathered from all kinds of dark networks, make some public website out of it, and try to give a hint at what all the funded archive video projects that were already existing online failing at. Which we thought was mostly about search and video and mostly about making accessible, representing graphically [inaudible 0:19:12.9]
Of course it was also strategic kind of investment of time because we thought that a project like Pirate Cinema would actually win if it had as a side project or as a co-project a resource that had all the looks of being serious about software and serious about technology, so we always thought this was a nice combination. Then from this point on it became relatively clear, relatively soon what we could do with Shaina and [names 0:19:48.5] in the future, because all these archive tools just called for an application with actual material contributed by network [inaudible 0:20:06.0] and also called for actually user-contributed annotation.
Scott: Yes, we're here, Steven got dropped for a second, we're just adding him back.
?: I don't know how much of the [inaudible 0:20:48.3] … on the screen there but we have this timelines and ability to reference video at a specific point on the video so it's not only that you have the entire video, but you can say at this point in the video-- which is then something that Pad.ma plays a larger role with so we don't just have information about videos that are collected from various sources online, but is actually entered by people that mostly have a relation to the video that they work with the video, so that they have [inaudible 0:21:35.7]environment.
People can directly link to a segment in the video.
Besides linking to a particular point in time, you can also
Scott: Ok, so we're looking at this link that you just sent, and you were just describing that a little bit? We haven't used the tool here on our end so, the actual workings of it are a little abstract for us.
Jan: [inaudible 0:22:47.2] … a bit like a video editor, so we have these different views of the video on the top on the left, while the most left one is a virtual player and the central one is the [inaudible 0:23:04.8] and the right one is the out one and below it you have this time-line which is a representation of the video we are looking at one pixel is one second, and we have a bit of information about what you can actually see there, so you get an idea of the videos.
Scott: Wow, this is amazing
Jan: If you navigate now to, you can click on anywhere on this timeline and then you see the player view will change to this position and if you for example press "I" and "o" and you can set the in point and press "o" to select the outpoint, so you could mark your own field, and if you would log in you could now add a new description, or keyword, or location, or transcript, you can also press the play button below the player which works with browsers that support html5 video playback [inaudible 0:24:15.1]
Ashok: If you want to explore the site later on for both sites, it's nicer if you get a free account on this site because then you cannot just read, but also write…
Scott: Yeah, absolutely, we definitely will
I was just browsing through using; not to get too technical about this, but this is a technical project on some level, I know it's both theoretical and practical, but just sort of scrolling back with my keys I can scroll through second by second through the entire clip that you posted, and see the description change as the clips change, and I guess presumably we could annotate this?
Ashok: If you press "0" then you jump to the next point where something changes so you don't have to jump through it second by second, if you press "h" which will bring up a small help screen with all the keywords that you can use.
Steven: How much video footage do you actually have on there now and how much [is voluntary? inaudible 0:25:48.7]
?: I think it's something like 600 events now that are different videos, and they have many thousand layers to that I think, for example I have some stats here; 7000 descriptions, so most of the videos have a description and a transcript layer, so there are many more transcripts though, 14000, sometimes they are a bit finer grain, but also they are of larger blocks
Ashok: Since there was already some transcript, many of them are also done specifically for the site.
Scott: Guys, if you don't mind me asking, just in terms of scalability, 8000 movies is not very much compared to other online, free online video repositories, I realize this is a bit different, I guess I was just wondering, when browsing through these, we haven't touched on all of them at all, but we get a sense that a lot of these are not necessarily all coming from the same political vantage point, but they seem to have social element to them. I was just wondering if this was something that was opened up for literally anyone to upload video and it became highly popular, and there were thousands or millions of videos uploading where you had to look for the documentaries amongst beer -fart jokes and you know, sort of frat-humor videos if you know what I mean; I wonder what that would do to the project.
Ashok: Yeah, I mean there's definitely the art of growing slowly and I think while Pad.ma has upload functionality and I know that anyone can just upload their video, there's still currently a moderation process so everything uploaded lands in a queue, and there's also not; I mean I think this question of scalability I would rather address it once is occurs because like so many projects don't make it even to the hundreds of hours because they're already thinking what they're going to do with millions of hours, and I think once Pad.ma has ten times more material than now, we can think about it again and result of this would always be a bit different. I don't see in terms of infrastructure that is technically why I wouldn't scale of course hosting more video material online costs more money, but otherwise I think the system itself is quite sound.
?: If we grow it slow enough then maybe the cost will not really rise, because all this is getting drastically cheaper, as hard drives and bandwidth goes down
Ashok: I also think that with Pad.ma that by establishing a certain level of description and transcript, and work that is putting a video on there, it doesn't fit for everything, it's not a place where you would just put your video if you are not interested in this level of annotation, so by that it also filters out a certain category of videos. Sure it can happen that the most interesting things people want to write about is some funny video.
Steven: But it is possible not only to comment and to comment on the comments of the visuals, but it is also possible to upload new video material if you're a registered user.
?: Yes absolutely it's possible, and one of the things we want to add because so many people want to do it; I mean what you already can do now, is you can download any video on Pad.ma in relatively nice resolution, download
Ashok: Not only can you download the entire video but you can also download a second of the video, if you mark an in and out-point, you can in the actions menu select just to download this clip, which allows you also to extract just a second of the video from the archive.
?: And obviously what people really seem to like to do in addition to that, and what we hope we will implement in the next version is that you can also remix the stuff right on the site, so now that you have this nice timeline, this nice video editor-like thing that allows you to set in point and out points than you hit "d" and add a description for example, people really do want copy and new empty timeline and paste, so you can basically create a huge list of bookmarks of clips and that will be a video in itself, so that's one of the things I think we would love to add in the near future.
Jan: I wanted to add regarding the upload functionality that when you have an account you can upload a video and you can do anything with the video, you can also send around the link to the video, the only thing that is not happening right now because it will not show up in the search unless it went through moderation processes where we decide if we want to have this as a public video, so that is the level on which it is currently open or not.
Sebastian: And then maybe one more work regarding scalability, I think that the thing that's least likely to scale very well is thorough annotation because for many videos, let's say for example we work with filmmakers that will work with people that have larger archives, now many of them are really willing to give them material or provide the DV originals and so on, but what seems to be really hard to do is good annotation because in some cases people have already logged the material, have their sheets so this can be easily imported into Pad.ma, but in many of the cases, lots of people work hard for weeks, if not months to get proper annotation done, which is descriptions, which is transcript, which is mapping out location, referenced in the video etc, so unlike 0XDB with which all we have to do is put movie files and subtitles on a server and be done so that can grow relatively rapidly, with Pad.ma there's another vector of growth if you want, which is not so much volume, but depth of annotation, and that we'd love to see grow just as we'd love to see the site grow in terms of volume, you just don't see it that easily, but if you dive deep into Pad.ma you will notice how deep it is in terms of what people annotate, what people contribute, in which ways people use the annotation function to actually incorporate their own writing on films that my span different items in Pad.ma so there's a lot of depth also.
Ashok: I was going to say that what we do also think about is there is a kind of ecology or a kind of process which relates to the term footage which was very important to the way Pad.ma was imagined and I think the way I think it has grown. This is a crucial term because it is distinct from film and deals with what you might call the remnants of all the differences in the processes of taking video, or shooting video, or being a kind of camera person and making films, there is a vast gulf between those two things, and it's something that we felt and physically felt in our context of piles of thousands of tapes gathering around up, but very few films to show for it exactly, but in general the idea that filmmaking economy, especially with things like documentary or art projects, creates its own [brutal? 0:35:32.0] selection process and while we can say that there is merit in that selection process, there are also things that get left behind, and there are things that potentially other people could use, and there is productive remainder which was one of the first things that Pad.ma was address, that there is the filmmaking process but then there is a thing called footage. Whether it's found footage, or footage that was shot for a project but ended up being used somewhere else, or not used ever, or has been lying around waiting for its film, waiting for the film; things like that which are quite common in I'm sure in all of our experiences. But what footage does is it gives you a long view, or a very different kind of landscape and now when Shaina and me for example watch films, we're watching footage, we're always that the edit would have been a bit different, or if we couldn't see a more of that; so there is a way in which the filmmaker is trapped into this ideal making of film, which is not necessarity the only result of that practice.
So to give an example maybe, I don't know if I have… ok so Pad.ma has for example lists, this is a project that refers to the previous link I sent out… so that's a list of events; events are individual pieces of video on Pad.ma; a list is a collection of such individual pieces, and is in this case a single project done by Shaina and myself in which we…so it's in the context of an art project we were invited to work with a group and a space in city of Manchester, and it was called CCTV Social. We had access to large CCTV rooms in the city of Manchester, and we invited people to come into them and to these kind of one-hour clinic sessions, or sessions in this CCTV room with the police, with other kinds of provocateurs and so on, and these are documented in their entire length in this list, and that has a very different kind of sensibility to perhaps what was presented within the context of the art work, or the exhibition that was created out of this process. And already there have been many people who have referenced this material in other ways; some people have used parts of it [inaudible 0:38:53.1] of Manchester for example, and it enters potentially a wider economy.
The idea was the Pad.ma give it as much context as possible to really think archivally in the sense that you're not only putting this stuff for viewing pleasure, or it's not a kind of YouTube situation, but it's really about a context for usability, a context for a kind of productive context that could be generated out of this material that mean the ability to download is very explicit, there is a lot of textual material, there is many many ways to search it, it's very deeply annotated, and there is a kind of generosity in the idea that we like which is that footage; not necessarily everything that you shot, not the stuff where you were testing the camera and so on, but also just not what you produce in a certain context, so there's a space between those two things.
And I think that extends then to this idea of the footage [inaudible 0:40:13.9] like film inherently extends perhaps to things like actually writing about films which is… something like that. So if you click on that that's an example of Lawrence, who is part of the collective as well who is writing about the viewing citizen as constructed through in the cinema; writing about a particular clip in the film, which shows an audience, a so-called [inaudible 0:40:52.2] and the ability to see the material, so if you imagine cinema scholarship or writing about video material which lets you actually see it, which is actually a primary condition of talking about it, it's something that Pad.ma lets you do, and in a way there's been already a move locally within our context to try and use Pad.ma for this kind of, not only for footage that is left over, but then to turn film themselves into a kind of footage-nest, an idea that's a bit looser than the in and out points that were determined by the length of the film at that point or by the BBC or whatever, was a constraint, but to be able to see it at other levels, and to then of course, as Sebastian said, you would be able to do in the next build and so on, and to be able to use this material in a way to see it, which we haven't really seen, I mean there's all this scholarship around things and the writing around it for example and viewing of films have been in to a degree a separate experiences. At one level what very simply happens is that you can see them both together and they don't necessarily need to be indexical related to each other, I mean they can be neighbors, they can be sitting next to each other in a space, and that's I think is a pretty powerful thing that happens in Pad.ma already.
Scott: Ashok I just wanted to ask you a quick question, about the CCTV Social project, I understand now what the features lists are about I think; those are project-based lists it sounds like, and I guess I just wanted to point out that in a sense it seems that this tool can be used in many ways, both to build meaning visually and literally too to edit, I mean for instance, the CCTV project it looks almost exactly like one of those monitor rooms, just that page link that you sent earlier, whereas other pieces of the site have a different kind of feeling; the editor for example and other sections, but yeah I guess… you were bringing back the disambiguating the efforts of Pad.ma from other pseudo-archives like YouTube or something like that, because it is moderated, and I guess I was curious because we are talking about this in the context of supportive systems for creative cultural practice, or critical cultural practice, Pad.ma is not only a tool, but is also a group of people; for instance it's moderated, so who moderates it? It sounds like you guys, or a few of you, or something like that?
Ashok: The thing about moderation is that Pad.ma has had a slow growth as Seb mentioned before. so what we started off doing was we started out with actually a group of people who had [inaudible 0:45:36.1] putting in a lot of effort, and I mean this quite seriously, there was a lot of effort that does go into the writing process, the annotation process, so a group of people including us, including the whole initiators of the project, and a slowly expanding group that was provisionally invited to try and create a kind of starting mass for the project. Because of the sheet amount of labor that it takes compared to an economy like YouTube inters of the kind of context that all the videos provide, it's not [inaudible 0:46:15.7] for random people to just come in and be part of that ecosystem and I think we've just got to a point where we kind of publically opened it up to people upload on fattier own, and then this has been happening but the volume of it is not huge amounts so the moderation process is still quite casual, it is done by a group of people who both moderate and invite chunks of material, I mean it's much more that we're interested in these mini archives that people have around a certain sense of idea, sense of projects or specific geographies like Kashmir, or specific city contexts or specific times like [inaudible 0:47:10.8] or 1992, or [inaudible 0:47:14.0] and so on, these things are [inaudible 0:47:18.3] and then people who look at these things on Pad.ma then write to us and say "Hey I have material around this as well…" so it's still at a state where it's a humanly possible set of interactions. This could change but I think also we're at the moment, still very much in building the archive mode where it is not necessarily advertised as this "come and upload" your own video site" it's advertised as a rather serious archival slightly nerdy kind of site where people are spending a lot of time over little bits of video and only a limited number of people are interested in that, so at the moment, and also I think the time that situation may change with the new software situation, so I a lot of this is very much the beginning of what we help to build densely, deeper rather than in purely in terms of participation of contributors of video [inaudible 0:48:37.9] to encourage to keep a relationship with it. So at the moment it's a combination of inviting people and moderating people who might be interested, and that's worked reasonably well, we demand a lot ..
Steven: [inaudible 0:49:01.5] I noticed in Beirut, in the context of Lebanon in the Middle East, when you did a workshop there, one of the sounds that I think that you encountered was that people in that area where very much involved in their own conflicted situation and lacked a kind of fluency in connecting with others; I think that is kind of [inaudible 0:49:44.0] to what Matthew wrote just a moment ago, is that it's very difficult to make all the links and then work that scale of [inaudible 0:49:54.9] between two local conflicting situations and a global framework which would allow them to be connected.
?: I mean because one of the challenges that you face in, not just in Lebanon, but in Lebanon it's very obviously, is that a lot of the people not being able to network stems from the fact that they have virtually no internet, so while you always find a specific archival situation if you want; both in terms of archival of politics and in terms of just technology and what you have in terms of infrastructure and for me it has been very interesting to do a lot of work on Pad.ma and work with a lot of communities around Pad.ma in conditions where both the politics of archiving and the technologies of archiving are not as clear cut as you would think maybe in the US or in Germany where you have this kind of idea that things are just as they should be because how could it be otherwise--no, I think in terms of technology we've been pretty, since we're used to it, we can run Pad.ma locally as a server, we could put it up in a room, it takes s few hours, it's not such a big deal, so you can play with Pad.ma locally if your internet doesn't allow for other things, and we've had the same thing with many contributors and not just in India, they said "ok, I put my video online, but just annotating online, I don't have the bandwidth, I can't do it" so you also have to account for that. Then, there's also of course the archival politics which means by now many people have noticed that archives--and this can be archives of art, this can be archives of [inaudible 0:51:51.4] sensitive material that a resource than can be monetized, that can be sensitivity can be exploited for all kinds of means, you can have the author who said that ok think is my archive, but if I share it online everyone will remix it, you can have the museum director who said "here is all my stuff" but there's some politically sensitive bits, or you can have like the huge companies who go after the many individual archive owners not just in western Asia, who actually reinforce that notion that there would be a monitory value in this and you can't just put it up on the internet and open source is not going to help etc. and given that situation both technologically and politically, I think you have to work with what you can work with; which in the case of a Beirut workshop where a couple of people we knew and many more people we maybe didn't know before, and tried to… I mean part of my [inaudible 0:52:53.3] is a tool for research. First of all, it can be the part of research that people could do when they look at their own things' you look at your own footage, you edit and you annotate your own footage, and then by opening it up, you allow other people who may or may not be familiar with the topics raised to annotate more and to continue that discussion, for us it was a logical starting point to involve people, to work with people whose research we could actually follow and had an interest in.
Steven: I was just wondering if you had encountered [inaudible 0:53:48.3] from people in getting them to add their footage for either copy right or intellectual property right for whatever fear that they have.
Ashok: It always happens, it always happens and to me dealing with copyright online for a long time, I think I can recognize in this.. we've dealt with filmmakers who have said we have this anxiety once their footage is out there, it can be misused. Whatever that means, I mean hardly anyone will walk up and say I'm [inaudible 0:54:37.2] copyright so I'm not going to put it on a platform where you have a creative commons [inaudible 0:54:43.2] and then everyone can download. Everyone individually is a big fan of liberal copyright and open source software etc, but when it becomes personal and concrete he will often be like "no this material is politically sensitive, someone can misused it" someone will say "ok, other people can annotate, but what about other people adding false information" so the figure of this author, they're very very strong, this idea that the internet is out there to screw you over and is common among many producers and today archivists are authors too so you feel that you're the author of the archive so the problem perpetuates. But the reasons people come up with I think are mostly, I mean I read a funny story today in Germany there's a huge discussion these days about Google Street View, it's going to be launched by the end of the year and now the government is critical about it and people are invited to privately, to personally have their own homes taken off the Street View for privacy reasons, but this is a --and today in one online magazine I saw people were posing, there was an article about these people taking off their houses off Google Street View and there was actually a photo of these people standing in front of their own house with a banner, and these people are going to have their house removed from Google Street View, but these people are actually in a publication online standing in front of the house they want to remove for privacy reasons. So I think there's always something else that motivates people to have what they think is their home taken off the internet, and in many cases it's so strange, I mean we can talk about this for longer if you life, we've-- one of the by-products of Pad.ma is deep research into author's anxieties to publish. Even though we would always way you don't have to put your material on Pad.ma, if it's juts about making content available, put it on YouTube, that is fine, there are many many options, but if you want it to have context, and I think Pad.ma provides context, even more than it provides content, if you want it to be on a specific context and be part of a network and be in a region of the internet that has a certain density, then I think some people then realize that this is actually a good argument, that it may be of value to contribute.
?: Yeah, and I think it's been important to make the suggestion--I mean to say on the one hand yes it is the decision including of the ethical decision of the filmmakers contributing their material or the authors otherwise contributing their material to Pad.ma it remains their decision to contribute whatever they wish to, but to push that always to the questions quite fundamentally, in order to debate what it is we're afraid of we have to see it and if we don't let us see it then the debate around what is the ethical problem can't really be had, so in a way you can black out entire sections of video and so on, but in terms of the discussion and in terms of being able to enter the discussion, it's impossible to do that without having anything to talk about, and part of our approach to filmmakers has been that yes, include the problem the archive is about talking through your immediate fear or its misuse and so on may tell us something about the nature of, not only of fear, but also if something is misused in a certain context then that may also tell you something about the footage itself that maybe more valuable than your fear at the moment. And I think Sebastian said this once that if they rightwing uses your material then maybe that said something about the footage itself- -is there such a thing as right-wing footage that the rightwing can use? and in which ways?
So in general, the provocation and idea has always been that the archive is a place for these conflicts, the archive must tell us more than just what we know and what is available anyway in other formats, or there is a space for this discussion here, and I think there's an ongoing kind of attempt addressing your previous point Steven, there is an ongoing attempt to now make this more of a reasonable question than rather just question stemming from the original groups kind of material. and it's just a point we haven't reached yet in Beirut, as you know, the internet is functionally quite bad, and nevertheless there are conversations that are going to continues; we're doing a workshop next month in Cairo, and so around this area, and the Middle East that we as [inaudible 1:00:33.7] work in as well, there is a bit of discussion now around what material can be in common, what ideas can be exchanged, there's a bit of a shared history around the documentary film tradition and with Egypt with the film tradition as well, so there are several possible points of [inaudible 1:00:56.2] and I don't think we're at that point yet.
Steven: I have a question to do with the type of search through the archives, you can do I know searches through the annotated texts, but is it possible, or is it conceivable to do searches that are based on for example visual criteria, or sound criteria, or criteria other than annotations based on the keywords of the annotation?
Sebastian: We'd love to do a bit more of this in the future, but I think if you wanted to search for the guy with the glass; technologically most of the interest in this field, I mean there's face recognition and there's also all these security related challenges that, of which a lot of effort has been put into at least getting face recognition right, but we're talking here not about a photo album, or limited like always fixed angles, CCTV situation but to be able to search for visual objects in films, is still a bit ahead in the future, nevertheless, what we can do now, what we can do today, and what we will do in the next version of Pad.ma is to retrieve a bit more visual information from the clips for example you can easily detect cuts in the material, you can easily, for example with something like 0XDB, because it's a different body of material, It's not footage, it's cinema, it's almost 10000 films of cinema, it would be really nice if you can at least sort your results by color, or by brightness, or by saturation, or by cut frequency, or play a bit more with these visual materials, but if you really want to find visual objects in moving material, I think you still have to wait, for a bit.
Scott: What about other ways of looking or working with the material such as audio? I was curious just for practical reasons, but also I'm curious, I know this is meant to be a visual index, but I also understand that this is video too, not just silent video, I was curious about the audio component, if that's something that's come up for you guys either theoretically or just technically.
Jan?: I mean the things that Sebastian just mentioned for more visual indicators there are some things that we can do for sound… most of these are right now more of abilities to sort through the ideas, not so much limit it. I mean you can sort it by the average volume, or if it's a loud film, if there are a huge variety of sounds, but in order to search you have to use some form of [inaudible 1:04:48.4] to formulate something, and then usually you do it with text, and so to transform that again into something that is not text… like you sing something and then it finds it, or so that you put up a picture and you draw something, It requires completely new ways of inputting a search, and then you could find it. But that is still quite far from anything that we've actually done.
There are some projects that try to do where you draw something and then it finds pictures there are similar, if anyone could do something like that as part of video…
?: and you could say that..
Jan?yeah I mean by systems where you sing a song and then it tells you which song you were signing, mostly used to detects sounds that are played in clubs, you phone out and then it records a bit of the sounds and then it tells you which song you were listening to.
?No I mean there is speech detection obviously but that works--I mean we've tried this clean room situation, English text, and it works relatively miserably, now a lot of the material in Pad.ma is not really clean-room, the audio doesn't have to be very good, and I don't know, we don't have a display that says how many languages are on Pad.ma, but in many cases, it's about finding someone who can at least transcribe this to English, it's not so straight forward and it's not so easy.
I mean one of the things, I think so far and I think we'll stick to that for a while that is to build on large amounts of good annotation, so if you wanted to have sunsets in Philadelphia, we cannot help you with the sunsets someone will have to mark sunsets in the films, but for example [inaudible 1:07:07.9] with the subtitles what we want to do is extract automatically location information which is place names, or calendar information in the broader sense which is the mention of Events or anything that occurs in time, and map them out automatically on a calendar or on the map so that you get that part for free and with a huge body of annotation which is like 10,000 films per subtitles on 0XDB or which is really deep annotation on Pad.ma on which you could also extract all kinds of things semantically, I think there are a lot of ways to get what you want.
Scott: Not to focus too much on the technical because I think we are also covering a lot of other ground, but have you guys considered audio to text methods at all? Do you see any practical advantage?
Ashok: …I've tried it, but it doesn't work, I was trying it with several films and it was really interesting because there was a scene where a woman walks down the street with high heels, and the text that was recognized was "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq" and I think that was more an indication as to who pays for this technology that is developed that has a military interest. But it is not really helpful for films, one problem is that a lot of the films are cut, and sound is edited with transition so that you don't have clear separation between two people speaking, and that way it was also really hard to recognize when they change, so when a new person starts to speak, and generally, at least with the software that I tried, it was not acceptable, and it is mostly limited to American English, so whenever you have anything that has many languages, or local dialects it becomes [inaudible 1:09:14.4].
Scott: I can definitely see that, I know with some of the more expensive audio-text software solutions you really have to train them, and training them for different dialects and different languages that sounds like a nightmare, but I was curious because it seems like you're interesting in what you called "misuses" and I was thinking perhaps you might be equally interested in the sort of miss-transcription or whatever they are, they would be called, interspersed with then they get it right so to speak.
Sebastian?: Yeah, if they were really original all of the times then yes.
Jan: Beside "Iraq" more of them were not even words, they were just made up things, so I was quite disappointed with what I …and if you train certain things it becomes better. One areas which we might explore at some point is to take a technology like that and only extract certain things again from these texts, so you don't take the entire transcript that is automatically generated, but within that you can, with a certain certainly decide on that certain terms are usually recognized right… maybe not "Iraq" …. it was recognized too often.
Steven: You've collectively authored and [inaudible 1:11:05.0] I've just posted a link to that on the Pad.ma site, maybe [inaudible 1:11:14.8] critical culture, archiving, political cultures [inaudible 1:11:21.7] in these series of discussion s of plausible art worlds, and I think [inaudible 1:11:29.3]
Ashok: I think one of the things about that text is that it was presented as a, in the context of a presentation, so it's not really meant as a text form, it's meant as a series of pretty much polemical short statements, and in that sense you know, and should be read as a kind of spoken text if you like. The "Don't Wait" thing I think was actually the title of the workshop of Beirut and I think the kinds of ways that the waiting around or for the archive for some kind of higher force of the archive or for some higher force of the archive to come and rescue the situation is the common, is at think that we experience a lot in our context, and I think in Beirut it's combined with the kind of waiting that's created by a very commercially [inaudible 1:12:42.6] specially among the media now increasingly about you know the cultural issues with…
So to give an example, there's a large archiving of [inaudible 1:12:59.7] which for ten years has been promising us the publication of its archive, or the access to its archive in some form, but we are supposed to wait until the archive launches, until a certain text has been written about it, till the institution gets its act together, which is never does because actually it's selling off parts of the archive using that money to trade on the stock market so that it can raise funds to make more archive which is still also not going to be visible to anyone, you know so this has been happening for about ten years, and it's really a situation where the archive becomes this promised land that [inaudible 1:13:46.0] the idea of something finished, but also something that is promised in various ways but never quite arrives. And especially in our context at least if you're going to wait for the state or you know, something like that, or a larger kind of commercial power to come and do it for you then obviously you would be living in that kind of regime. So the "Don't Wait" was a kind of practical call to think about these conditions in a way that was using the word archive in a sense politically was saying that it's not only about elections, but yes let's talk about the archive, let's talk about something that used to be the prerogative of large institutions, the state, and so on, and let's talk about that as a collective proposition.
Scott: I like that you have different ways of talking about it besides just talking about it as well; it seems like the Pad.ma project not only some of the content that foreground that I've noticed deals with copyright issues, but also the entire way that it's structured that you guys are actually doing this stuff and then inviting other people to do it as well is another way of talking about it.
I only mention that because well oftentimes there are criticism leveraged at people involved in these discussions where they kind of end on the discussion level and a project like this definitely does not.
Ashok: I think it works that there are many people involved, various people who have different things to take from it, and [inaudible 1:15:57.6] they're written by three or four different people so you know it's not like Pad.ma itself, it's not a canonical kind of statement, it's more like, it's not even going to words a set of canonical truths, but stacking up, layering up, adding to ideas that are already existing in some way or that really different people have different things to take and give to Pad.ma even at the moment, and this has been true I think for its short history so far.
[Alarm clock] It's five hours
Ashok: It's five am guys!
Steven: One more questions, I guess it feel like in the comments that have come up [inaudible 1:16:54.4] a few times already it's been mentioned [inaudible 1:16:58.9]
…a kind of an archiving as you see is like some sort of radical pedagogy and obviously [inaudible 1:17:08.6] teachers or people involved in alternative information production to want to use Pad.ma as a tool. What do you think about that, I mean that's, what if I said I want to do seminar with my students and I want to get them involved in this, I want them to be [inaudible 1:17:37.9] and annotating stuff, [inaudible 1:17:44.5] or what?
Ashok: Steven, I just have to go and get my power cord, but I think it's a great idea, and there's a couple of things that are happening, Pad.ma gives out these small fellowships at the moment and one of them is creating a pedagogic unit around the video archive of this organization that works which basically slum rehabilitation and kind of politics around that, around the situation of housing in the city, their archive is being turned into a kind of class room unit, which can then be used by different--so it's an experimented creating a kind of pedagogy unit, so I have to run off and I'll be back in a moment.
Steven: A question for maybe Sebastian and Jan, what [inaudible 1:18:43.4] language other than English, because if English is in India is the language which belongs to nobody so it's everybody's, that's what [inaudible 1:18:54.4] but what about people who wouldn't feel comfortable expressing themselves in written English, are there other languages on there? Is it possible? Is it conceivable? Is it desirable?
Jan/Sebastian: I mean the interface itself is English only right now, as for writing annotations, you can just write any language you want, and you can also use-- there were some issues with right-to-left languages, but in Beirut people also use Arabic and there [inaudible 1:19:33.4] so other scripts are used on Pad.ma ; the problem that arises with it is that if people search for something they will not find it because they might not be able to search with tat character every easily, or they don't know the language so it creates a sub community in that language
Scott: Would you guys be interested in creating a translation interface, or something like that?
Jan/Sebastian: I mean right now you could just add another annotation with the same in and out point and use a different language and they would show up, and once there are [inaudible 1:20:10.4]that doesn't really work anymore and becomes messy [inaudible 1:20:15.1]
So far I think it would be just that you take a text that exists, an existing layer, and add a new one within different layers and it's always possible if you are on the side to switch off one user, like different users, so you can only see the annotation of one person, or not of one person in the contributor' [01:20:46.2 from the top. So if there is someone editing annotations or some way of getting a translation effort then use you always switch that off.
So that is what you could do right now, and I think at two levels too different multilingual things, one is translation and the other is the people are working indifferent languages, and then I think it makes sense to do that and if it is a translation then this is a another layer of work that has to be put into the side and as people already have problems [inaudible 1:21:38.6] … is a lot of work, I don't know what they would think if [inaudible 1:21:46.2] has to be translated into.
Ashok: For example currently there is a --we're doing a film by a guy called [name 1:22:15.2] a kind of interesting figure in the Bombay documentary scene, and there is a Hindi and an English transcript of it happening at the same time, because it's a very specific king which I think merited that kind of attention and in Beirut for example, there was a few things that I think were translated, and there's already a bunch of Arabic stuff in there which ; this is a random selection but with something like this you could see…
Kind of descriptions in Arabic which I think are going to be followed up by transcripts in English, which are translations of what's going on, so there's different levels of [inaudible 1:23:23.9]
Jan/Sebastian: I think it's from a local TV station that [inaudible 1:23:56.8] type of footage
Ashok: Yeah so I mean there's a bunch of foreign material in different mixed languages which I think have been treated, this one has Kashmiri, Urdu, English as well and so on, so yep I mean there's an interesting set of questions around translation I think.
There is this nice feature on the info page that you can, it's like a little flip book of the frames, and the I don't know if you guys can see this, but on the last link I sent out, you can flip through the entire video via rolling over, by scrolling over basically the image you see so and when you click on a certain point, you're taken to that point on the timeline.
Scott: Did, was this covered earlier? I know we're talking with Jan, Ashok and Sebastian, Ashok I know that we had talked very briefly as part of this panel with Temple University here in Philadelphia, maybe a year and a half ago or something like that, or more; I was curious if I guess someone here just asked about the technical side of this, who was responsible for the different components of that night, my understanding was that all of you are, but I'm not sure if that's true, and are there many more people? Even though it's a freely accessible API it's not exactly an open source community right? It's a pretty close-knit group of people even if you are geographically dispersed?
?The software of Pad.ma is open source so it's available and can be used by other people, the development so far is what the people involved with Pad.ma do on it, there hasn't been anyone really from outside that's making for the development. We are right now in this next phase of work which is also open source and can be followed on these links. Both systems also have a public API that can be used to interface with the instance that is Pad.ma, and this will also be extended in the next version that there are more possibilities from embedding segments of the video to having ways of displaying annotations in different ways and using it on your side as you want to do.
?: I think what we want allow for in the future is like, many people like Pad.ma [inaudible 1:28:02.5] but then maybe they sit on larger archives that if they would just contribute the whole thing into Pad.ma would shift the focus of Pad.ma to much of people who want their independence, so people want to be able to run [inaudible 1:28:16.1] and while a couple of people have actually managed to do so with the existing software for Pad.ma, we want to make that much easier in the future by actually developing a video archive framework which then allows us to then 0XTB and Pad.ma on it, but which is then [inaudible 1:28:35.4] but which would allow anyone to run 0XTB or Pad.ma's style online archive with their own content, because in some cases it's really interesting if people contribute to Pad.ma, for some they have existing resources that are more a thing of their own. There would be many things you can do in the future for example, for now I find the uploading process is, just the concept of uploading a video to a site, it's nice if you upload every now and then, but if you have huge amounts of material, wouldn't it be nicer if Pad.ma in the future of this archiving system behaved a bit more like I-tunes maybe on your computer like here on my files, you are on a website just use a [inaudible 1:29:19.9] extension have this read in your own [inaudible 1:29:23.2] .
So what we want to make easier in the future is these workflows for users that are not so much individual who maybe add a bit of annotation here and there, or upload a video every now and then, but who actually want to manage within Pad.ma, or beyond it, larger collections of [inaudible 1:29:48.5]
Steven: I think that the, it's just that it's pretty overwhelming what Pad.ma is in a certain sense, I'm tempted to think, not so much to say about it, but you really have to have a hands on relation to it, I think [inaudible 1:30:40.5] because otherwise it's just an overwhelming amount of information potentially [inaudible 1:30:48.3]
Scott: Steven, could you just repeat that last part? For us here, it got garbled.
Steven: I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the wonderful potential but that's not necessarily a feeling which I… I'm impressed but I don't want to be impressed, I would rather be a user, and I think it's in a sense what Pad.ma does best as well, is beckons us into a usership relationship rather than being spectators of this incredible device with which we can… we don't even know what questions to ask about it.
Ashok?: Yeah, but you can get that feeling in front of final cut pro as well, you know, it's a question of, yeah this is new stuff, and in a way, it's a bit of a tricky tool, always trying to do things which have not necessarily been done before, and there's probably I could tell you a lot more about the politics for example, the video call that are kind of embedded in the process and so on. Yes, of course, there is a way in which it is a bit of a new things and for the things that it's trying to do I think we're trying to a sense of what that really means beyond the first impression of "ohh this is a lot", but if you search for a specific term then it suddenly becomes a bit less than a lot, and then once you open that up and you're able to look at a piece of video and kind of look at it in a way from its inside if you life. Then it can start to make sense, and of course there are ways in which it could change and of course, Yan and Sebastian will agree that this current interface is only one possible way in which to instantiate the ideas that Pad/,ma represents. It's not the end of it suddenly, but the point being that yes, there are a few functions that it's trying to do and I think it will be good to go a bit further and say why, or what kind of, what's the word you used? what kind of impression it is and what is, what is the negative word that you used? - what's the fear and …
Steven: I think overwhelmed was the word I was using but [inaudible 1:34:21.0]
but on the other hand it doesn't mystify so much as [inaudible 1:34:34.2] really inviting us to grapple with it as users.
Ashok: Yes, and I think there will be different kinds of usership that will slowly evolve. I mean there are people obviously who want to view this YouTube style view full-screen, sit back and view a bunch of material, there are others who would be very specifically looking for things, so there's a whole range of things, there are those who might be using is literally now to put together a lecture for tomorrow morning, it could be people cutting up bits of footage and making new timelines and there is a range of activity there and we slowly find out which are the ones that are dominating depending on the context of the material, the material in it will change a lot of the views around it but yeah, so in that sense if we are over whelmed, is it a question of visual thing, or is it, because obviously you could be overwhelmed in generally quite easily on the internet, I am often, and so do we need a clean front-end like Google that tries to in a way offer you a clean way in, so these are questions yet, they are valid
Steven: That's a very interesting point: the clean way in, I don't know-- you're right that that does create the illusion of not being overwhelmed, it creates the illusion of control and there's and illusions of course, it's… I'm also kind of overwhelmed by the idea of Wikipedia for example, of all wikis, of the kind of modern contemporary miracle whereby so much brain power can be linked together, so much [inaudible 1:36:44.0]collaboration to produce something that's so enormous. It's like the number one billion it's very difficult to get a representation of it, but the only way to engage it is to just engage with it.
?: Definitely, I think that how people use Pad.ma so far I think is only a small part of what [inaudible 1:37:18.7] so it's also that they are [inaudible 1:37:22.4] of interpreting more, from new ways of linking the material to the [inaudible 1:37:33.5] Pad.ma is also really at an early stage still, there's still a lot to explore, and if you are overwhelmed maybe the best is to create an account and start maybe playing with it and seeing what comes up.
Steven: I have an account actually, I have an account but I haven't used it yet, I'm not really sure, can I just sort of wade right in now and start uploading and start annotating?
Ashok: Yes, you new videos will not show up for other people initially, but your annotations are not moderated or anything, so if you annotated an existing video that annotation will not be moderated, so it's like yep, you can go ahead and do that.
I think one of the ways I've used it quite often is to download pieces of video and also download annotations, for example recently we were in Gujarat, we were doing a project related to ships going to Somalia and so on, so I downloaded a whole bunch of annotations from Pad.ma which were around that project, which were around previous visits to that area, so it's really being used as a research tool, and to give you an example of what that was, …
so yeah, in a sense, apart from the annotation work, apart from adding to the archive, the ways in which its really convenient and fast and good to explore is the partial downloads feature that is even in the current build you can just download a bunch of clips, like pieces of video that you can then line up in something like VLC and use it for presentations for example, you can already do this and it's quite straight forward to do and the other thing that one can do is for example I was in this town and I had just downloaded all the annotations what were applicable to these videos which had been done about a year ago and I had them with me during my research trip and now the new material that has been collected is going to be added to this collection, so stuff like that, it's a kind of practical way really for us, it has been to link video material which is often hard to reference, or hard to find, or hard to look and bee inside of, to find a way to just reference that so video material that was shot last year in a certain situation has been annotated according to time code, and so we can find things within it, which is quite useful in a really straight forward way.
One of the fastest ways to zip through the annotations is like Jan said before to use "0" and "9" to go to next annotation.
Steven: Ok, so "000" allows you to skip from one sequence to the next, what about "999" what does that do?
Ashok: The same thing backwards, or from one annotation to the next one, so you can read rapidly all the annotations on that video clip by just going "00000" as long as you're in the edit page, that's editor view
And on actions, there is a thing on the drop-down menu, there is a thing called download annotations, and there are different ways in which you can download these annotations, and you can download all the different types of annotations as different SRT files that's kind of subtitles fields standard, and yeah, you can download as we said before parts of [inaudible 1:43:53.1], you can link to selections which is also quite useful, what we have been doing all evening, all morning. And we have I think a newsletter that I believe the next one is in a couple of weeks, we have a newsletter that I think comes out once in a couple of months.
And the sun is rising
Steven: [inaudible 1:44:43.8] I just want to ask, what is your usership now? How many people are registered users, and how many people are actually involved in a day to day or a week-to-week basis?
Ashok: I don’t know exactly, but I would say a few hundred, it's not a very big number, and also that will change… we've been a bit [inaudible 1:45:17.7] we're moving onto a new set of structures for bringing in contents so we've been on old [inaudible 1:45:33.9] I think that's going to change fairly soon. But yeah, I would say it's a couple of hundred people maybe....[inaudible 1:45:57.0] which are different from people who swing by and have a look who don't actually contribute the [inaudible 1:46:04.9]
Steven: Yeah, that's hard work to define with any precision at this point, but yeah I was speaking of people who are not merely spectators who actually [inaudible 01:46:17.0]
It's been a really fascinating presentation, I don't want it to end, but the sun is coming up [inaudible 1:46:28.4]
Scott: Yeah guys it's really been great having you, thanks for withstanding all of our prying questions
Ashok: So what's the Easter egg idea?
Scott: I'm actually not sure about that, I was going to ask, yeah I think Greg said something about an Easter egg idea earlier I'm not sure what that was.
However, I don't know if we have time to explain it because the clock strikes eight and we always try to end on time as much as possible for everyone who's usually ahead of us in terms of time-zone, especially you guys who … it's nearing six in the morning, so thanks again for bending over in a way to our kind of folding time in space to be with us tonight. We'd love to have you for future chats as well if you'd like to stay up drinking and taking stimulants and join us in the middle of the night, or early morning, you're always welcome.
Ashok: Yes, I think we're going to have a baby soon so that's not likely to happen, but we'll be up at 7am.
But thank you all and thanks Steven, we'll be back, we'll see you online and be around and keep checking in on how Pad.ma's doing.
Scott: Awesome guys, good night everyone, or good morning
This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.
This week we’ll be talking with some of the initiators of the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI).
Founded in 2005, DS4SI is a creativity lab for social justice work, a space for artists, activists, teachers and other social interventionists to reframe and reinvigorate the possibilities of the non-profit sector. Design studios are typically places where companies develop innovative products. In this case, it’s a place where progressive organizations within the non profit sector develop inventive practices to address real social problems. To do that, DS4SI borrows methodologies from design practices and implements them in unconventional and innovative ways. DS4SI brings together urban designers, cultural architects, community activists, game designers, performance artists, and youth organizers to translate design theory into public interventions.
In a sense, worlds – including artworlds – can only be said to be “plausible” if they are made plausible by design, that is, if people set out and redesign the existent and ultimately implausible worlds on offer. What DS4SI has done is to take the world-design imperative seriously, convinced that design concerns not only physical objects and spaces but also — perhaps above all — forms of social justice. DS4SI is dedicated to changing how social change is imagined, developed and deployed. Does effective social intervention mean breaking with exhausted forms, designing new ways to be interventionists? Designing new frames in which to intervene?
Created on 2010-07-06 20:09:17.
Week 27: Design Studio for Social Intervention
[Steven]: So Scott, how do we know the Design Studio for Social Intervention?
[Scott]: Actually I don't. I talked with Kenneth Bailey and Lori Libenstein over the phone yesterday for the first time. They were recommended to us by David Morgan from Brownswell Collective, who we have been talking with for quite awhile. We just haven't had the chance to have him in on one of these weekly events yet. Although there has been a lot of email discussion. Yeah, he is involved with them and there are a number of other people involved with the Design Studio for Social Intervention in Boston. So we just finally wanted to connect with them. Ultimately, all until about them that is what I've been reading about on their site and what James and a few various people I've been talking with have told us. But we know about this practice in general. It's not as if we are approaching this fresh for the first time.
[Steven]: What this means about the whole thing if the notion of the design right? Because, you know, we usually think of design as being something that is sort of voluntarily and self consciously imposed on objects and spaces. And they've decided to take it to a different level or a different place and say "yeah, I don't know, justice! Let's design justice!" Because nobody has done anything about it, there is this thing called social justice and it's not working very well. It's more like injustice. Let's design it. And they decided to apply and to take art and design seriously enough to apply it to the forms in which personal relations take place in society. I think that's a pretty interesting take on what we call Plausible Artworlds
[Scott]: Yeah, it seems like they use the tools of design specifically. Or at least tried to use those methodologies. So we're looking at, we were talking with Kent from Democratic Innovation a few weeks ago. They have taken a similar approach; the idea of democracy in general is what's the content of that 10 year project through working with different people. I guess I mentioned that in the same breath because there are a lot of people that we're looking at who are instrumentalizing themselves specifically.
Actually, we don't have a Wi-Fi here right now. There are different ones you can pick up.
But, they seem to not be opposed in any way to instrumentalize themselves as artists. I think that a lot of artists have a problem with that. A lot of people in art have a problem with that. Many of the people that we have been talking to don't. And these people seem to, even in the title of their name, just be embracing it fully head on.
[Steven]: Yeah, that's pretty cool. You know, we talk about our projects that have to, like, hide themselves. We look for theories that help us to understand why are would like seek a maximal amount of visibility or seek a minimum amount. And then we have these people, and that's why we want to talk to them, right? It's because they're saying "Yeah, we want to use these tools that have been created over the last 30,000 years of art and design or whatever to promote social justice. So why the (explicative 0:04:53.9) not?"
[Scott]: Yeah exactly. I was struggling a little bit on the site to find information about the projects that they are involved in. I mean, there are a few things that I could see. Life Lab is one of them. But yeah, it might be actually hard to talk about them in specific unless any of you guys here know them well. We might just kind of need to talk about those kinds of practices in general for maybe the next half an hour. Steven, at the very least you and I could do that. At the other people here would watch or have something to say about that too (laughing).
[Steven]: One of the challenges over these kinds of projects over the years obviously has been that it's one thing to pay lip service for this kind of an idea. It's another thing to actually do it. You know, it seems like a cool idea when cognitive capitalism, like the mainstream process of accumulation, is using these techniques. It seems cool, more than cool. It seemed socially or ethically or morally kind of obligatory to not leave the monopoly of them into the hands of the adversary. To try and use them to do something (inaudible 0:06:31.9) and socially positive, but true. Usually what ends up happening is not much socially positive at all despite the very sincere wishes of the artist. What ends up happening is that the artist becomes the sole signatory of the initiative. So I don't know if this is or not the case, but I'm interested in talking to our guest tonight, whenever they show up, about how it is they avoid that kind of a paradox. That pitfall. Even in the cases that we've discussed this past half year we had some cases where it's been rather dubious. We were actually not in an art project and rather and a project of social justice. And that's what's interesting about this design project is that they are explicitly in favor of interventionism and social justice. They are not talking about art primarily.
[Scott]: Yeah it's crazy. I mean, this whole, I think Greg Schlotte's "Dark Matter" project, one of his big interests is in looking at the different art practices that are not exposed to the light, I guess, which really are visiblized yet. I know that the Dark Matter archives really hold a lot of updated practices yet, but, these are among the things that are going to be flushing that out. It's kind of crazy when you look at artist social practice, the explosion of artists who are interested and involved in other social justice movements. It almost parallels the mainstream ARTWORLD because there are so many people involved. It's kind of hard to know what to do with all of that.
[Steven]: Yeah, no sure. Scott, I want to say one thing and that is that the sound tonight is unbelievably clear. So I am hearing this perfectly. I think there are two kinds of scenarios we can talk about. One is where you have non-artists, like social activists who are doing things that are actually perceived as art so we would see them as a plausible artworld. But in fact they're really intervening for greater forms of social justice. After the first kind of phenomenon, you have artists who are doing that as well but aware that what they're doing is not actually perceived as art. It's perceived as social interventionism. So those are the two kinds of, it's kind of a, I don't know… a keyosmos. That X phenomenon where you have a crossing of competences and incompetence is of desires and contingencies basically. That would be the question I would really want to ask to our guests is whether or how they have managed to configure that kind of a form of convergence.
[Asheesh]: Hi, I'm Asheesh. Am I talking loudly enough? Probably not for you guys.
(Audio Feed Lost 0:10:32.4 - 0:10:55.4)
[Asheesh]: Whoa! OK, hi! I'm Asheesh. So I find this design studio for social intervention kind of interesting because I sort of accidentally became, I accidentally did something similar to what they do. A few years ago when I was in college, I was frustrated with what I felt was a lack of interest in non academic or non, like, career interests among the students where I went to school. So I, with some friends, inflated 288 inflatable pink flamingos and put them on the quad. I guess I realize, I guess I'm trying to understand, how that fits into the concept of plausible Artworlds. On one hand, the whole point of it was to be a plausible show of whimsy and make people up to the idea that there are other things than what they think about on a daily basis. I guess, so, we were trying to build a plausible artworld but we're trying to shock people into what I felt was something that was kinda along the ideas of social justice. I guess I'll stop talking now and see what you think.
[Steven]: Scott? Do want to deal with that?
[Scott]: Sure, I guess so. I don't know how it specifically works with plausible Artworlds. All this initiative is…
[Asheesh]: I mean I would want to deflate it or say that it's small because, you know, these days it's kind of easy to make a gigantic project. You just add a curatorial component, invite 100 people you know who have extensive networks already and all of a sudden it's a ginormous project. You know, it's… So this is one of those two, but, and its course while certain ideas around it might be kind of complex it's actually pretty simple, I think. You know, Steven and I might agree on this. You know I think we're really interested in not just the certain, well objects that people make only or even an artwork that someone makes that might be a social practice type artwork. But, we're interested in people that create different kinds of conditions under which different creative activity can happen or be understood differently. You know. Or understood as creative practice even. And that's what an artworld is and that's why we adopted that term.
And I think our initial, really what this project does, is two things. It's pluralizes what in artworld is or what often referred to as the artworld when we're looking at different ones. And not only different worlds, but ones that are structured differently than the one most commonly referred to as the artworld. The one that we refer to as the mainstream artworld. And two, it's looking at not only fully established networks that everyone would recognize as Artworlds but sometimes they are vast. There might be thousands of people involved, or hundreds. Or it can be quite enormous. There could be a lot of money involved. There could be a lot of territory involved or whatever. But in some cases it's just a few people and well we take the stance that even in those cases where it's only a few people that it could be what Steven refers to as a fledgling artworld. The beginnings of an artworld. And that's why we're looking at, referring to the as plausible. You know, because they are not just things that are established already. They are things that, you know, you can buy for their plausibility however defined. We really don't set strict criteria for what defines that. We're more interested in the discussions around it. So, in any case, I think that as long as you're talking about people that set up an environment that either enables, accompanies, allows for or helps to provide an understanding for what creative practice can be, then that's an artworld in that it doesn't reflect a mainstream model. That particular example is something that is not necessarily innovative, per say, but it is experimenting with what creative life could be. Then we really like to and want to look at those things as plausible Artworlds and kind of see where it lands as different people weigh in on that. Do think that makes sense Steven?
[Steven]: Yeah, yeah, that's the gist of it. I mean, you know, I was looking at the pictures the other day of... The European space program recently sent up a satellite to take pictures of the universe and they wanted to take pictures of the universe and its early days. What the (explicative 0:16:21.1) is that? The universe and its early days, you know? Because apparently in the beginning of the universe, that's their hypothesis, there was nothing to see because the energy was not stable enough to actually hold light. It could actually host photons. And so were looking at these pictures they sent back, which are incredibly beautiful, are pictures of our universe before you can actually see it. So it's kinda like, it raises the question of why we talk about worlds. What we talk about universes, you know? Well, I guess there are not universes, its universe. And then why are there worlds and not just a world? Well, obviously that means that a world is something which can be a redesigned and I think that's the kind of sense of the discussion this evening. You can't redesign a universe. The universe is kind that thing which, like, is hoisted upon it. But what interesting is the, you know, this group, which when they show up, what their talk about is actually redesigning the thing but it's the same kind of logic. There was stuff that was there that was not visible because it could host light at a certain point. It was too energetic, actually, to actually a form of photon or graphed upon or whatever. Like, I'm speaking metaphorically but in a certain sense that's what we're talking about.
We're talking about the fledgling kind of projects which are not quite visible and why are they not visible? It's because light quite can't stick onto them yet. And yet it's all about redesigning things. It's all about, like, doing things the way you want to do it. You know, I mean we could look at the specific examples of what they are doing. Probably we actually should do that. The Design Studio for Social Intervention gets involved, right? They actually, they look… For example, there's this phenomenon which they worked on what working class largely African American neighborhoods in Boston. This project which they called, what was the word they used? It was when people look at each other in a specific way. When you grid somebody, when you like… What was the word for that? That project? Let me just look to their.
[Female Group Member]: Steven, I think Scott just went to the bathroom (laughing).
[Steven]: Oh, okay.
[Female Group Member]: I don't know the word though.
[Asheesh]: I mean we're interested (laughing).
[Steven]: Hang on. I'm going to look it up now.
[Asheesh]: I think that I wasn't quite clear about what I was saying before and so I thought of it and clarified it. When I talked about the flamingos, it was because I think that it shared a sense of the intervention with the design studio for social intervention. I mean, we were trying to do, so I just want to their website whose front page defines intervention and talked about how it is the fact, the act or fact interfering with the condition to modify it or the process changes course. And the point of these flamingos was to provide an intervention with a specific moment of the shocking display of meaninglessness. To help people change their course and to consider more whimsical things as part of their lives. And so I guess, that will sort of be the frame that I'm thinking about the design studio for social intervention from. Since its part of my life and not really part of anyone else's accept Blake here who helped me lug the flamingos around.
[Blake]: (inaudible 0:20:33.5)
[Asheesh]: Weren't they in your car once? You drove us from the airport to the farm where we stored them for few days.
[Blake]: But they weren't inflated then.
[Asheesh]: They weren't inflated then, they were in a box yeah. Um, anyway, that sort of my perspective of social intervention twisted with art. So I'm curious how they will do it.
[Steven]: I'm just reading the story of the, um, of the design studio about what they call "The Grill". You know, it seems that, I don't know these things myself and that's not my culture but, check this out. Somebody walks through a neighborhood in Boston. You kind of a grill somebody else with your eyes and either it provokes them standing down or them engaging in some sort of conflict. And they've decided to use that notion of "The Grill", obviously a very powerful form of social interaction, as a design tool but to kind of deviate it into a different way of social engagement. Rather than creating a sort of black on black violence or inter communal violence of any kind, using that kind of energy to move (inaudible 0:22:11.5) and I think that's really a (expletive 0:22:13.2) fascinating idea of world design. Of saying "yeah we can make plausible worlds, ya know? We can just design them".
(Audio Feed Lost 0:22:22.0 - 0:23:46.8)
[Steven]: Yeah, you could say that. But there's more than one way to skin a cat, right? I mean you can just say "Oh yeah" like as you said, but, you can also try to redesign it on a more (inaudible 0:24:01.1) kind of a social scale. Like in a neighborhood or across a… But rather, you know, well I don't want to put words in the mouths of the people who are invited to speak. But it would seem to me looking at forms of interpersonal relations and, you know, not even personal, I don't know personal community relations. Um, which go beyond that kind of sort of simplistic reaction that everyone should have every time but actually reconfiguring the kind of parameters and engagements. They talk about frames.
[Asheesh]: Yeah it's super interesting. I was just trying to find more info about that online.
[Scott]: Yeah I definitely want to ask them about the grill (laughing). But yeah, by the way Steven, I don't know if you got my message but basically in about between 5 and 10 minutes we're going to call them on a mobile phone because they…
[Scott]: Oh, okay cool.
[Steven]: You know what, the thing that I like about it even know no matter what they will say, what I like about it is they take art seriously and design. I mean that's kind of a byproduct of art, but, they'd take it seriously as something which can actually be used not just to be instrumentalized by cognitive capitalism and creative capitalism to, you know, for the accumulation of some things value in the hands of the few. But actually can be used as something to really positively or negatively transformed forms of social engagement. And that's really, no matter what it is they have to say about it, that's really cool.
[Asheesh]: Yeah I'm (inaudible 0:26:06.7) a link to their blog here too, which anybody who goes to their website can easily see. But I'm just pointing out that that this is kind of a separate micro site for them that has a lot of, well, various things there are going on or have been going on anyway.
[Scott]: Yeah, you know, one of the things I wondered about what the plausible Artworlds examples was whether it would be good to have, to look at some Meta artworlds. You know kind of these larger networks. Part of our goal for this year was to look at concrete examples one after the other every week for the year. And, I mean, I can definitely go for much longer than a year. I could go much more frequent than just once a week too. But it's kind of enough for us right now.
[Steven]: Yeah you know what? I think that's pretty ambitious of you. Even to define and in a respectful way, once a week is about as much as we can manage. Honestly I don't think we could do more. I mean, you know? It would be hard.
[Scott]: Well not so much with the resources that we have. But I just mean, there are so many examples out there I guess was my point. And, and uh...
[Steven]: Yeah, sure.
[Scott]: And 52 of them is sufficiently bewildering, but it's also not nearly enough. And I think one of the thoughts that keeps crossing my mind, and I know Steven and I have talked about this, and every so often someone else asks us about something like this is that, you know, what about some of these really large conferences. You know, where not only thousands of people show up but hundreds and hundreds of, well at least hundreds of, practices that would be people we would invite to talk to each week. People we would want to talk to each week. And some of them are so intimately connected, intertwined, that they might be seemed as kind of a Meta or one of those larger kinds of art worlds that would parallel. You know, if we were talking about different worlds we might talk about just the gallery, not necessarily just plausible ones, mainstream ones. We might talk about things that are normally considered to be part of "The". We might talk about galleries and Chelsea or Brooklyn or London or we might talk about a whole region. So what we are looking at these examples sometimes it feels like "well perhaps we might wanna talk about the much larger collection of examples that kind of work together and sometimes play together". For instance, hacktavists. Spaces, hacker spaces or people involved in so called hacktavism generally. It might be good to look at it a grouping of them as opposed to just one small group or one initiative, especially when they do band together not just to generalize everyone but to focus on that larger thing that they are working as a concrete example itself. And in this case, there is a city from (inaudible 0:29:54.6) conference not too long ago and there have been others, a few others, since then quite major on the art and activism front end on that are and social justice overlap. You know, that may be good to think about and to talk about with them.
[Steven]: Well, sure. I mean, Scott, we are repeating things we've said before. We don't have a kind of an idea about what a plausible would be. Obviously, if people are proposing in one way or another in a very minor way, minor but nevertheless salient an way, a feature which is significantly different than from the mainstream, which we call THE artworld, then we are prepared to consider it as a plausible artworld. And so, I mean, The City from Below, yeah. It could be plugged into every single way into mainstream. Except in one very significant way which makes it differ, and for us that the plausible.
[Scott]: Yeah sure, definitely.
[Steven]: It's significantly different. I mean, what these guys are talking about, what the design studio is talking about, there actually saying "let's design things. Let's not just say hey, there's this Plausible out there, let's go into it!" They're saying, "Let's design one." You know, it's somehow freeing and empowering by saying "yeah, lets revamp that thing!" And kind of, that's what the mainstream always is doing. So we should be doing it too.
[Scott]: Yeah, I mean it's true. A lot of what we look at, or interested our people who are, I mean, we kind of adopted this from Disney, but who are imagineering the world around them and a specially certain kinds of setups that allow creative practices to happen differently. Um, so yeah, I guess there something implied, well not just implied, but something in the way they describe of the design process and how they design. I agree with you Steven, for sure.
Asheesh, did you wanna ask about that or talk? Oh, he didn't really care what Steven was saying or what I was saying about mainstream? Oh. Steven, someone was asking if you would mind repeating what you're just saying about a mainstream. I felt like you're kind of responding to what I was saying (laughing). So, to help clarify that...
[Steven]: Yeah sure. You know what, and I kind of don't remember exactly what I just said. The thing is the question about mainstream is like in any river. You know, it's undeniable that there's a mainstream. You know, that's just like the way the river goes. But, rivers change over time and even when they don't change, there are minor steams. And, what I was saying is that a mainstream tends to respond to the interests of the dominant powers in our society and the dominant interests and so on. It doesn't quite correspond because it's a stream, I mean it's moving. So there never keeping up with it exactly. What we are talking about his stuff that is not in that stream exactly at all. I don't know what to say exactly. The non-mainstream is that we are saying that art is too big of a word to be absorbed into that one stream. There are a number of other ones and, in fact, of those things are worlds.
[Female Group Member]: Last weekend I was (interrupts Steven)...oh.
[Steven]: You can't just...
[Female Group Member]: Oh, sorry. Were you finished? Steven, were you finished?
[Steven]: I was finished.
[Female Group Member]: Sorry. I was just going to say after thinking a little bit about mainstream, actually, more about groups. It's and I was thinking about how last week and I went to, or a couple weekends ago, I went to the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore. Is that what it's called? So, it makes me think a lot about the individual versus the group. I mean, really, those are definitely Plausible Artworlds that the artists that they've show have. But one distinction might be that it's the individual versus the group. And it seems to me, and maybe I'm wrong as I haven't been to all of these Plausible Artworlds, but it seems like it's mostly group work and individuals together. Those sorts of layers that seem to be. Nonetheless, that museum was amazing and those artists are such visionaries in totally making their own world. American Visionary Museum.
[Asheesh]: I haven't been there, I lived in Baltimore. I drove by it a few times (laughing). Embarrassing, I know. (Laughing). But the thing about the American Visionary Museum is that the art there reflects people's unique internal artworlds. And so when you talk about individual versus a group, I sort of think about four expressing one's internal state versus four unifying people who share some vision or organizing idea about the world. So this, well, yeah social intervention seems to be quite on topic for that.
[Female Group Member]: They don't really use that word "outsider". They like to say "visionary". I think it's a good distinction. I mean, because they're inside the museum.
(Audio Feel Lost 0:37:11.3 - 0:37:34.3)
[Scott]: I mean, you were asking about groups too? And it is true that this particular initiative has a bias towards group practice. I think probably one of the reasons, well I mean, it's just bias. Maybe a reason why we were interested in this is because there's also a mutual interest between the people that are helping to organize it and also many of the people involved. An interest in group and collective practices. Um, yeah, totally. Theresa was also just asking if there have been any examples of artworlds that we've looked at, people that we've talked with where it's really just a single person. Ultimately, no because we would never know about it if that was the case. But in a way, there have been some people that we've talked with and looked at where... For example there are people that pose as a group. There are some examples of that that we've looked at and talked too.
(Inaudible comment from group member 0:39:09.2)
Yeah, exactly, yeah. So this has been a long discussion about how reducible is a world. Can you reduce it to one person? Can you have a world of one zone? Ultimately, we think that no, you can't. Can you have a kind of world where there's just two people? Arguably. No but arguable yes. The jury is kind of out on that. It's up for debate.
[Steven]: At certain points Scott, we said that a world was not possible at two or at three. It had to be beyond that. Because it's become very fashionable for a person in contemporary art circles to pursue a signal signature style and practice and at the same time work within a collective. At that's legitimate enough. But, a world doesn't exist just because you link up with one other person or you create some name to be fashionable. It really exists because there's a, I would say, when there's a mutualization of incompetence.
[Scott]: Yeah, exactly (inaudible 0:40:36.8). Yeah, it sort of seams ridiculous to say there is a world when there's really just a few people. It's almost like a grandiose metaphor for a couple of friends (laughing). But then again, what we're interested in it doesn't really matter. We're not really judging or evaluating at all the whole scale of setups and the environments that people create. We're more interested in who they operate and how they're structured and the entailments of them if we were to imagine scaling them. Even if it is less than a dozen people. SO yeah, I think that's probably what's part of what has conflated the issue a little bit. You asked about this last week. Or mentioned this last week, that sometime's we're looking for examples that are more or less a project only. Sometimes they're a group of people. Sometimes a small group and sometimes a pretty big group. Other times, their initiatives that are much larger or networks of other groups of people that then the scale goes up. But none of those, I don't think anyway, have been, like, what this way of looking at it does, I think anyway, is an attempt to try to evaluate these. It may be to discuss or try to get a better understanding of the implications of a particular way of structuring something or doing something. But it's not to say that, anyway, I'm repeating myself now (laughing).
But yeah, I think that's the main goal. So really, unless someone comes up with good criteria, I don't really know of any criteria of saying what makes a world. Except that we can pretty easily say that it's hard, at the very least, it's hard to say that a single person is a world.
Uh, I'm going to add Guy.
Oh, so, we're getting to the point where I'm going to try giving them a call. Give the people that we've sort of been peripherally talking about for the last hour, a call (laughing). So, if you guys don't mind just hanging out for a sec or continuing to chat. I'm going to step away and try to call them on the mobile first to set it up.
(Audio Feed Lost 0:44:00.1 - 0:54:07.0)
[Scott]: Hey, and we're back. It looks like the reason I wasn't able to patch through to them, I just tried a different route, is that they're actually in a different time zone. So, there was some confusion about what time. By the time they're ready to be called, we're actually going to wrap up in about a half an hour from now. So, OH NOES!
Yeah, we could definitely try to approach this using just askey or emoticons (laughing). Yeah, well, in any case, it still brings up interesting questions and I briefly tried to pull Kenny away. But he let me know that they're still in the middle of this workshop with all these people. So, it was just not going to be easy for them because they don't have Skype set up. If they did we could probably just try to patch everyone in. But it was more like I was able to call his mobile phone. So, in any case, not to focus on that too much, I mentioned that we'd like to follow up with him about some of the questions that came up while looking at their work. You know, the differences between certain things that they do or some of the solutions that they've found to approach interventionist art, or I'd say community art. So called community art practices in ways that they don't just become instrumentalized by the state or just help to continue to perpetuate certain ideas about privilege. Some of the things that are very difficult for people that are involved in community arts or other things we mentioned. Specifically, what they mean by design and what it means to design a world. He said he's very interested, they're all very interested, to talk with us. I can only tease you with that though right now.
Oh gosh Jessica! We just clicked on that link (laughing). It's not safe for work (laughing). Um, indeed.
Yeah, so, it's a little too hot to think today. How is it in Chicago? I'm just curious. Did you guys just arrive in Chicago, Jessica and Adam?
[Jessica]: (inaudible 0:57:21.9) yeah, we moved in on Friday.
[Scott]: That's so awesome.
[Jessica]: Yeah (inaudible 0:57:27.7).
[Scott]: Oops. Can you say that again? We kind of...
[Jessica]: It is hot.
[Scott]: Yeah, okay.
[Jessica]: But that doesn't explain the video
[Scott]: Yeah, sometimes it's so hot that's all you can really talk about. Is just how hot it is. Yeah, there's definitely so much going on in Philly that there's a lot of... I guess you could say there are a lot of community arts programs. We've touched on this in some past weeks. To me it seems like some of the things that came up here are really crucial. Just some of the questions that Steven posed and that a few other people had touched on are really crucial because, like Steven said, a lot of times those community programs just fall painfully short. I guess, like I had just mentioned, it's hard for anyone not to be absorbed into larger addenda. I mean, in a way, sometimes you could say "well, it doesn't really matter because if you're doing some good for someone then who cares if someone else's agenda is satisfied?" And that's probably true. But when the premise of what that community arts group is doing is that this is something that's empowering to the community at large or that particular community. Often times it is arguably counterproductive. You know, we had talked about how Philadelphia is a city of murals. There's a program that kind of tries to (laughing)...hey?
Is somebody snoring (laughing)? I swear, it sounds like someone is (laughing).
Steven! That's you!
[Jessica]: So Scott, the city of Philadelphia is a city of murals?
[Scott]: Jessica, yeah!
[Jessica]: So, whose agenda is that serving?
[Scott]: Yeah, exactly. Well, you know what, I hate to say but I think....I'm not really sure to be honest.
It is actually 2:00am there so I wouldn't be entirely surprised. I hate to, to a.....
(Commotion, laughter, chatter and snoring 1:00:18.2)
[Scott]: Sorry, I didn't really realize what was happening there. So Philadelphia is the city of murals, or at least it has an extensive mural arts program. There's debate on whether or not this is actually good. Whether it is good in the ways that it reports to be good.
[Scott]: I mean, what does it mean to be good anyway? But, specifically, by its own self definition, is it empowering? People that take it very seriously would argue, you know, that it's artistic value anyway, but is it even culturally empowering. Sorry, go ahead Jessica.
[Jessica]: Oh, no. I was just saying that it may give some people some opportunities. But who knows, like its relationship with the neighborhood and everything gets really complicated after that. Adam and I are just sort of getting our bearings here in Chicago, but like the situation we're coming out of where it seems like every community bases initiative was sort of swept up into this massive marketing campaign. We saw that happen again and again. So, we're kind of in a state right now where we're stepping back and sort of looking at things in a broader way.
(Loud snoring 1:01:51.6)
I'll be right back.
[Scott]: Uh, I think you got cut off for a second Jessica. Can you do...? Oh! Be right back. Okay. It was just kind of mid-sentence and I didn't catch that. Yeah, I'm very interested in what's going on with them because they're actually going to be teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago and brining a lot of these ideas to the students there. And, Chicago also happens to be a city where there are a lot of art and activist practices. So that's definitely going to be probably some interesting cross city (laughing) discussions about this stuff.
(Inaudible question from group member 1:02:55.2)
[Scott]: Uh, no, they are... Actually, yeah. Around the area but I've been living in Tennessee for awhile, yeah.
[Erica]: I don't know, I'll take a stab at it, it is hot. Some of the groups like Mighty Writers in Philadelphia. Mighty Writers, it's a group in Philadelphia. It's a group that is teaching kids to write and sort of doing work shops with kids about writing. And like, in some ways, I feel like some of those sorts of things are so much more of a tool for social change than something like mural arts, which just happens to have the word art attached to it. It's probably doing less than what groups like, you know, their main focus is (inaudible 1:04:00.2) yeah, that's it. Like, their main focus is doing like interesting writing projects with kids and specifically kids that don't necessarily have the opportunity to work in those ways. I mean, that don't have the access to it. So it's interesting to think about that as opposed to things that like frame themselves as a tool for social change. Like something like the programs we have in Philadelphia. I don't like to say the name.
(Inaudible question from group member 1:04:47.8)
[Scott]: Uh huh. Yeah. Yeah, we were just talking about Mighty Writers. Interesting, yeah. And Erica was just...mmm hmmm.
(Inaudible question from group member 1:05:15.3)
[Scott]: Yeah, exactly. If somebody does something good for a small community it's not to say that that's not a good idea or that that kind of thing shouldn't happen. It actually SHOULD be happening all the time. And part of the argument for arts potentially being counterproductive on the larger scale is that, well, anyway this is not to say that people that are just like basically pouring their blood, sweat and tears into helping a small community are doing something good or useful or helpful to certain people. But potentially that community arts practices might be inadvertently using their symbolic value, their symbolic value as art, to get local governments and federal governments off the hook. This is especially true in the UK and it's become a cliché for counsel funded projects or ones that "help a community". But what they really do, it's like, when you total up the money and support and the attention that gets poured into those projects, it's tiny compared to actually what should be happening nationally. You know? And it really shouldn't be kind of picked up by the art per say. I'm not saying that art shouldn't be doing this. Obviously that would be pretty ridiculous, especially with many of the examples that we're looking at. But, that it's a problem. It's a challenge because what often leads art practice, arguably anyway, are doing is saying "hey, look at us. Not just us as the artists, but us as a people, as a local government, as a state or as a nation. Hey look, we are actually doing these wonderful projects. Look at all these amazing...." It's like a PR campaign basically. But one where there is such a small budge allocated to it compared to what actually should be doing. We're talking about educating people or helping to raise the value of a neighborhood or whatever. You don't just give a thousand dollars to like some hungry artists who are perfectly happy to work almost for free most of the time just to beautify the side of a building. I mean, it's not that it isn't helpful or can he helpful, but part of this argument anyway is that not only is it not enough, but we are actually helping to say that "oh, it actually is enough" which could be counterproductive.
[Male Group Member]: Scott, I couldn't agree more completely with that concept. It's something I've been struggling with and I don't want to derail anything in reference to boycott BP and all the things that we're going through to reference the oil situation in the gulf. Anything that I see that is like a small feel good protest seems to me, to be kind of counter-productive to the huge problem that we have with our lifestyle. So, I agree with you completely when we talk about in those small little art projects. I think a lot of the times; it makes us feel better about a situation that really, really we can't even begin to address on such a small scale. Like there's much more we need to do, and if we make a little art project about it, we're really making people feel better about. Rather than bringing attention to something we're making people feel better about something. But they really should feel bad about.
[Erica]: Right, right. Just like when the casino got a slap on the wrist for putting art up in the casino. They actually don't even necessarily want to do that. The casinos that are being built in Philadelphia, they have a requirement to put art in the casino. As if that's like a way out of the bigger problem.
[Female Group Member]: My problem is that if you're not in there and you to go into and fit into a certain A or B categories of these kinds of issues, that you could be educating these people with these issues. But unless you're like in one of those small little micro categories or something, your voice isn't going to get heard about it.
[Asheesh]: So saying that art isn't, like, the right place for this. Part of that, sort of like, funding art isn't the right place for a community improvement project seems to be the short version of what we're saying. Like maybe, I'm not quite sure how to break that apart. Is the problem that, um, is the problem that we shouldn't be funding this art? We should just tell people to do it and put up a big poster saying "Do nice things for the community" without giving them money. Would that be better?
(Inaudible comment from group 1:10:14.0)
Sure, yeah. So, my question is, it sounds like what you said is that funding art is a weird way to make communities better. And so part of the reason it's weird is that you're giving artists money for things they might have done anyway is one of the things you said. And another reason is that it's suggests that with whatever small constant fixed amount of money you're allocating to that somehow is enough. And even though more is needed, some action is interpretated as enough action. SO, um, what would be better? Would it be better to have giant posters everywhere saying "Do nice things?" Like, I'm...
[Scott]: Would it be better to have posters? I missed that last part.
[Male Group Member]: Do nice things for the people in the community.
[Scott]: Oh, do nice things? Yeah.
(Inaudible comment from group 1:11:10.2)
[Scott]: Yeah. Exactly right. Yeah. That definitely sounds....
[Asheesh]: (inaudible 1:11:14.2)
[Scott]: Yeah, that definitely sounds like a lot of our projects as well for sure. Um, yeah, I mean I think you're saying something that reflects what Erica is saying too. Okay. So Erica, just to repeat what Erica said just so that we have more contacts too. She's saying how you know you're not addressing a larger situation by influencing children who are participating in art on some kind which prompts their self esteem to rise and can influence their lives to move in a direction it might not otherwise have gone. I know it sounds naive, but I've witnessed it personally so I know that it does, in fact, happen. For sure. Yeah. I mean, I'm not going to pretend to address this question fully or give like the answer to it or anything. But, what we're doing is raising an argument not just for as an exercise but because there's other sides to it too. Yeah totally. You know, why wouldn't we all be doing this. It's just hard to do (inaudible 1:12:23.1). And I think that our particular problem, you know, that I may have, I guess, with I think I'm sort of siding with that other argument because well... It's sort of like not using plastic bags at a grocery store, you know? I mean, yeah, it does do something. If nobody uses them, they'll stop being made. But often the proportion of that, basically it should be spoken in the same breath is that it's not nearly enough. It's like a drop in the ocean. Ultimately compared to what needs to be done environmentally, you know? And I think that it's, I'm just giving a kind of parallel that I think especially people here in the United States, but also elsewhere, need to be concerned about how these kinds of things impact our guilt relief. I'm not saying that we should, in fact, just feel more guilty. But, it's a cycle of uselessness. I'm not being an (inaudible 1:13:44.5) and saying that if you do one small thing for someone that it doesn't impact the world. It does. But it also doesn't mean that is enough and it definitely doesn't mean that we should be directly or even indirectly implying that it is plenty. And I think that is what happens with our projects is that art is SO good at persuasion. Art is good at persuading people. That's why, I mean, what's more powerful and persuasive than a film almost? Or why historically during war have bands played sort of thriving heart thumping music? You know, it gets people going. Art does things. I mean, I'm pointing to some of the more, I guess, things that aren't really considered "high art" often. But, they are. I mean films and what's been more influential than often certain novels?
[Female Group Member]: (inaudable1:14:49.7)
[Scott]: Well, almost. I guess my point ultimately is that art is highly persuasive so we should be very careful with what we do with it. Um, and if we do good things in the world, so called good things, then we might just want to also be cautious that what we're... I mean I'm not trying to add a moral lesson here. I'm really just presenting an argument that already exists. This is not from me specifically. It's just one that I'm kind of siding with at the moment as it's playing out. We're not only doing this anonymous good thing, you know, we are saying, I mean, there is an enormous amount of marketing that goes with this as well. And we may just want to consider what else it is we're doing. Um, and consider where those efforts are going and how we might modify them because we do have something to say about how things get presented and what it is that we do.
I don't know Erica, if that kind of addresses or what you were thinking about.
[Male Group Member]: At the same time, I think that you have to recognize that the entire effect of all the artworlds we're talking about and the artworlds that we don't want to talk about have a miniscule effect compared to the latest Pixar film. I mean, really, we really don't have that much influence compared to the machines that are out there who are not artists
[Female Group Member]: Yeah, I was thinking in particular, certain characters. I don't know if anybody knows anything about the wolves and that they're off the endangered species list and they're in trouble. And I was thinking about a particular character, a very famous one. And I had thought about going in there. I was doing a show with this character that had involved some bit about this character. I was particularly thinking about going and calling up the wolf people and asking them to send in leaflets or some kind of petition to tie into for when I was going to do some songs about that character. Because, I did that particularly because I just got frustrated with the feeling of being helpless about this.
(Inaudible Group Chatter 1:17:16.5 - 1:17:41.8)
[Female Group Member]: I think that's a good point about how many people art reaches compared to like how many people other things reach. I was in the suburbs not long ago and those huge stores that have so many products and there's so many people that live out in the suburbs, and I was just thinking about that and the way that it feels as though if we're going to really think about audience and people that we're reaching, that like things like this should take place everywhere. And maybe like in the Wal-Mart or something. Scott, maybe we should bring Plausible Artworlds to the Wal-Mart.
(Group Chatter 1:18:16.9 - 1:18:44.0)
[Scott]: Absolutely! Yeah, Jessica. Would you and Adam mind talking just a little bit about that? About Chattanooga?
[Jessica]: Yeah. Well, the students that we had enrolled in the course that was sort of organized around Plausible Artworlds ended up sort of learning their way through. It was really positive and they sort of experienced art education in a different form than they had. They were exposed to all these different models and they just sort of started to get that there's other ways that they could sort of work as artists or work together. So that was super great. But what we had initially done is invite the whole community, including our colleagues at the university, and we were kind of met with a lot of blank stares and resistance. Almost like, I don't know. It was very strange and we haven't been away from it long enough to sort of really evaluate what happened. But, um, there was sort of a lack of response and we don't know. I don't know. I don't know if we know exactly what it means yet. But the idea of initiating something like this, in someplace like a Wal-Mart, is awesome but I think that it would have to sort of happen in a way that was a natural fit for the place rather than something real intellectual or something that was dislocated behavior from what people are accumated to at Wal-Mart. If that makes sense
[Adam]: This was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to answer the question. I think the most vital in approaching a small situation is in relation to (inaudible 1:20:27.6) the indignity to speak to others. And what worked for the students was not us coming and telling them about all these artworlds, although they were interested in that. What really worked was having them look at their own communities and some of the communities. One girl was from a really, really small town in, what was it...Mississippi?
[Adam]: Alabama, where they dismantled nuclear weapons at some point in their histories.
[Scott]: Hey Adam, sorry to interrupt you. I just wanted to get them back on the call again, because some of the people that were asking me that question just got dropped.
(Group Chatter 1:21:05.4 - 1:21:22.6)
[Scott]: Hey guys, welcome back! Yeah, Adam, if you don't mind just kind of picking back up on that.
[Adam]: Yeah, I don't want to go on and on. But I think what really worked was actually asking these small town students, who probably chose graphic design more because that's the only way they could combine art and making money because they were really interested in graphic design. I think a lot of them were interested in art and they were interested in how art can have an effect. You know, once we started asking them about their lives and their communities and these people that they interact with everyday, that's where it really took off. So it wasn't like we were really bringing the (inaudible 1:21:55.4) of all these artworlds, it was really what worked for them as we asked them about their own lives. Just the same as any other community where you ask people to really begin to look at their own lives and you don't give them any sort of framework. You actually let them create a framework by looking at the communities they intercept how is that art.
[Jessica]: Yeah, there's a direct parallel when you're asking students to make any sort of work to sort of draw from their own. So what started to happen was that they kind of got these Plausible Artworlds intellectually, but they weren't really connecting with it until they started doing projects that were based on their own specific relationships to their own specific community and the questions that would sort of drive their own work coming from that place. Adam just walked away.
Are the (inaudible 1:22:43.3) arts people on the call right now?
[Scott]: Um, yeah. A bunch of them.
[Scott]: A bunch of people from that class are. Not all of them.
[Female Group Member]: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think it's sort of the difference between inserting one's self in one's place and thinking that you have something to offer in the sense that you're teaching. Or which the opposite would be like going in and saying, and again I totally couldn't agree more, like being there, sort of listening, understanding and then like taking back. And I feel like that's when these sort of social engaged projects really seem to work.
[Scott]: Yeah, it starts to sound kind of like political rederict when I say what I want to say, which is that... Well, you know, Bruce Nellman did this piece, this kind of like neon art piece that made me think. Its part of what he thinks art should do. And, uh, it's not just social intervention or people that are involved in art as social practice or people that are even interested specifically in merging art and politics overtly who think that art should shatter perceptions or help to change the way that we perceive or think about the world. But as soon as you bring it into that realm, it definitely takes on a certain tone. But, just for arguments sake, to be a devil's advocate, in a sense I'm definitely not back peddling on this one. I do think it's an interesting criticism and argument to make because there is no way for you to criticize community oriented art without sounding like a total (expletive 1:25:06.9) (laughing). You know? It's not that awesome that underprivileged youth are being taught to read or it's not that rad that an area that is covered in trash suddenly becomes beautified. It's definitely not what's being said. It's that if the message that's being sent predominately is that this is sort of the best you can hope for. Or this is good enough. Then, it's actually not changing perceptions. This is what we expect. It's like turning on the Jerry Lewis, well, those aren't really happening anymore. It's like turning on the telethons. It's a great thing to happen sure, but its' definitely not unexpected. America has a long history of charity and one way of, there are some writer's that that argue that capitalism is dependent on charity. From the early days, the idea is that capitalism in its current form can only really work if the people who are landowners, the people who have some say, act responsibly with their wealth. And part of the way you prove that is through kind of a moral thermometer. A scale or whatever. You do good by giving out to people who are "needy".
(Inaudible Group Comment 1:26:39.2)
[Scott]: Yeah, yeah. Right! Right! You get tax deductions. And so this is part of, it's built into the very foundations of our social structures as we know them anyway. And by we, I guess I'm assuming that almost everyone on calls is in the Western World, and if they're not then they're definitely effected by if they're not living in a capitalist system. Here in the States, that's been part of our history, is charity. And so one argument is that it that we have to convince ourselves, we have to advertise it unduly. We have to make, it's kind of like the classic argument of a suburban dad taking out the trash and making a huge deal of it. Like he just cleaned up the house all week or something. This, this (laughing) what am I trying to say? You know, it's kind of like, we get some spare change to some homeless people and we feel better about the whole situation. So basically, taking it back to art's role in changing perceptions is that if we're ultimately no matter what it is we're doing, no matter how good it is for someone, if we're not changing perceptions then are we really fulfilling our role as artists?
[Female Group Member]: I think that's a good point, especially in comparison to the homeless people because really, you giving homeless people money is socially responsible but you're not supposed to do that in the sense that it perpetuates the problem. And in some ways, giving small amounts of money to artists is kind of like a really good parallel in that way. It's like keeping someone in that same position. You're keeping the homeless person in the same position. Keeping the artist in the same position. Because really, there's not too much, with the exception of like stars, there's not too much movement up or down.
[Female Group Member]: I was going to say, if they were going to do things like give money to charity and stuff like that, first off there are a lot of people I know of that don't like Jerry Lewis for that. Don't like that particular bit. And there's also like, to cure Muscular Dystrophy or Cancer or something. Why are we the ones doing it? Why isn't the government doing this?
[Asheesh]: The only difference between the government and us is compulsion, right? Is there?
[Female Group Member]: I, it might be, yeah. I don't know.
[Male Group Member]: I'm really happy to hear that we're at a state now where people can say "we" and "the government" and we're so alienated that we don't begin to think that we are the government. We really are not. I mean, the answer traditionally would be that we ARE the government, but we all know that's not true. I'm really happy to hear that no one buys into that whole notion anymore.
[Scott]: I mean whatever position you take on it. Yeah. I'm actually hesitant to take a position on... Well, let's just say that this particular project doesn't take any position on how socialized any particular government should or shouldn't be. But, it definitely poses questions of when anything that we do, we claim to be doing something. You know, we should expect to be called on that. We should expect to be, well, at least to be questioned on that. Why not? Especially when part of what the question is, regardless of where you stand, is about what the good life is and who has access to what. And ultimately, I think that what we're interested in with artworlds is that we're interested who they serve and what we're capable of imagining in their place. I think that's why were extremely interested in different kinds of structures. Because, okay, it is a small slice of life I guess. What is an artworld or what is a creative practice. Creative life is kind of a big part of our lives too (laughing). Its impacts might not be as great as some fields, it's not insignificant. So, what we do and how we do does matter. So why wouldn't we want to be involved in a conversation about how these worlds get set up?
But hey, we have...
(Inaudible Group Comment 1:31:58.6)
Yeah, I guess everyone on this call, on some level, wants to be involved. Maybe. So, we have one minute left and we always try to stick to our time. Did anyone have any burning kind of questions or things that they wanted to add for next time? Does anyone have any good closing music?
(Group Chatter 1:32:30.8 - 1:32:38.7)
[Scott]: Yeah, we usually try to have some good closing music (laughing). No? How about...
[Automated voice saying 7:00)
[Scott]: Thank you very much. That was awesome. Alright everyone, have a great time. We'll see you next week.
(Closing Music & Group Chatter)
END OF TRANSCRIPTION
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This week we’ll be talking with Antoine Moreau about “Free Art License”.
Free Art Licence (or FAL) is a contract that applies the “copyleft” concept to artistic creation of all kinds, without formal or aesthetic discrimination of any kind. If you or your artworld call it art, you can protect it under FAL by making it free. The License authorizes a third party (a person or legal entity) to proceed to copy, disseminate, transform and use work on the express condition that it always be possible for others to copy, disseminate and transform it in turn. That is, what is free must remain free, copyleft cannot be copyrighted.
Far from running roughshod over authors’ rights, the Free Art License acknowledges and protects them. It allows anyone to make creative use of ideas and forms, regardless of genre, medium, form or content. Strict respect for authors’ rights has often tended to restrict access to works of the mind; FAL, however, fosters access, the being point to authorize use of a work’s resources; to create new conditions of creation so as to extend and amplify the possibilities of creation.
The License was drafted in Paris in July 2000, following a series of meetings of the group Copyleft Attitude by lawyers Mélanie Clément-Fontaine and David Geraud, and artists Isabelle Vodjdani and Antoine Moreau. The Licence is legally binding without modification in all countries having signed the Bern Convention, which established the international legal norms regarding intellectual and artistic “property”. Copyleft Attitude, which devised the license, has always sought to extend the whole notion of copyleft to the realm of the arts and beyond. To draw inspiration from the free and open software movement and to adapt the model — and indeed whole way of life — to creation beyond software, leading to establishing the Free Art License.
The License is suitable for all types of non-software creation. It is recommended by the Free Software Foundation in the following terms: “We don’t take the position that artistic or entertainment works must be free, but if you want to make one free, we recommend the Free Art License.”
Week 24: Free Art License
[Scott]: So Steven and Antoine, are you guys both connected?
[Antoine]: Yeah, it works yes.
[Scott]: That might be kind of crazy.
[Steven]: We have two computers on here just in case. Actually, we have three. So we're like kind of...
[Scott]: Reverbing like crazy?
[Steven]: Yeah but I'm turning the sound off on two of them so we'll just be... Okay, we're all set.
[Scott]: Awesome. Well, um, I know a few people are still being rung up on Skype. But anyway, welcome everybody. We're about fifteen minutes past six and we're getting rolling. Welcome to another week of Plausible Artworlds. We're going to be talking with Antoine Moreau about Free Art License. Antoine, am I pronouncing your last name correctly, Moreau?
[Steven]: Oh sorry. Antoine, that sounds good to me.
[Antoine]: Yes, that's right. Moreau.
[Scott]: Great. So...
[Steven]: You know Scott, I think we're probably going to be talking about two different but linked things. One is of course the Free Art License and the other is the kind of The Collective, which is behind drafting and supporting that license which is called Copyleft Attitude.
[Scott]: Yeah, right. Okay.
[Steven]: So those are two kind of distinguishable things. But we're going to kind of ask Antoine to unpack them individually, I think.
[Scott]: Oh, great. I was curious. I initially read this text and I think everybody that saw our email announcement and had time to read it, which I'm not assuming was anybody, but so here is the link to the page with that information. The very first link is a text. And, there you go. Yeah. Anyway, I was curious about that so yeah that will be great to get a better understanding of it. Steven, did you want to kind of give a bit of and into to this or should we just go ahead and hear directly from Antoine?
[Steven]: I'll just give like a ten second intro. Um, I got to know Antoine Moreau through the tentacles of the Paris beinalle, which we've talked about before. But Antoine was kind of on my radar screen and has been for about the last ten years. About ten years ago he was involved with this group, which I think we should probably start talking with first, called Copyleft Attitude. The idea, if I understood correctly, was to take some of the attitude of the free and open software movement, of the copy left movement, and to kind of generalize that attitude throughout all forms of creation. Which kind of in a logical sense through this very important seminar which you guys held ten years ago now in July 2000, so almost exactly ten years ago, which led to the drafting of Free Art License 1.0. Maybe you could just kind of like, really basically for people who have never heard any of this, tell us how it happened.
[Antoine]: Yes, it was in January 2000 in Paris and the goal was to meet each other, artists (inaudible0:04:20.2) and programmers of the free movement to see if the Copyleft, the idea of Copyleft, was pertinent. Not only for the software, but for the art works. And the end of those three days of talking and debates and different point of views we decided, not exactly "we", some of us because some others were not agreed to write a free license for art A free license lacks a general public license. And some of us did not agree with this because they said that art doesn't need a license, art is a kind of practice which is free. But, I do think the freedom needs a text, a legal text, to make the work of art free of copy.
[Steven]: Right. You mean to make sure that it's not privatized by someone.
[Antoine]: Yes. We could copy, distribute and transform the object.
[Steven]: So, you mean that this whole thing, Free Art License, was actually kind of born from a descensus. It was an originaly disagreement. Well, a désaccord.
[Antoine]: Yes, between some artists. Yes.
[Steven]: Could you say something about that because I think that is pretty important.
[Antoine]: Um, it's a way we can have (inaudible 0:06:57.8)...
[Steven]: With respect to the law?
[Antoine]: Yes, but not that we respect the law. It is to désaccord the law. And Copyleft désaccords the law. It is not the negotiation of the law, it is a way of win between the law and to désaccord it.
[Steven]: Like there is the law and so there's no point in pretending that it doesn't exist and that art is free and it can do anything because, in fact, what can happen is that art can be shut down. It can be privatized; it can be taken away from the people who claimed that it was free in the first place.
[Steven]: Yeah. But it's interesting that right at the beginning there was that attitude. Before we talk about what you did, because obviously that wasn't your position. Your position was more pragmatic and was more hard-headed, pragmatic and practical. On the other side there were people like Francis Deck, well it doesn't matter their names, but the people who felt that art was somehow free and needed no license and must never have a license. A romantic idea.
[Antoine]: Yes, I think so. Yes. Art is art and it is over everything and it has no relation with this kind of reality. I do not think this. Like the general public license is a free software movement and can bring some freedom not by the submitting of the law but in the way of altering the law in the right way. In the left way.
[Steven]: Okay. Yes. Retooling the law in the left way. Yes. Okay. So, there was this split within Copyleft Attitude then. Because copyleft as an attitude everybody agreed but then when it actually came to drafting legal documents, that would be legally binding in all countries that signed the Bern Convention. Right? The convention that is legally binding with respect to intellectual property rights in the world. That was where the break came. And that was when you said we should, well, what did you do? You created this...
[Antoine]: We need to not only doing some free objects of art, free works of art which are not free in fact, but we need to write a legal contract to realize a real free work of art.
[Steven]: What do you mean by free exactly?
[Antoine]: Ah, it is really simple. It is free like free software. Free to copy, free to distribute, free to transfer and those freedoms can be real by an (inaudible 0:10:43.2) of closed what is open. When something is copyleft, we can't do it copyright.
[Steven]: Right. So that's the taboo. There's one big taboo. You can never privatize what is public. You can never make private what is...
[Antoine]: Yes, right, right. And this is the difference between open source and free software.
[Steven]: Can you tell me more about that? The difference between...
[Antoine]: Open source doesn't, is not copyleft. Open source doesn't care that what is open can be closed.
[Steven]: Okay. Okay, so the idea was that with this Free Art License, it would extend and take the idea of free software and extend it to all things that could be described as art.
[Antoine]: Well, art over art. All things can be protected by the copyright.
[Scott]: Just to clarify, it's not so much extending what exactly happened with, I'm sorry, with free and open source software right? I mean, open source software is just the most visible and the most successful and the most visible branch, if you will, of the free culture movement. But many things came out of those movements. They're not really spawning all from free software right? Free and open source software, right?
[Steven]: Scott, you're breaking up a tiny bit. Can you repeat that question?
[Scott]: Oh yeah, and I'll try to be more distinct too. Just to clarify, we're not talking about... I know that you were inspired by free and open source software, Antoine, ten years or so ago.
[Steven]: Only free software.
[Antoine]: Only free software.
[Scott]: Not open source, okay. Well the free software movement. But we're not talking about something that is an extension of that per say. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that other free cultural projects, as well as free software, come from the free culture movement more generally. I'm curious how you feel about this.
[Antoine]: Yes. I don't understand what we call the Frost Movement. Free open source software. Because the free software can be open source but the good of the copyleft is to protect the freedom. And there is a difference between the open source where the code source is open and free, yes? And the copyleft, the code source is open and free but the freedom is protected by the (inaudible 0:14:18.7) to close again the code source.
[Steven]: Yeah, yeah. The code source. Right. But what's the difference then between...Well, actually, we're moving ahead a little bit fast. But just to ask a question, what is the difference between free or licensed and Creative Commons? For example, it's a share alike license. It sounds very much the same.
[Antoine]: Yes. The equivalent of the Free Art License is a license of Creative Commons, share alike by (inaudible 0:15:02.8). It is the same in fact. But, the Free Art License is more simple and because it is based on the French author's rights. We don't need to adapt the license in the country.
[Steven]: Creative Commons is country based?
[Antoine]: Creative Commons is based on the copyright act but it is obliged to adapt the license when we want to use it to the law of the countries. And in the French law, there is a Bern Convention and the chance of the Free Art License it is that we the French, we don't need or have to adapt the license. So it is more simple.
[Steven]: Okay. So one thing about the Free Art License that has also attracted some debate, I remember on some occasions, is that it is extremely undiscriminating in terms of what qualifies as art. I mean, although it comes from a very particular artistic and political culture, the copyleft culture, it agrees that anything that anybody calls are or any group of people calls art can qualify. Right? So it can be an object. It can be paintings. It can be sculptures. It can be immaterial work or very material work. It can be...
[Antoine]: Yes. Everything which can be protected by the author's rights. By example, some cooking recopies can be copyleft.
[Antoine]: Yes (laughing) because it is not protecting by author's right.
[Steven]: Oh really? Recipes are not protected?
[Antoine]: No. So we can't copyleft.
[Steven]: But any kind of a drawing or sounds?
[Antoine]: Yes. Pictures...
[Steven]: And I understand a great number of works have been protected actually under the Free Art License.
[Steven]: I mean this is not like a project that could happen. It actually, it's massive. How many works are we talking about that are protected under it?
[Antoine]: I couldn't say exactly how many because we have some undecided (inaudible 0:18:45.0) of copyleft. But some (inaudible 0:18:50.8).
[Steven]: There's like tens of thousands.
[Steven]: For sure. And who actually wrote the Free Art License? Was that you?
[Antoine]: And two lawyers and another artist.
[Steven]: Who is the other artist?
[Antoine]: Isabelle Vodjdani who was very interesting by the way of the artist contract. And the first group of artists I do the meeting of the Copyleft Attitude, there were a journal called (inaudible 0:19:54.4) and they didn't want to write the license.
[Steven]: Okay. And what do they think now? Ten years on?
[Antoine]: What do they think?
[Steven]: Yeah. Do they agree that they were right to stay away from this?
[Antoine]: No, I don't think they were right. They don't do free art. They do things each themselves. The movement I expected at the beginning is done by other people that (laughing) that knew at first. Like other artists and programmers and different people, yes.
[Steven]: And so the Free Art License, if I understand, can be where anybody can simply apply it. They don't need to go through you; they don't need to ask for authorization. They simply apply the art license to their work and it applies in any country that is a signatory of the Bern Convention.
[Antoine]: Yes, but you must put a motion, a legal motion which is very simple, which says that the work of art is free. And that's (inaudible 0:21:40.7).
[Steven]: Okay, now what happens...? Supposed you use the Free Art License and then your rights are violated. What happens then? What can you do? Sorry, I'll let you do this and then I'll ask you a question. Supposed you use the Free Art License for your work. And then someone comes and abuses your right, like they tried to privatize it and they break that fundamental interdiction. What can you do as an artist? What is your legal recourse?
[Antoine]: We can take them to court.
[Steven]: And this happens? Has it ever happened?
[Steven]: It's never happened?
[Antoine]: No. Never.
[Steven]: But it would be interesting if it happened, to test.
[Antoine]: (Laughing) yes, of course.
[Steven]: Okay, inevitable question Antoine. I have to ask you this. Is this Free Art License your art work? And if so, is it protected under the Free Art License?
[Antoine]: No (inaudible 0:23:00.9) and because...
[Steven]: It's not an art project, it is but not really.
[Antoine]: Yes. It is not.
[Steven]: I see. In what way is...
[Scott]: I noticed that it, oh sorry. I noticed it wasn't authored in any way online. The only kind of thanks that they're giving is to the translators.
[Steven]: That's right. You didn't sign this. You're not the author.
[Antoine]: We are four persons.
[Steven]: But, it's true. I didn't notice...
[Antoine]: But is (inaudible 0:23:43.8) because on the mailing list, some people add us to write it. It was my position that the Free Artist License was not MY work but a collective work. Yes.
[Steven]: To come to the collective, the collective that is Copyleft Attitude. Copyleft Attitude remains extremely active right? And anybody who is in Paris on the last Thursday night of any month should try and join the regular dinners that are organized by this collective at a restaurant near the canal, what's it called?
[Antoine]: St. Martin.
[Steven]: St. Martin, right. For a sort of informal kind of dinner/debate/discussion around these attitudes. And when I say that it's a very lively discussion list, I mean, you told me when I got here tonight for example, that when you mentioned you were going to be speaking at Plausible Artworlds at BaseKamp over Skype you immediately received a reaction from one the collective members saying how ironic it is that you would be talking about Free Art License using Skype.
(Antoine]: (Laughing) free software (laughing).
[Steven]: So it's a very reactive list. It's very...yeah.
[Antoine]: Yes. Every part of different people are on the license.
[Steven]: It's an international list, or primarily French?
[Antoine]: Primarily French.
[Steven]: So, what's the history of Copyleft Attitude? Where did that come from? Because it's an older collective right? It's been around for awhile now.
[Steven]: When did you start?
[Antoine]: Ten years.
[Steven]: Oh! Oh you started and then...
[Steven]: Oh, so the first initiative was Free Art License. They're really inseparable, the two things.
[Antoine]: The first was (inaudible 0:25:55.7) how do you say? House?
[Steven]: Of the building. Okay. Exactly. The building. And what are some of the other initiatives which you've done? What else does Copy Left Attitude do??
[Antoine]: Um, some copyleft sessions, some copyleft demo, some copyleft (inaudible 0:26:16.6). And everybody is very free to (inaudible 0:26:26.0) to make some things which are not in the art.
[Steven]: What do you mean?
[Antoine]: Uh, some site, some blurbs, some text... Some things, productions of the mind which can be free. And there is a lot of productivity like (inaudible 0:27:05.01). They are making some festival. Next Sunday there will be a festival in Paris of free art. I don't do this but I am (inaudible 0:27:31.8) and they are doing this, yes.
[Scott]: Antoine, do you guys have. I'm curious if there is any, sorry for the reverb, I'm not sure who has their speakers up really loud. I'll try to ignore that. Do you have any easily accessible documentation of the work that you guys do?
[Steven]: Your work.
[Antoine]: About my work?
[Steven]: The work of the...
[Scott]: And the work of Copyleft Attitude.
[Antoine]: Yes, yes. There is a photo of work and it's not very easy for me to choose the kind of works I could send some are more (inaudible 0:28:25.9) than others. Maybe by (inaudible 0:28:29.0) I could and show this one. This one called "Atom Project" and it is a collective work with a lot of photos. The concept is to take some photos and join and people are putting it...
[Steven]: Okay, I'm going to look at this on my computer.
[Antoine]: Two weeks ago, I did something. I did a painting in the street. I was invited by another artist. I will show you. It is (inaudible 0:29:53.4). Zero (inaudible 0:30:03.0) face.
[Steven]: Which means? Okay. How many people are in Copyleft Attitude?
[Antoine]: On the list we are 400. It's not easy to...
[Steven]: How many? 400?
[Steven]: And active members?
[Antoine]: Oh yes, all active. And (inaudible 0:31:09.3) is collective of film makers while doing some films under the Free Art License.
[Scott]: Antoine, what is Atom?
[Antoine]: Atom Project?
[Antoine]: It is a project that a member of Copyleft Attitude did for copyleft and it he did operate camera to people for them to take photos during a day. Actually more than 12,000 photos.
[Steven]: Okay, so the ones we see here are all taken by the same person. Maria...
[Steven]: But then we go further down and they're taking by somebody else?
[Antoine]: No. You must click on participant.
[Steven]: Oh, okay. Wow. And so who are these people?
[Antoine]: Some friends and some people he met.
[Steven]: And they had no particular, there was no rules. It was just like "take any pictures of your day".
[Antoine]: Yes. One of the wake up, and the maximum during the day.
[Steven]: Well I see that he took like 2900 all by himself. But other people took a lot too.
[Steven]: Are the other people that were involved in (inaudible 0:34:34.7) like, what's the guy's name who has the collection of photographs where he's from.
[Antoine]: Uh, Phillip (inaudible 0:34:44.7)?
[Steven]: Yes, Phillip. Is he involved in?
[Antoine]: No, it was not agreed. The fact of writing a license and some programs.
[Steven]: (Laughing) so you have a problem with artists is what it sounds like. I don't mean that sarcastically, you know. Or only partially sarcastically. Do you find that is there some reason that artists don't agree with Free Art License? Some essential reason? I mean, are they caught up with... Tell me candidly. What's the issue? Why would they be against it? Are they like caught up in the art world market?
[Antoine]: Yeah, I think it's a sort of ideology of art. There is a kind of ideology of what is art and they are fond of this ideology. My position is that art is not an ideology, it's a (inaudible 0:36:16.7) is a law. Yes. And this is a reality. It's a realizment like (inaudible 0:36:36.8) could paint some paintings and realistic. The reality of the law. Not submission. Not out of the law, but real work. A real fight with the law.
[Steven]: We have a question here from David from Post autonomy. David do you want to articulate your question because I wouldn't want to have to state it for you.
[David]: Hello. Can you hear me?
[Scott]: Hi David. Yes. Definitely.
[David]: Most of the problems I hear about in the UK in terms of protecting the copyright of particular art works, really comes down to the ability of people to befriend their copyright. To pay for lawyers, to go to court to protect their works. I've never heard of any artist having problems protecting their work. Does that make sense?
[Steven]: You mean they don't have problems like people taking their work and then making money off of it. They have problems...
[David]: No, people have problems niche-ing their ideas for sure. And it's a very common place, but to prepare to do that in England for artists or students to protect their art works, or the copyright of their art works, costs a lot of money. And I think that's one of the main drawbacks. As I said before, it's very common place for artists to have their ideas stolen. People are very conscious of it.
[Steven]: Yeah, I mean, I don't want to answer for Antoine, but I think that is exactly the problem. I think that's what Free Art License is all about. It's about making that kind of thing more illegally difficult because it makes it possible for you to take advantage of that work. To transform it, to exchange it, to make use of it, to engage in a very open user ship but at the same time not enabling you at all to close it down and make money at their expense.
[Antoine]: We can make money with the Free Art License.
[Steven]: But not at the other artist's expense. Not by saying they can no longer make money right?
[David]: I don't think I was very clear, but I think you get the rough idea what I was trying to say.
[Steven]: I mean, what I was trying to say was that Free Art License makes it possible for other people to use your work that you have put into the public sphere and to modify it or do whatever needs to be done with it. But it doesn't, one interdiction that you mentioned, the taboo, is that they cannot shut it down. They cannot say "now it's mine. I don't care if you Amazonian people use this type of medication for the last 20,000 years, now I as Merc have exclusive rights".
[Antoine]: No. What is open stays open. Yes.
(Inaudible, speaking over each other 0:41:17.6)
[Antoine]: But we can make money with this.
(Male Group Member]: After the letter, you want capitalized.
[Steven]: Sorry, we're not hearing you. Can you say that again?
(Silence and typing noises)
[Steven]: I can't hear you guys.
[Scott]: Well, I mean, let's just assume that if someone wants to repeat the question they can. Or if someone wants to write it down, they can. We've had a couple of other questions come up in the meantime.
[Steven]: Yeah. I'm looking at these questions. Okay. So Greg says "If some corporation wants to use your work to sell products than they can but then everyone else can use the commercial produced by the corporation for the creative purpose they would like. Big money loathes this idea" Yeah, that's the idea right? That's why it's free. That's what free means in this particular...
[Antoine]: Yes but this free business stays free. What this business can do, every products are free so everybody can have their turn doing something with these free products. Like Linux. Everybody can do their free edition of Linux (inaudible 0:44:14.1). If I want to do business with Linux I can and there is no problem with other descriptions. So there is no more brands, we call it distribution. And I think that for the artist, it's the same.
[Scott]: Uh guys, I think, you know, David said that this doesn't really apply to art in the same way or the formal license doesn't work for art works. I think it's true that only when art works become really expensive does the legality seem to matter because normally you wouldn't take any recourse. It just doesn't make sense unless there's a large entity that has a lot of money behind it and you can use it as some kind of landmark case to make a big deal of it. You wouldn't sue another artist for doing something similar to what you're doing. That doesn't really happen. But I don't think that's really the point. I don't think the point is really to, or maybe it is for Antoine, I don't know. I think it's the idea of creating legal protection more so than the discussions that come out of that than it is actually worrying so much about protecting one's self.
I see David's concern and it's a concern that a lot of people have because they feel they work really hard and them some younger, or maybe even some older, artist with more developed connections already takes what you do and puts a small gloss on it and gets a lot of exposure. Not only diverting the attention that you deserve but maybe even diverting the ideas or watering them down, the importance of the ideas themselves. Maybe their taken out of context or made more palpable or easy to swallow. I think that's really frustrating for a lot of people. But these questions, I think, are much bigger. I don't think the answer is "oh well, it sucks that people are stealing my ideas so I really have to protect them". And I also don't think the answer is "well, we need a legal document so that we can sue somebody if they do something." I think, really, these questions bring about other issues about how we should really do what we do. About how we should or shouldn't professionalize ourselves as artists. Basically, who owns what we do? What's it for? Are we mainly building this immaterial thing, this sort of nebulous idea of a career, that's so fragile that we need to protect it viciously? I think that put it down and you can't wish it away so the discussion is really fascinating to me.
[Antoine]: In fact, there are two things. Copyleft is one contract and to earn money it is another contract. Here in France we are trying to think about a living wage for everybody, artist or not.
[Steven]: A living wage in this political sense means a wage to which any human being, by virtue of existing on this earth, would be entitled to each month. And then if you wanted to make more money than that, that would be an option that you would have. But that living wage would be sufficient already to meet all of your needs. It wouldn't be welfare.
[Antoine]: Yes. And I put, the site is under Free Art License. I really think, and some are thinking this, the living wage is the other side of the free movement because to do some free art or some free software, we need free time. And to have free time, we need to have some money for means to existence.
[Steven]: Means to existence. Not only to exist but to live.
[Antoine]: The idea is to institute to take a political decision to institute a living wage because the copyleft can't really be the way to very rich. Even some business can be done with free software. I think (inaudible 0:50:30.5) art for example, which was the first society which did a lot of money with (inaudible 0:50:42.6). I knew some here in Paris which are earning some money with free software and only free software, only copyleft software. But for art or other (inaudible 0:51:03.6) we need to institute a living wage. I really think it is an oversight of the free movement.
[Steven]: So the fact is that copyleft is really political. It's not so much really a legal thing as it is a political thing.
[Antoine]: Legal things are political.
[Steven]: Yeah, but it's not legal in the legalistic sense. It's legal in the sense of the laws in terms of legislation and in terms of a broader political (inaudible 0:51:49.3). When you (inaudible 0:51:52.2) at this point as Utopian, because in fact, there we are describing conditions that we need to have a human community. Not like we ever had before. Not talking about serious (0:52:06.7). What do you mean when it's registered under copyleft? Is that just on your site or what is the link between the living wage movement and Copyleft Attitude?
[Antoine]: The link is the possibility of freedom. Of free time, of free exercise, of free meeting, free not to be triggered by the economic necessities. It's not a Utopia, it's not idealistic. It's very realistic because the reality of the (0:53:12.5) is awful and it's not realistic kind of wealth.
[Steven]: But I mean the people that are behind the call for living wage, are they some of the same ones that are in Copyleft Attitude?
[Antoine]: Yes. And the link I (inaudible 0:53:39.9) those are Copyleft Attitude and the text is under Free Art License.
[Antoine]: And so there is also another group called Society for Gift to try to find assertion not by other's rights but by gift.
[Steven]: What's that called? The Society for Gifts?
[Antoine]: (inaudible 0:54:28.3) some people of Copyleft Attitude.
[Antoine]: On Sunday, there will be the founders of (inaudible 0:55:10.0) we come in Paris about some association we found which is called (inaudible 0:55:25.4) maybe I think you know it. And (inaudible 0:55:38.1) is very close to the start to find a solution by the gift.
[Steven]: Find some sort of solution but the gift.
[Antoine]: Yes. To find an economic solution. To finance (inaudible 0:56:07.7)
(A video is playing in the background - all dialog of Antoine is inaudible 0:56:04.0)
...which means free time and we must have some free minutes for this.
[Steven]: I think we have the people from Liter Omble have asked a few questions here, maybe we should take a look. They say, the thing is, once you give your rights of art work to Free Art License, you cannot claim them back. Also, if you have the rights of an art work you can set an agreement with the person who wants to use it so they don't have to pay you a fee. Is that true? Once you give...
(Speaking fluent French 0:56:58.8 - 0:57:18.0)
[Antoine]: It is like a public domain, but now. Not after seventy years after my death. It's a kind of public domain now and ever to be closed.
[Steven]: What Antoine means is that normally copyright is protected until seventy years after the death of the author or the composer or the artist and that after that time, the work reverts to the public domain and can no longer be enjoyed exclusively by any publisher. Anybody can use it freely. And what Free Art License does is that it removes the seventy year clause and makes it immediate so that you're still alive and it's like you're dead seventy years ago. In terms of how you're work can be used, in any case.
But beyond this is something else too. Something which I didn't understand. Something about the local laws in France. Can you guys repeat that question? Not seventeen, it's seventy. Ah, here's a good question. It has to do with Geilan, a proposal that you were involved with a couple years ago. The public freehold of (inaudible 1:00:00.0). You need to describe what it is first though.
[Antoine]: I was in touch with Geilan (inaudible 1:00:12.1) and we asked if him if he would agree to put the Free Art, the public free art sentences and the Free Art License because at the beginning it was very free (inaudible 1:00:47.5).
[Steven]: Oh really?
[Antoine]: Yes. He said "no, I don't want to because there done by me and I don't want it to be where everybody can do it". So it was a contradiction because at the beginning, it was free.
[Scott]: Well, it's kind of the way free software is often used now. IT's a strategy for, almost like, I don't know how many of you are familiar with like 1980s Public Service Announcement commercials in the eighties about drug pushers. It's kind of like "The first ones free Billy! But when you keep coming back for more, we'll start rising up the prices." Anyway, free software is like that. Or like Skype or like anything. Free is a model for making money. Or it's a model for gaining notoriety or gaining enough usership to basically form a coalition of the willing free beta testers or to sort of prove relevance and then of course it gets a price attached. You learn it in business school, from what I understand. Not that I went through business school. So, I guess I know Lawrence Weiner, I know that's really not his MO, but it's not surprising that once you have something to protect, you do.
(Fluent French dialog between Steven and Antoine 1:02:26.9)
[Antoine]: But free, the free software and the free art. It is not free as in free beer, but free as in free speech. It is a great difference. In French we have two words for this; " libérer" and "gracieux". It cost something; it cost what we invest in it. It's not a finical investment, it's a (inaudible 1:03:44.7) it is not free like free beer. It is free like free speech.
[Female Group Member]: I know that for instance I've done work with PETA. You know, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And I know one of the things that they always do is when they have software or anything like that with their logo, none of that is copyrighted at all. They don't care; they just want to get the point across.
[Steven]: Sorry, we didn't catch that question.
[Female Group Member]: I'm just saying as an example. You know PETA? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? They don't charge people for the copyright and it's pretty much in the public domain because they really don't care who uses it as long as it gets the point across. That could be one thing also. An example?
[Antoine]: I think what is important with copyleft the way we can't close what is open. So it is not the freedom like the libertarian way, it's not a freedom of everything. It's a freedom for equality and for some kind of fraternity. It's not of freedom of (inaudible 1:06:19.5) it's not a freedom like your fetish. It is a freedom for something so that we can copy, distribute and transform something. It is not for someone who can copyright and say "So now you can't copy, distribute and transfer from what you did and I can't".
[Scott]: What David just said is really exactly what I had meant before. I was not coming from any place of cynicism or irony, it's just ultimately we need to recognize when... Well, let's just say to generalize this slightly, any progressive social movement needs to recognize then their strategies are adopted and successfully employed by someone who doesn't share their interested. A more powerful force. It's important to recognize that, like you had mentioned, Copyleft Attitude didn't mean free as in free beer but free as in free speech. I think that (inaudible 1:07:46.5) was super appropriate and it's important to keep in mind. But I also think that we need to recognize that most of what we see when we see free can easily become free as in free beer. Free as in free sample. Or free as in gaining a certain degree of notoriety before whatever kind of fidelity towards a free culture movement. It really isn't there anymore. I'm not really sure what should be there anyway. I think it's just important, at least for me, to recognize that these things don't have ideology built into them or ethics built in. And because something is free, it doesn't solve all the problems that are built up around it. It definitely does pose some interesting questions and I think it can be very challenging. The thing is I think it can lose some of that challenging potential if we rest to heavily just on the fact that it's free. If you know what I mean. I sort of hinted here that addressed very much and all I really got in response was we don't mean free as in etc. This is our ideology. But what about sort of recognizing that the strategy is something that has grown more and more and not just by a few conceptual artists from the sixties but by almost every company who does anything with software and hopes to get the word out about themselves.
(Automated female voice stating "Virus database has been updated")
[Steven]: Yeah but I think, Scott, that you are using free in that sense, you're using it in the sense of free of charge. And I think that's precisely, if I understood, that's precisely what Antoine is not talking about.
[Scott]: Well, my question is how do you know the difference? Someone can, you know...
[Steven]: (inaudible 1:09:55.0)
[Antoine]: It is a question of trust and right and the law. I do think that the law helps the trust.
[Scott]: Right, but law is ambiguous. Law does not...
[Antoine]: Yes, yes, yes. Law. Trust. And this reason why we need to have a contract. Something in writing to motion to carry.
[Steven]: You're a paradox kind of guy. You're part of this free movement and most of the time people who are involved in art are anarchists. You have this sort of crazy respect for the law.
[Antoine]: No, it is not a crazy respect. It is...
[Steven]: No, but he's like (inaudible 1:10:56.1) he was like that too, right? It was this kind of always wanting to deconstruct the law, but ultimately always believing that the law was there.
[Antoine]: Ah, I think that. Yes. It is not to destroy it. It is to have a conversation and have a work (inaudible 1:11:18.2) freedom with it. And I do think that is not freedom for one people or other people if we don't take attention about this.
[Steven]: No, but I see that. That's kind of the crux of the issue, isn't it? You can't do with it, but you can't do without it. So the best thing is to... It's funny because I exactly understand what all you had that rupture right at the beginning. Because it would be like trying to get (inaudible 1:12:03.8) to be on the same boat together. One is simply saying "no. I don't' care about the law there is so many other ways of engaging the world without judging. And the other one is saying "no, that's just another judgment and you're a victim of the law until you recognize it".
[Scott]: There are definitely important... I just mentioned Katherine McKenna because she makes almost her entire like is built around trying to answer that question. You know, why should we care about the law and why should we try to adjust the law as a radical feminist. It's been really important for her, for example, to do that because the law stifles but it also sets the limits and potentials of much of what happens in life. Of course people break it, and we should, but when it helps to shape a world that's unfair for 50% of its inhabitants then it's time to change the law. So law matters.
[Steven]: Well of course. You're right because breaking the law is the greatest way to acknowledge the law. That's the thing. By transgressing it, you're really acknowledging it. I mean your acknowledging it porosity and its permeability and so on, but your acknowledging it's there and that it's the law. Antoine, isn't that right?
[Antoine]: Excellent. Yes.
[Scott]: Okay, so ten years later, fast forward. Actually, this is a few years ago now. Flicker adopted a Creative Commons License. How does this change Copyleft Attitude's missions stance and all of that?
[Steven]: That's a good question.
[Scott]: I mean we're not talking about something like that. It's a major win in somebody interested in, ultimately, interested in different types of protection that posts challenges to dominant ideas of ownership. But at the same time it hasn't exactly changed everything.
[Steven]: Yeah. Right. You follow these things, right? Flicker has adopted a kind of, what is Copyleft's attitude about that?
[Antoine]: The problem is that, by example of Flicker, choose Creative Commons they were out of six licenses. One only is a free license copyleft. I think that copyleft Creative Commons was not a good idea because they make the choice of sort of license and not the choice of the free license. So people can't... It is very difficult for people to know what is the right way to make a choice of the free movement. I have a discussion with (inaudible 1:16:12.3) about this he was very surprised that the most used is the (inaudible 1:16:22.7).
[Steven]: This one; Attribution Non-Commercial share alike.
[Antoine]: Yeah. And it is not free.
[Steven]: So this was Greg's question. That this particular license is not copyleft.
[Antoine]: No. Not at all.
[Steven]: Not at all.
[Antoine]: Only one is copy left from Creative Commons, it's a share alike by (inaudible 1:16:50.3).Other's are not.
[Scott]: What about the commercial vs. non commercial distinction because that's the other part of that.
[Antoine]: If you can't do any business it is not free. If you cannot.
[Steven]: Okay. So you're not an anarchist, you're a legalist but a libertarian.
[Antoine]: Not at all. (Inaudible 1:17:37.3) is a libertarian. For example Eric (inaudible 1:17:42.4 - 1:18:06.0) is the libertarian party. Open source is libertarian, free software and copyleft is not. It could be (inaudible 1:18:23.9).
[Steven]: (inaudible 1:18:26.9) cynicism. Hang on, I don't get this. Something that is explicitly non commercial...
[Antoine]: The devil is not the money.
[Steven]: The devil is not the money.
[Antoine]: Yeah. Money is just media to transport some value. I could be useful and it is (inaudible 1:18:49.4) to have some money. So it is right reason with free software and free art. Non commercial is a (inaudible 1:19:07.6) and copyleft is not creating a diversion. We accept the money which smells bad, yes. We accept it and we work with it, we pay with it. It is not the idea of non commercial and it is why free is not (inaudible 1:19:48.8) it is free.
[Scott]: So Antoine, I understand what you mean, but isn't that argument just trying to make the point that money itself is not exactly what you're talking about? You're not saying that it literally must be commercially viable to be copyleft. I mean, if are... It's not hard for me to understand what you're saying, but I'm imagining that you're kind of using a cannonball to swat a fly for the argument, if you know what I mean. Maybe too good of an effect because it's really drives the point home but in the end, I feel like it also has to be removed in order to move ahead. Otherwise, you're basically saying "our idea of copyleft is limiting only to certain forms of exchange otherwise it's not really valid within our framework". And I don't really think that you, it doesn't sound like from everything that you've said, that's...
[Steven]: I think what Scott's point was is that he can see in the abstract sense why you say this but he has a hard time believing that it's really that important. Because you're not really saying this to defend people making money, you just want to de-dramatize the importance of monetary exchange. Like it shouldn't be taboo the way...
[Antoine]: It is not important. It's just a medium.
[Steven]: Well it is kind of important in a real sense. It'd be important to have some more here, that's for sure. For example, Scott made the point that the website of Plausible Artworlds and BaseKamp is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 which is not copyleft because it is explicitly non commercial.
[Antoine]: Yes, but the (inaudible 1:22:39.1) of non commercial is fear. We fear that somebody could make money with our work. I don't think that the fear is a good reason to (inaudible 1:23:11.15). What are you observe with free movement copyleft. One is that there are not afraid by commission and by business, they don't care. They're doing some, people can do some too. It is public and it is (inaudible 1:23:58.7). I am speaking, do I must be afraid of somebody who can take away my words and ideas and take them again for his own? No I'm not afraid of this. I think that what is worrisome is that somebody can take a language for example or any of your products, for his own and only for his exclusivity. This is really frightening.
[Steven]: Chris, question.
[Scott]: Who really owns ideas? Ultimately. The thing is it's an interesting construction that we're all kind of working within. And many of us are working in different ways. Maybe the interesting, you made a distinguished, excuse me. Antoine, you just ambiguated free and open source projects earlier. I think part of the power of open source, even though it's ultimately really big business too, but part of the reason that it's so weirdly powerful is that it's kind of disproven that certain forms of competition or something like a natural law, even within aggressive markets. You can actually, there's all different ways to argue this but basically when you exchange things and you question your right or what ownership of an idea really means I think what happens is that very old notions of ownership and property and governance all come into question. Because they've been used for a very long time to legitimize ways of structuring societies that are completely unfair. Or at least that privilege certain people and not others or that many other people have spent their lives reimagining or fighting against. These things aren't extricable from one another. Notions of ownership of things and ideas are really tied to what you're talking about. They're really tied to Copyleft Attitude and they're also very tied to open source and those things aren't exactly the same thing. Do you know what I mean?
[Scott]: So I think the attitude of that if someone is going to steal my work is a reality because it's a fiction that's played out so successfully. But it's not a natural reality. It's just a game that we play.
[Steven]: It's because it's based on artificial scarcity. When we're talking about material objects there's a limited number of them in a finite world so their scarcity is actually real, although it may be sometimes exaggerated. When we're talking about ideas it's not because two people read a book that there's only half as many ideas left in it at the end. If fact, the more people that read it potentially the more ideas there will be generated by that book. So anything that would be done to create ownership around an idea would be a way of creating artificial scarcity. In other words, applying a model from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century's reality. Which is why I think what you're talking about right (inaudible 1:28:55.3).
[Antoine]: Yes. This is the reason I did this painting last week, "0+0= Total Space". I think that what we are doing is zero. It is not bad but it is zero like something which is really open and infinite. It is a real value (inaudible 1:29:55.8) inestimateable. So it is really difficult to take the value of the production because there is no cost in effect. Especially for production of the mind. So which is inestimateable? We can't (inaudible 1:30:31.0). It is like the language and it is life living, which is not a language. Which is dead. Living language, like living production of mind, must be open and we can't be afraid that it could be used by someone else. Copyleft is here to guarantee that nobody can capture it and have an exclusivity of it. This is the way of the law for us and the law which is not the law of domination, but the law of protection for creativity. For creative use.
[Antoine]: The connection with art for me is that maybe art is a free practice by (inaudible 1:32:39.0). Art is the way of free form. But if we needed to protect the freedom of art with a free license, it is because now everybody wants to count dominant production. So, the way to recover the freedom of art is to have a copyleft. It is like armor. A defensive one and a decor one. Because there is a passion of power. Everybody wants to have power over things and over people. Art is not power, it's a potential.
[Steven]: It's precarious, it's fragile.
[Antoine]: Fragile. Yes.
[Scott]: Well guys, I'd like to connect, if possible, back to software for a moment because we've gotten to a place where a lot of interesting questions open up. I think part of my concern is some of this discussion kind of gets boxed in certain realms of culture. I and I think several others here are very interested in bringing some of this discussion and some examples that tie to this to larger open source and free software communities. This is where a lot of these ideas actually make, not really made their way into a mainstream, but made a larger impact more visibly. I just typed this in. I don't know if you guys had seen this. We have Jonathan and Chris Simpson who are two of the co-organizers of this conference in Rochester, NY coming up this weekend. Steven and Meg and I from BaseKamp are going to present and kind of open with a key note presentation to all of these software developers and people interested in these ideas. So, if you don't mind, since there are only a few days between now and then and we're on the subject, I'd kind of like to hear from them and maybe we could have a little bit of a discussion about how these ideas overlap?
[Jonathan]: Hey Scott.
[Scott]: Hey Jonathan.
[Jonathan]: I've got myself and Chrissy here and like you said we're organizing. We're one of the team, well two of the team really, that are putting this thing together. And kind of like you said in the opposite direction we're seeing how everybody gets in their own little silos and doesn't necessarily explore outside of that. I think you guys coming up and presenting from a different silo, if you will, than just "okay, here's software and here's open hardware and..." There are all these different pieces and brining that new perspective is very valuable. So, just so everybody knows, we have (inaudible 1:36:59.8) coming up this Saturday in Rochester, NY. Some of us from the Philadelphia area are going up and people from all over the place are coming in. One of our speakers is actually flying in from Denmark I think tomorrow. So there are people from all over. I really think it's awesome that you guys were able to be part of this for exactly those reasons. Just breaking down those barriers that separate groups with very similar goals. I'm going to let Chrissy say a few words as well.
[Scott]: Hi Chrissy!
[Chrissy]: Yeah, I totally agree with John about just really expanding the boarders for what our communities are about and creating everybody and everything and trying to reach out to people in other senses that would not know about the different areas and able for people to participate in and are interested in participating in. Which is kind of the reason why, one of the reasons, why we really decided to do this. Late last year we were coming back from a conference down in South Carolina, the Self Conference. It really just talked about there is so many different places and so many different communities and we all really want a lot of the same things. So, we wanted to provide an outlet that we could all just come together and express that. So, we're really looking forward to it. There's been a lot of hard work that has gone into this just to make it available for the northeast community. Like John said, we have people from Denmark, Canada, all over the place that are coming in because they really, really share our cause. That's what is amazing about this.
[Jonathan]: Yeah, it's a lot of shared passion. And like Chrissy said, we all have a lot of similar goals in what we believe and in what we want to see happen. So I think it's really good to see different groups coming together and doing things together. So I guess that's about it for me. And like I said Scott's going to be there and Megs going to be there and we're very excited about that.
[Scott]: And we hope, anyway, if we can get our basic tech set up to work properly, which doesn't always happen. Hopefully Steven will be able to come on. Alright, now I have a question for everybody. We're talking about this stuff right? Now sort of bringing it into a practical realm where there is a time to connect with a bunch of people who do work on free software projects and open source software projects. I'm wondering, besides asking them "hey can you develop something for my art work", I don't know maybe that's okay too, but if we were to present say Copyleft Attitude as one of the examples of other things going on that relate maybe peripherally, if not directly, to the topic of this conference. What do you think we should present? What could we really (inaudible 1:40:34.5) from this week, this two hour chat where we passed around like a gazillion links and had a lot of interesting discussion and a little bit of argument (laughing). What do you think would really be valuable to offer?
[Steven]: I think Scott's question, it's something that I've talked with Scott about the last few days. You know, it's something you've already thought about Antoine, I'm sure. Because you've thought about how to bring the values of copyleft and free software into a domain which is largely premised on a very powerful reputational economy and individual signature style. I'm talking about art. It was easy to bring the generosity of that whole copyleft free software movement into art, but what could art actually offer to that community? Because if we're going to mutualize our desires and approaches then we have to be clear about what it is that we're bringing into the mix. Because, they don't need us. Maybe we needed them. But if they need us, what do they need from us and what can we offer?
[Antoine]: Maybe they need from us some kind of uselessness. Because the humility of the programmers in the free movement are preempted to doing something useful and maybe art gives them... I think maybe art is the freedom of freedom. I observe some programmers free yes, but they are they are not dominate by the freedom of the software. It's not sure that they are free in their mind. I think that (laughing) maybe, not artists, but art and sometime artists are free in their mind.
[Antoine]: Sometimes. Yes. It could be.
[Steven]: In some best case scenarios because in other case scenario they are extremely alienated in their minds.
[Antoine]: Because we can't say that in the way I use free software I am free. It's not right and I'm not free because I use free software.
[Steven]: No. But you're not free because you're an artist either.
[Antoine]: Nada. I tried. So the meeting between programmers and artists could be interesting in the way of uselessness. I really think that if we can do some things in art simply interesting it is a freedom of freedom. And it could be useful for the free movement. I have some talk with (inaudible 1:45:21.0) a few months ago and we were together in Swiss for a meeting. I was very surprising that he was a guru of the free movement (laughing). But, I was asking if he was very free because he was always with his laptop and very detrimented by some kind of way of life, very special. I was wondering if he was a human person.
[Antoine]: It was very strange. So I think that without art, free software is not free. What is free in making free software? It is the art of doing this. There is a kind of art of doing the free software. I think that programmers are artists of software's.
[Steven]: Antoine lets make that the (inaudible 1:46:55.4). Its one minute passed two here, in the morning.
[Scott]: Ah yeah, right. We try to keep to a very strict schedule but I was too lax in my strict time keeping. Its one minute over.
[Steven]: I think that is a good way to take a break for about the next seven days. That without art, free software is not free and what's free about it is the art of doing it freely.
[Greg]: Also, this is Greg. I just had one final request. I just posted a link on the chat and I thought that in the spirit of antique copyright, or copyright infringement, we might all un-mute our microphones and sing "Happy Birthday" to Scott Rigby.
[Steven]: NO! Is it his birthday??
[Scott]: No it's not! No, totally. You're one month early dude.
[Greg]: Oh no really?
[Scott]: AHHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHA! But thank you (laughing).
[Greg]: My God, I'm so embarrassed.
[Scott]: I'd love if you would do it anyway. No, I'm just kidding (laughing).
[Steven]: When is your birthday man?
[Greg]: I thought it was June 16th?
[Scott]: No way dude.
[Steven]: July 16th?
[Scott]: July 12th.
[Greg]: Oh wow. I'm way off.
[Scott]: Well, you're just not perfectly off, you're pretty close. All things considered (laughing).
[Greg]: Alright, well, sorry about that. I'm embarrassed.
[Steven]: Good try Greg.
[Greg]: Are you messin' with me?
[Scott]: No, I'm totally not (laughing).
[Greg]: He totally is. I can tell.
[Scott]: This would be a good way to deflect embarrassment for myself from being sung to but no, it's...
[Greg]: Okay, July 12th. The Skype chat that happens then we're singing you "Happy Birthday" even if it's not.
[Steven]: Yeah! And even if it's only like the 11th, we'll still do it.
Thank you so much for being with us. I think we could continue on for another hour, even without "Happy Birthday". But thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with us.
[Antoine]: Thank a lot for the invitation and thank you everybody for this meeting.
[Scott]: Yeah, absolutely. And if you'd like to, since we talked about this key note speech or presentation, if you guys want to pop in during that we're going to be on Skype. We don't actually have to wait another seven days to continue this. We can actually sort of continue a little bit in text on this Saturday. I'm going to paste the details of this into this window. So, come join us.
[Steven]: Okay, I'll be there for sure. If it works. Skype willing, I will definitely be there. And I'll try to convince Antoine as well. You know one thing with Antoine we didn't talk about is Antoine is a very wide, often published writer as well on theoretical issues which are somewhat (inaudible 1:50:22.89) to what we talked about tonight. So I'll try and twist his rubber arm and get some ideas on Friday prior to our meeting on Saturday.
[Scott]: That'd be great.
[Steven]: Okay, good night you guys!
[Scott]: Good night everyone!
(Goodbyes and background noise)
END OF TRANSCRIPTION
Created on 2010-06-15 20:14:48.
This week we’ll be talking with Mark Allen from Machine Project in LA.
Is Plausible Artworlds about machines? Though weird sounding, that may well be the right question to ask. There has been a lot of writing recently about machines — drawing on Marx’s unconventional Fragment on Machines and Deleuze & Guattari’s more orgiastic speculations on (desiring) machines — suggesting that machines are neither mere prostheses of our bodies (unlike tools) nor mere engines of alienation, but rather factors of communication, creating unthought-of connections and couplings. In other words, machines like artworlds, machines like us do not extend or replace artworlds and bodies but make new arrangements… well, plausible.
Machine Project is a non-profit presentation and educational space investigating art, technology, natural history, science, music, literature, food, and whatever else humans like to do. The Project occupies a storefront space in Echo Park and more broadly operates as a loose confederacy of artists producing shows at locations ranging from the Santa Monica beach to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Though the diversity and scale of a city like LA gives Machine Project a virtually inexhaustible energy source, our broader cultural moment seems ripe with the desire to build machines, work together and create new and hybrid forms of culture. This suggests there is a need to rebuild and retool, from the ground up and in a grassroots way, an infrastructure for spaces and communities that allow people to come together around a life of ideas. Machine Project has always been about encouraging people – machines like us, or even drastically unlike us – to make culture for themselves and encourage them to want to experience it together.
Created on 2010-06-01 20:28:55.
This week we’ll be talking with Carl Skelton of the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center, co-initiator (with Martin Koplin, University of Applied Sciences, Bremen) of Beyond Participation: Toward Massively Collaborative Worlds of Art. The project focuses on the case study of the digital platform Betaville.
While in recent weeks, we have tended to celebrate usership and participation, these terms may be fraught with a side-effect that Betaville is designed to prevent: the implicit acceptance of a separation between active designers, determinant clients, and taking-it-or-leaving-it-end-users.
The extensibility of concepts and practices of “participatory culture” to fully peer-to-peer collaboration with citizens beyond the art world is a practical matter and a challenge to artists. The session chairs work together on Betaville, a massively multiplayer online environment for previsualization, development, and public participation in new proposals for public art, urban design and development – stretching the current “city limits” of participation by artists in public culture. With Betaville, the project seeks to enquire into “massive participation”, that is, an extreme form of relational aesthetics praxis, within which the role of the artwork is as a framework, rather than a procedure or product, and subject to evolution/adaptation at the behest of anyone with the gumption to do their own work with/on it.
Week 20: Beyond Participation: Toward Massively Collaborative Worlds of Art
[Scott]: Hello there for those of you who are here already! It’s great to have you!
[Steven]: Hey Scott, hello! Good to hear your voice after all this time! It’s really great of you to be so quickly reactant and to be with us tonight. It’s going to be very interesting to talk to you.
[Carl]: And to year yours! I’m glad it will be interesting. I’m more than happy, if I get tipsy, to over share or go on to long.
[Scott] Or give you enough rope to hang yourself with (laughing).
[Carl]: (inaudible 00:01:53)
[Scott]: We are looking at this page, the page that we put up to give a small introduction to everyone.
[Steven]: The one about the Yuengling Lager.
[Scott]: Yeah, we’re checking out the lager. For everybody who doesn’t know, maybe it would be worth introducing Carl, Steven?
[Steven]: Um, I think I’m just going to let Carl jump right in here. But I have to say that Carl is, I don’t know if it’s relevant information or not, Carl runs a very interesting department. Department which I thought was called the Integrated Digital Media Department which is an experimental media center in Brooklyn.
(Inaudible/Silence 00:02:42 - 00:05:04)
[Scott]: I sort of, I followed some of it. I just don’t know the back story on some of it.
[Carl]: Anyway, (inaudible 00:05:18 – audio feed lost)
(Inaudible/Silence 00:05:19 – 0:08:12.2)
[Scott]: Carl, what is that? Sorry, the spirit of what?
[Carl]: (inaudible 0:08:00).
[Scott]: Oh, okay.
[Carl]: So, you know, it’s like (audio feed lost 0:08:22.8)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:08:22.8 -0:14:29.0)
[Scott]: Yeah, yeah. I definitely have a couple questions but I think other people have a few questions too. Maybe we’ll just write them down, you know, just quick notes and we’ll…
[Steven]: I’ve just been posting a few notes as I’ve been following along Carl (Audio feel lost 0:14:50.09
(Inaudible/Silence 0:14:50.09 0 – 0:15:21.4)
[Scott]: Um, do have it just locally or is it online somewhere?
[Carl]: Um, I think I have it locally, I’m not sure.
[Scott]: Yeah, if it’s not a humungous file, what will happen is if you drag it into your Skype window it will send it to everyone in here which probably will be good unless their gigantic..
[Carl]: Okay, let me just…
[Scott]: You know if it’s over a megabyte or two, it might take a little while, otherwise its fine to drop it in.
[Carl]: I don’t know it’s something crazy like that. Hold on a second.
[Carl]: So what (Audio feed lost 0:16:00.3.
(Inaudible/Silence 0:16:00:03 – 0:16:17.5)
[Scott]: Oh no. What we have is just 300 and something kb.
[Carl]: Can you see it?
[Scott]: It’s downloading now. Skype isn’t the greatest file transfer thing, but it’ll probably be here in a minute or so.
[Carl]: Okay, so we’ll see how that goes.
(Inaudible/Silence 0:16:42.4 -0:19:02.0)
[Scott]: Carl, do mind if we post this image up on the webpage for the people who can’t get them?
[Carl]: That’s fine.
[Scott]: Okay. (Inaudible 0:19:15.8) for real (laughing).
(Inaudible/Silence 0:19:20.2 -0:29:56.2)
[Scott] Q: Carl, do you often think fifty years in advance?
[Carl] A: Well, you know, it’s a funny thing. Brooklyn (audio feed lost 0:30:04.3)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:30:04.3 – 0:30:40.09)
[Scott]: (Laughing) right, definitely
[Carl]: We should start an (Audio feed lost 0:30:44.2)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:30:44.2 -0:32:30.8)
[Scott]: I’m not sure.
[Carl]: Hugh Ferris (Audio feed lost 0:32:36.3)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:32:36.3 -0:35:24.7)
[Scott] Q: So Carl, how can, this is my lack of understanding about Betaville and this project. But how can tools like this are used to encourage people to be involved? And large scale public art projects used to discourage that definition of sustainability or the same kinds of ideas or the same kinds of approaches?
[Carl]: Because the (Audio feed lost 0:35:59.2)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:35:59.2 -0:45:48.6)
[Scott]: Carl, we have a…
(Male Audience Member): I just want to say that (Audio feed lost 0:45:51.9)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:45:51.9 -0:53:32.4)
[Scott]: And this is where you can leverage things like open source technology.
[Carl]: Okay, so (Lost audio feed 0:53:45.8)
(Inaudible/Silence 0:53:45.8 -1:02:33.8)
[Scott]: We’re doing great. I think we have like a zillion questions sort of queued up if we can go back and try to address them. I not sure exactly where to start except that someone here has a question so maybe we should start with that and we can just kind of start going backwards.
[Chris]: Yeah, I’m thinking, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tom (inaudible 1:02:59.5) and things like that. I’m wondering, like, how long would anybody stay in Sims City live? Would it only be like a month and then everything would change and die or something? Like they are with the others?
[Carl]: Well, I mean, let me say that first, without a doubt something like that is hard. There are enough people that have to (inaudible 1:03:31.2) that they don’t have to make each other crazy about it. Like 4 or 500 obsessed persons per generations. You might see that (inaudible1:03:45.4) which is very active. But you might want to use it to develop a particular contact. Uh, and part (inaudible 1:03:59.4) So they may want to do that and repeat that over the course of the year or (inaudible 1:04:13.6) might be interested to live within a particular district and they might start playing with thing instead of bridge or batch ball or something like that (inaudible 1:04:33.0) recreational form, in that sense. And so, what we’re figuring, really, is that there will be (inaudible 1:04:49.0 – 1:06:13.8).
[Chris]: Oh, okay.
[Carl]: (inaudible then lost audio feed 1:06:21.8)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:06:21.8 -1:06:37.8)
[Chris]: But would they grow old and die and everything?
[Carl]: Oh (inaudible 1:06:39.0)
[Chris]: I mean would they, do they stay a set age or do they go through a whole life process?
[Carl]: Um, well, okay. This (inaudible 1:06:58.0). What if we would make a prototype that would actually…? (Inaudible 1:07:04.1)
(Inaudible 1:07:04.1 – 1:10:31.8)
[Chris]: Oh. Okay.
[Carl]: And I know a lot of people would do that kind of thing (inaudible 1:10:38.1)
[Scott]: I was actually backing up in reverse through the last hour of chat and I think the first question that really didn’t get addressed, or directly, maybe it didn’t. Erin was asking if this was a consensus process and that’s always something I’m curious about in any group process because it defines a lot of things, or at least it points to other interesting questions. I don’t know if you’ve read this one yet, but basically how are decisions made through this? Do people do this as a group and then kind of get a lot out of that like a consensus or is it sort of like every person for themselves. You know, encouraging more activity through autonomy.
[Carl]: Um, (Audio feed lost 1:11:49.2).
[Scott]: Okay, is a process of how these things get built, is that something that is not being sort of an issue right now is that being built into the idea then or is that something that is sort of yet to be determined?
[Carl]: (Audio feed lost 1:12:24.5)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:12:24.5 -1:18:13.5)
[Steven]…public (Lost audio feed 1:18:14.4)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:18:14.4 -1:25:41.8)
[Scott]: (Laughing) well a lot of things just came out maybe in the last two minutes. I don’t think I’m that slow but I sort of want to address them but there are people who asked things earlier. So, I am scanning and there have been a lot of text discussion that we haven’t really addressed yet.
[Steven]: I think what’s interesting, Carl, is that (Audio feed lost 1:26:09.6).
(Inaudible/Silence 1:26:09.6 -1:26:20.5)
[Steven]: I think whets intriguing about you’re proposal, I mean, it’s obviously (Audio feed lost 1:26:40.8)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:26:40.8 -1:27:48.6)
[Scott]: Steven, are you asking if it’s mainly discursive or if it’s sort of byproducts or mainly a conversation or if it has some practical benefit as an application?
[Steven]: Well, I kind of get the sense (Audio feed lost 1:28:03.0)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:28.03.0 -1:32:00.4)
[Scott]: Definitely a lot of tee shirts can be made from this conversation (laughing). Yeah, maybe we can use the application to design them.
[Scott]: That was a question I had earlier, actually a couple of technical ones. I almost hate to ask them now because the conversation that comes out of it seems, you know, kind of what you said Steven. At least half of it, right? At least part of what can come out of this is that there is a contemplative value of this as an art project. We’re supposed to have a conversation internally or with other people and something interesting come out of that, maybe unpredictable. Also, like you both said, there is something specific that this is going to do to and I guess that’s where the practical stuff comes in. So, I was curious about scale. And Chris was asking earlier about time and that side of things. I think you kind of address it but I’m not sure. Like, you know, I mean we haven’t really used this but are this kind of like a… There was an emphasis on a grand scale and I was just kind of curious. Public art projects are, and the way this was described as sort of extending some ideas that were popularized by reflationary aesthetics. I think you’re talking about artist social practice and I was curious.
[Carl]: Yeah, you don’t want to (inaudible 1:33:42.9)
[Scott]: No, no, no. Not at all. I guess I was trying to sort of frame it without getting sort of trapped inside a whirlpool of conversation that is uninteresting. There’s a focus on art as a social practice on some level. It sounds like it. But also a focus on public art and on structures and the built environment. And I was curious form an application stand point, what kind of things this could… A lot of art as social practice is people and like small things. I was curious if that could be a part.
[Carl]: Gosh I hope so.
[Scott]: Okay (laughing).
[Carl]: The thing that I can think of that would be really cool to happen either specifically or just in terms of situation types. But, do you know what I mean?
[Carl]: But it really doesn’t detail a whole lot (inaudible 1:34:49.1 – 1:34:59.1)
[Scott]: Do you need beta testers?
[Carl]: YES! Yes! Omigod!
[Scott]: (Laughing) okay.
[Carl]: And (Audio feed lost 1:35:07.2)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:35:07.2 -1:38:04.6)
[Scott]: Well, definitely. All the time. And I wouldn’t want to either open an invitation that’s not there or open anyone in this conversation to take the responsibility as a beta tester, but I know that a lot of people here are involved in these kinds of projects generally. Some of us are involved in virtual worlds, one kind or another. Some of us are also developers and others are involved in these projects without any kind of virtualization at all. It just seemed like the application itself, I mean every system or micro system has its own… Something comes out of it in response to the way that it’s built. Or at least you sort of see the limits and potentials, partly through the way that it’s set up. And I was just curious to get in and sort of dork around with it I guess.
[Carl]: Do it.
[Scott]: (Laughing) Okay! How do we do that?
[Carl]: Absolutely (inaudible 1:39:14.7).
[Scott]: Okay. Should everybody who is interested send you an email or should we try to follow up on the discussion list we have? What do you think is a good way to do it?
[Carl]: Okay, we can…
[Scott]: Well, you can sort of think about it later. I know that you didn’t have a lot of lead time to prepare for follow up (laughing). I think it was something like a few hours maybe.
[Carl]: Wait a minute! Hold on a second. Hold on please! There are at least two Canadians on this call and we’re like nice and smart. Can I ask some questions?
[Scott]: Oh definitely. Yes, please do. We should, I think everybody involved to should feel not necessarily as a presenter, although it’s great to have gotten all the information about this but I think a conversation is definitely called for.
[Carl]: Okay, Scott, what do you do?
[Scott]: I’m a collaborative artist and organizer and wear other hats, you know? I’m a person. I’m part of this group called BaseKamp in Philly, or, based in Philly. We also run a space here and work with people in different places, like Steven and other people on this call, a few of them. Like Adam who lives in Tennessee and Salem who lives in Chicago and Meg who is here and lives in Philly, and other people who are present and elsewhere. And what our group focuses on is group activity and mainly collaborative in the creative culture sphere. For lack of a better term. Yeah, we have an organization that’s sort of set up for that and have been doing it for twelve years and we do different kinds of projects, that we can sort of get into later. But that’s sort of the main thrust that I do and usually tell people about.
[Carl]: I’m going to have to Google the whole place.
[Scott]: Yeah (laughing) yeah, totally. We could definitely as a follow up, we could use all sorts of methods, but a quick and easy way would be to use this mailing list that we have. We could also use the comments on your webpage to do it. Unless somebody has a better suggestion on where to do that. But anyone interested should totally do it.
[Carl]: Absolutely. Send me in email (inaudible 1:42:25.4)
[Scott]: Okay, yeah. Could you, yeah. I could actually post that. Okay. And in fact, I want to encourage you to ask the other things that you wanted to because I know we started a few minutes late, but we often end exactly at 8:00 just to be nice to the people who are not in our time zone and who would be interested enough to stay up until ass o’clock in the morning. We want to encourage them to come back for the whole year. But, since you started late, maybe I should just throw that out there that anyone who really needs to go should definitely feel comfortable just sort of heading because it’s just chimed 8:00. But if you want to stay around for a few minutes we could time box it to like five minutes or something. Then you could still get into your questions because I’m still curious.
[Carl]: Technically we do mostly undigital stuff, so to speak. Digitally supported. Anybody coding on here?
[Scott]: Yeah, a number of us at BaseKamp code, but historically most of what we’ve done is use digital tools. We’ve sort of mashed them up, not even as a focus. Just for practical benefit because most of the people we work with are in desperate locations sometimes. But largely what we’ve done has been stuff like in real space with real people, um, meet space. But now, weirdly, after all this time and being involved in open source culture, a number of us are involved in open source software experimentation and work as day jobs too.
[Carl]: Oh, cool. Do you want to hear a happy Google story?
[Carl]: Okay, so (Audio feed lost 1:44:32.0)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:44:32.0 -1:48:00.7)
[Scott]: Yeah, it may be worth mentioning, Carl, that we’ve basically chosen that, I hate to use the work “platform” but as a platform of choice for a lot of the work that we do culturally and otherwise. I don’t want to go on about this because we actually are about to get into, probably we should end this. But I just wanted to mention that we have been doing this open triple studio where we both have a kind of open learning exchange, kind of along these lines. People also help to make sites for commercial stuff to help fund our space and what we do as kind of an exchange for learning this stuff with us. And we also do pro-bono projects. So, it’s something that may be good to talk about together.
[Carl]: (inaudible 1:49:12.9)
(Inaudible/Silence 1:49:12.9 -1:53:16.5)
[Scott]: Yeah, absolutely. I won’t assume that you’re not privy to it because maybe you’re really active on there, but there is a lot of effort in the druple community or using druple as an educational platform. But increasingly lately, and maybe you’re really in agreement with that. But if you’re not, we’d be really psyched to connect with you on that point.
[Carl]: It’s huge. It’s HUGE! I mean (inaudible 1:53:36.8)
[Scott]: I think maybe we can end on this point only because I can see the capacity for us to just go like totally nuts now.
[Carl]: Yeah, I think we could talk till 6:00 am.
[Scott]: (Laughing) but we should definitely all stay up till 6:00 am and drink heavily and keep talking, just not on this Skype chat. But, it’s been really great.
(Inaudible background comment 1:55:23.4)
[Steven]: Here, it’s about 2:15 am so I’m going to have to…
[Scott]: Yeah, I’m going to take my rollers and moderator and say we should end this particular one. Yeaahhhhhhh.
[Steven]: And Carl, you’re invited to join us every Thursday night at the same hour and I think we have a definite infinities and people were having interest. So I think it would be really great to, if you have time, to drop by any of our potlucks.
[Carl]: Alright, I will.
[Steven]: We’ll definitely be in touch in the future about Betaville (inaudible 1:56:15.8).
[Carl]: And one thing on that point and it comes from (inaudible 1:56:28.1) is that (inaudible 1:56:29.7) through the TAA next February and If you guys want to be in on that then my all means, let us know (inaudible 1:56:50.1).
[Steven]: That’d be cool.
[Scott]: Yeah, we should definitely chat. Thanks so much Carl.
[Carl]: My pleasure.
[Scott]: We won’t hesitate to follow up.
[Carl]: Cool, I’ll be ready.
[Scott]: Bye everybody, thank you all for coming
END OF TRANSCRIPTION
Created on 2010-05-18 20:30:59.
So far the series has featured projects and initiatives whose self-understanding is somehow “art” related, however tenuous their relationship to artworld-making may be. This week, however, we shift away self-described “art” worlds altogether to strike up a conversation with the ‘volunteers’ at freenode (chat.freenode.net) – an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network freely provided to a variety of groups and organizations. IRC itself is a bit like skype without the business model — that is, a form of real-time conferencing, essentially designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels.
freenode, formerly known as Open Projects Network, is a popular IRC network used to discuss peer-directed projects — such as Plausible Artworlds amongst countless others. freenode provides discussion facilities for the Free and Open Source Software communities, for not-for-profit organizations and for related communities and organizations. In 1998, the network had about 200 users and less than 20 channels. Ten years down the line the network currently peaks at just under 60,000 users and 10,000 channels, making it the largest free and open-source software-focused IRC network.
Though some aspects of freenode philosophy are specific to the workings of its medium, because the network exists to provide interactive services to peer-directed project communities, some of the group’s basic principles may prove invaluable to rethinking we we are calling artworlds. They include:
Many of the “plausible artworlds” we’ve been looking at could be described, strictly speaking, as “free nodes” of common desire, skill sets and exchange. Beyond its mere name, it may well be that freenode’s modus operandi too can shed light on the dynamics of more plausible artworlds.
Week 14: freenode
(Background chatter & silence & greetings until 0:27:48.0)
[Scott]: Awesome. Can someone just, would someone mind typing into the text chat to just let everyone know that we’ve started the call in case they’ve been bounced. Just flag us and we’ll add them. That’d be great. So Steven, are you here? Excellent. So, welcome to another week of our little series on Plausible Artworlds. Where this year, we’ll be looking at a selection or I guess you could say just a, just an array of different examples of what we’re calling Plausible Artworlds. The creative cultural eco systems that sustain that sustain cultural practice, creative cultural practice and this week we’re taking a bit of a departure from, from some of the other strains that we’ve looked at and going more forcefully into, into a, a what’s become a sort of vast network that supports open source cultural projects. Specifically open source software projects but not only also other kinds of open source cultural projects. And we have Jonathan, Jonathan Simpson or I don’t know if it’s Jonathan D. from IRC. Here with us. So not to make such a flowery introduction, these are actually really informal talks Jonathan. We just wanted to give everyone a small sense of who you were and let them know that you’re here. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you about Freenode.
[Jonathan]: Thank you.
[Scott]: (Laughing) so, one, one thing that was a sort of point of confusion, and it’s partly my fault if not entirely. We really thought, hey, let’s go ahead and meet both on both Skype and IRC tonight. But as we start, you know it’s now 6:30 we had a bit of a hiccup getting started, or a few of them. And I’m just not exactly sure how we can easily transition between the two. Maybe, maybe we can talk for a little bit and then and then a little bit later um, try it out if everyone’s up for it. Does that sound good? So we can stay here for now, so we don’t kind of loose each other. And then we can migrate over to IRC either using the web browser, which anybody can go ahead and just click on and do at that point or your client if you have one. If that makes sense to everybody.
All right, cool. I feel sort of like Dora the Explorer. Asking kids at home if you can help me find a treasure map. So Jonathan we have, I mean there’s definitely questions that we can ask you about Freenode but I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving us a brief intro to, to the network for people who there, people that are here and people that might be listening to us recording later who don’t know what IRC is and not only that, I’d really like it if we could talk about why Freenode makes, isn’t just another IRC network but makes some significant changes in order to create a different kind of network.
[Jonathan]: Sure. So, pre-note. Well first of all, IRC is just the (inaudible 0:31:32.6) it’s been around for a long time. Pretty much since the early days of the internet and Freenode is a mutation of that, that IRC protocol. And Freenode's purpose is to provide a communications platform where people participating in open source projects, groups and you know anything that kind of fits into that so they can communicate with each other. They can collaborate and they can get stuff done. There’s a lot of IRC networks, Freenode in just a simple computer turns into one of the largest. But it’s, it’s also the largest open source network of its kind in the world. And what really makes it uh, different is its intent. It’s not made for a general purpose chat for people to go and just talk about whatever it’s aimed at. When these groups come together, flourish and you know cross pollinate a little bit because you’ll have connections made between some members of one group and another that might not have happened if they only met on their on website or their own little chat or, or whatever methods they would have used otherwise. So I think that’s, really you know a decent summary and that’s what, what brings the value out of, of Freenode is that it just allows things to happen that probably wouldn’t otherwise.
[Scott] Q: I heard about Freenode first through this open source community that I work with called Drewfull, which I know a number of people on this channel, also work with who leverage Freenode's channels a lot. Basically all their online or IRC communications through Freenote and, and uh, that’s what got me first interested in looking into, you know this network. First of all I was impressed at how they were able to build their community, you know, not wrapping community and smart quotes too quickly because I think it really is um, a pretty interesting kind of community that they’ve been able to build. With its own protocols, its own rules its own self understandings and values, shared values and stuff. Not that there aren’t a lot of trolls in there but whatever I found that to be really interesting and looked into Freenode's philosophy um, or the what’s the Freenode's philosophy page on your website and um, you know and a number of us looked at that and were really interested and impressed not only at how it’s been able to work. Which is sort of amazing you know and you said it’s one of the largest uh, one of the largest IRC networks in the world but I don’t know, if you guys want to know what this means like. I don’t know. How many people were, were using Freenode today Jonathan? Something like.
[Jonathan] A: The peak was a little over sixty thousand something today.
[Scott] Q: Yeah, people. Right. Which is kind of amazing I think for people like us whose networks are, you know, they might stretch into the thousands possibly. In a very, very loose sense, but whose direct communication networks are you know, you know even, even I mean probably a lot less for most of us including me but you know sometimes into the hundreds you know and uh, and so that’s an enormous number of people especially with, many of them with shared, shared interests. So any case we were really impressed not only with how that was able to come across er, how that was able to be sort of developed and built into something like that but also how, how this kind of channel needs this kinds of protocols to be useful for other um, creative projects and other kinds of open source cultural projects or, or cultural projects that are, that are in some way aligned with open source ideas. I guess that wasn’t really a question, um, would you mind Jonathan telling us about how Freenode is structured?
[Jonathan] A: Sure, so one of the important things about Freenode. This actually somewhat applies to most of the larger IRC (inaudible 0:36:34.2) and their (inaudible 0:36:34.6) the, the channels which are the different, basically the different chats on Freenode basically had basically run themselves. You had basic camp channel for example and you had your own people who have permissions to do things. And then on top of that there’s also network run staff which that’s, that’s the sort of thing I do. Where we manage network issues when there are spam and things of that nature. It does happen. It’s unfortunate but um, you know we do what we can to mitigate that and I think one of the things that you and I have talked about a little bit before is how it’s run usually the way that’s structured because we don’t um, exactly have, you know like a line of people. There’s no such thing as. If you call customer service as a business you’ll get um, um, at first you’ll probably get somebody who answers the phones and transfers you on to someone else who transfers you on to someone else. And we try to keep things to the point from a support perspective where, if you ask someone a question and their around, they're gonna, answer your question. Their either gonna answer your question themselves and handle your issue themselves or they're going to take it back to someone who can handle it and get it done. But you know basically it comes down to the people who can get something done will do it if they can’t they’ll find someone who can. And that’s something I think you and I have talked about a little bit and how that sort of functions. And it’s, you know it’s unusual but it works for us.
[Scott]: Uh huh, yeah, we were using some language that was barred from somewhere else but that Freenode seems to be a, a kind of do-ocracy.
[Scott]: And your, the hierarchy. I mean there are founders of the organization. That’s sort of a large organization too. Or at least it’s branched from one. But everyone involved the title is basically everyone from one of the cofounders, Christel to one of, you know, some of the newest dedicated members are all considered volunteers.
[Jonathan]: Everyone, everyone at this point in time is a volunteer but there was a time when there was actually a paid basically there was hired public to do process of things you know, forms and that is that but um, that was several years ago. At this point basically we have network staff and anyone who is network staff has never (inaudible 0:39:41.2). There are certain things that certain people don’t have the ability to do for numerous reasons. Like, and again let’s update but at the end of the day it comes down to like I said in my cue, If you can do something you do it and if not you find someone who can. It’s not the kind of formal hierarchy you would find in most organizations.
[Scott]: Uh huh.
[Jonathan]: You know, to a certain extent it just comes down to as you learn to do new things uh, you get to know to do things and stuff. And following that, the channels that make up Freenote. Like I said, you know they run themselves they form their own foundationional structure as they make a (inaudible 0:40:41.6) they need to build up.
[Scott] Q: Yeah, I was curious about that. You guys don’t, I mean have you ever, I mean you have a basic mission for the channels right. Have you, have you ever had to worry about enforcing that? I guess what I mean is, you haven’t had a group you know like, have you had to deal with like, kind of like white collar groups or other, other people who are. I mean an appeal of IRC is its relatively untraceable right? I mean it’s as much as any communication system can be.
[Jonathan] A: Yeah.
[Scott]: More so than most.
[Jonathan]: More (inaudible 0:41:45.5) I mean anything any website, any web forum, any online chat has probably had to deal with stuff like that with groups. Basically, and in some cases they’re just trying to cause trouble. In some cases setting up on Freenode not necessarily realizing that the intentions here are a little different. And maybe they have a place somewhere else or they don’t but they set on Freenode. And then there, you know there has to be some rules that has to deal with stuff like that but you at the same time you know we do have and we do strive to be welcome to open source projects in the works but there’s also several work channels with things that aren’t directly open but a lot of times we relate to. For example there, there’s a windows channel and it’s not organized by Microsoft and it’s not official in any capacity. Even those of us that keep this open source day in day out still running the things. From the, from time to time we need that kind of support too. So there’s stuff like that and a little brave but still usable looking and then there like you said there have been cases where there’s been (inaudible 0:43:17.7) and verbally and we’ve had to deal with that. But it’s not very often. There’s been,
[Scott]: Jonathan there’s a question. Ok, great I didn’t know if you saw. And by the way if you hear it go silent or at least a little less crazy that’s because we finally realized we could mute our audio and apologies to everybody for the crazy background feedback in the meantime but we’re here.
[Jonathan]: Okay, so the question here is about paid user ship and whether we get paid for what we do um, none of our volunteers are paid. We all basically do this because we, we because we believe in it. Freenode does accept donations and we use them to offset the cost of various things, some of them relatively minor. You have things like domain registrations and stuff like that you need to maintain. They don’t charge a huge amount of money. But we also have other projects. Freenode is part of a parent organization known as the Peer Directed Project Center. And this organization has a board of directors that from, from a distance oversees Freenode, and other projects that we have. We have open source event website which lists open source events and stuff like that, that we’ve been working on. We have something called a (inaudible 0:45:02.3) that we do and you know we have these other satellite projects and a lot of that gets started by these donations so. Freenode is basically supported by donations from people and, you know, there’s another side to that to because there’s a lot of servers that are used to make up Freenode and you know when you connect to a network you’re connecting to any one of these servers. And they’re all over the world. And these are donated by sponsors that basically post machine on our behalf and allow us to set up an IRC server on them and give us access to set it up the way we need to. And that’s where those come from. So they very directly support us as well.
[Greg] Q: Jonathan this is Greg. I’m just curious there was a question (inaudible 0:46:06.4) were, were uh, answering that. I was curious about, I don’t know, I guess maybe any illegal or ethical questions about how Freenode is used or, or service you offer. And I guess maybe some of the more theoretical aspects of what Freenode does or allow things to occur. What do you think about that? Or if there’s been any, you know legal issues or anything like that?
[Jonathan] A: There haven’t really been any issues with stuff so brazen that it’s causing problems. It’s definitely uh, (inaudible 0:46:55.1) I think I’m gonna drop a link to a certain page on the website here in a moment. But we have a basically a list of things that we consider on topic and then a list of things that we consider off topic and then there’s stuff that’s sort of in the middle. But as an example we’re pretty clear on not allowing people to talk about where is and software that might be less than illegal to acquire. Music and movie piracy and it bothers some people because in some cases where they are it’s not actually illegal. But do to the fact that Freenode is involved with network sometime we gotta aim for the lowest common dominator and also many of the places where users are possibly the majority of the places where users are so for the safety of the network when it’s noted it needs to be dealt with and most of the time that just comes down to letting people know. It’s not suitable for the net. So, there are a lot of things that creative staff were obviously not on every channel. They obviously are unaware of things that happen in private messages between users and in channels where there’s no presence by a staff member. And we don’t really have any desire to be in every channel. It defeats our purpose to intervene in the day to day running of these channels. They are their own entity and they should be so there could always be things happening behind the scenes that you know staff are not even aware of and you know as policy we don’t pry into issues that we’re not made aware of. So hopefully that answers your question. Let me try to find this link for you as well.
[Scott] Q: You know that’s great. I was just curious about, you know, when you said you know, once you see or read things that are shared but then who is we, and you mentioned that nobody is on all the channels but is that sort of a shared responsibility among all of the volunteers in terms of monitoring content?
[Jonathan]A: Not exactly, because we don’t directly monitor content. You know well, I’ll, let me put it this way. 99% of the time if someone from Freenode staff is in a channel it’s because they want to be there. It’s because they want to participate in the communication and not because they are there to intervene in any way in running the channel.
[Scott]: That’s cool.
[Jonathan]: So, you know if one of us sees something we sort of say something about it for the good of the network. But you know that’s pretty much where the line is drawn.
[Scott]: Great. Thank You.
[Jonathan]: And I just dropped the link. But I dropped it. But their both on the same page, and I dropped the corresponding on topic link. It tells about what is and isn’t appropriate on the network.
[Scott]: Hmm, oh okay. We’re just checking out your on and off topic policies. Jonathan I don’t know if you see Steven's comment, here Steven are you in a place where you feel like you’re able to ask that out loud or would you rather us just kind of.
[Steven] Q: Yes, sure. It’s really, really just a basic question cus. I’m just feeling that maybe either everyone here is already a user of IRC and Freenode and so can really jump into the technical issues that we’re already talking about now. Or maybe there’s some people who even know less about it than I do, it’s not entirely impossible. And so I was wondering on, the first of all if Jonathan, if talk a little bit about the pre history. Of Freenode, what Freenode was before it was Freenode, because I think it evolved into that wonderfully named entity. Freenode, from something else and I was wondering (inaudible 0:52:21:1) during the early history. The question they just asked just now is. You talked about cross pollination which is a really nice idea and it seems to me that it's somehow really a core value in why you volunteers actually volunteer to do this thing is so we can get in touch with people who would never possibly be networking with and we would build. I don’t know, establish a certain fruitful collaboration. Through this platform that you have set up. And how would we actually get in touch with them. That’s the thing sixty thousand people doing really great things. But how do I know which one to would be potentially, you know, a conversation starter with my Plausible Artworlds group for example. So, is there an index or are there some categories or groups. Are there federations, I mean how exactly do these things work? Because my experience, actually, with Freenode has only been on BaseKamp and Plausible Artworlds channel. I’ve met some surprisingly interesting people, that’s for sure, but I’m never sure how they really got there and I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t dare to barge into somebody else’s channel. Because I wouldn’t even. First of all, I wouldn’t know which channel to pick. It’s like, you know like picking, like making a cold call. To a number sort of randomly. I was wondering, just how does that cross pollination get structured in a certain way?
[Jonathan] A: That’s a really good question. And to be honest, I think the best answer is. If you spend time it just sort of happens. I would say, actually run into a little bit of my history if that’s okay. I came to Freenode, surprisingly enough about four years ago now. And I didn’t have the intent of ending up on staff and I didn’t really have any involvements with any other open source projects. What happened really was I knew some people. And they helped me to come there and I did and. After a little bit of time, I started branching out and seeing what else are they doing and you sort of head out and follow what other people are doing and talking to other people they know. You make these new connections. And on a small scale what tends to happen is you’ll connect with some people on another channel and they’ll connect with people in the channel you came from possibly and the community just sort of self built that way. With a lot of the support channels, often you just go in with a, asking a question about some kind of some kind of problem you’re having. As I said it’s not just these units and (inaudible 0:55:28.0) that have never worked with anything else. There’s, if you have a question about how to use Microsoft Word there’s a windows channel and um, branching out of an (inaudible 0:55:39.6) I think that’s actually what happened to me. I asked a question there years ago and I met some, some interesting people on the technical side and I, I follow along with them and that’s actually sort of how I ended up doing the volunteer work for Freenode. So, it is sort of you know, you meet people and you branch out into their communities. And eventually they become your own.
[Steven]: I see what you mean. It’s kind of like the more you do it. The more you do it. Um, and you meet people and it sort of works in a kind of a resolving kind of way. The last time we chatted Jonathan, in September I think, the conversation almost had nothing to do with open source and free software. It really seemed at that time that open source and free software was really just kind of a metaphor for the type of exchanges which were typically taking place on Freenode which was more about no when 2.0 or 3.0 but about 0.0 in a certain way. It was about a community organizing and people just wanting to get together and using Freenode as their sort of modes operandi for that. I mean, so, although you (inaudible 0:57:15.5) just say came out of a really technical perspective and that remains a kind of core user ship probably uh, I mean unless I got the wrong picture from our last conversation it seems that mostly now it’s really moved actually beyond that. Or beyond it in a sense that it’s not just that but that’s the free software idea or ideal is the it, you know, is the sort of the, the, what would I say. Oh yes the ideal for the type of exchanges or cross pollination that happen on Freenode.
[Jonathan]: It’s definitely, it’s definitely the origin. You know, Freenode started with a channel on a different IRC network called Lennox. I wasn’t around then so I don’t really know the characters involved but. There were just a handful of people involved back then and they were interested in running some open source and you know over time they started their own IRC network and years down the road there’s sixty thousand people here. And, probably a good portion of those are either people who are involved directly in an open source project or looking for help. In either an open source project or something technical. But beyond all that, there’s a whole other realm so to speak of people who are here to communicate but still share the same say the same, still believe, in the same openness. And the free exchange of information. And, these, and I think probably a belief that’s pretty prevalent that part of it that just came out of the fact that these are people who used Lennox. They’re used to open source and when you’re used to something like that the exchange of uh, other types of information for the betterment of everybody just sort of makes sense. So it definitely has become a pretty welcoming place for communities that just have a kind of, desire and beyond the source communities there’s also communities like the Philadelphia Lennox Users Group has a channel on Freenode and talk there and I’m a member of that as well. It’s a place for them to talk; it’s a place for them to socialize a little bit. Also to work together to solve issues and to plan events and to do all those other things so it’s really a focal point of that community and there are many many others like that.
[Scott] Q: Jonathan, I was actually going to your thoughts about this. Mostly because I have some thoughts on this. As to whether the kind of openness that you’ve been describing that’s built into the system. So to speak. If you think that that itself contributes to the social interactions? Sorry about the noise guys (laughing). Can you hear me all right?
[Jonathan] A: I can hear you.
[Scott] Q: Okay, Kung Fu. Do you think that the openness. Not only the idea of the openness but also, like the protocols. The connections to this to the kind of the systems, the way the actual network is built technically with that sort of openness in mind. If you think that that contributes to the kind of social interactions not just social but kinds of, interactions that people on the network have and the kinds of communities that are developing, the kinds of culture that is being helped to be produced. If you see, if you see that, I kind of assumed that you would see a connection there but I don’t really want too. I kind of wanted to ask what you thought about that.
[Jonathan] A: I think I agree with you there because. I mean basically. If you want to build a community on Freenode you can just go do it. (Inaudible 1:02:04.4) active as long as it’s within what’s acceptable and so forth. If you want to collaborate on something, if you want to build something you can just go and do it. You know, it’s kind of similar to what we were talking about before. You don’t have to come and ask permission. You just go do and start building. And accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish rather than trying to do it in another. I don’t know how (inaudible 1:02:40.1) maybe go build your own website with your own, and you can do that. But I think taking that step away let’s people focus on what they actually want get done versus the infrastructure needed to get there. But beyond that, you know Freenode and IRC actually (inaudible 1:03:00.8) you can do stuff with it like connect to it with your phone; connect to it with all sorts of things. (Inaudible 1:03:10.9) piece of software for it. It’s not like Skype, or even Skype is sort of open. But you know there’s limitations on what you can do with IRC basically anybody can know (inaudible 1:03:26.0) you know if you can do any programming you can probably have something that connects to Freenode and talks to people and in an hour or two without ever having done it before. You know, Skype is very closed up but I mean it lets you communicate in an open fashion but you can’t do your own stuff with it if you know what I mean.
[Scott] Q: Definitely. So, Michael was just asking how open source when it gets to the (inaudible 1:04:10.3) know you cultural trends at large. It definitely seems to a lot of discussion about open source culture. Did you want to ask? Okay, yeah. I guess that’s probably a question for you Jonathan. I don’t know if you’re posing yourself as an expert here but just because you’re here and you’re representing Freenode on some level it seems. Or not on some level, you are. It might be nice to know if you guys talk about this in your channels.
[Jonathan] A: We’ve been talking, you know, I think that’s sort of where these, you know. The first time we talked, I think basically the reason for it was because we were looking for more ways to raise the gap between open source culture and open source software because, you know, Freenode contributes to be open source software. And I mean there are some obvious or (inaudible1:05:19.2) implementations like Matthew mentioned earlier. I know a lot of people are just users and other things like it. So there's the obvious. There's software to the open culture by making it accessible. (Inaudible 1:05:41.2) makes certain things possible that might not otherwise have banned. But beyond that, (inaudible 1:05:51.2) that we share a lot of the same sort of feelings about things with open source culture. Some of it is the practical side using artwork and software like I said, using software to create artwork or other creative works. And using music and software and the other way around. And there is the actual connections between people as they are working together.(Inaudible 1:06:33.2) you get to a point where there is some really cool people out there who have an interest in both the creative side and the technical side and overtime you kind of increase the gap between the two. I don't know if I (inaudible 1:06:55.4) because I am terrible at (inaudible 1:06:58.6) but I still enjoy it. I like to see the community grow. I like to see the interactions between people with very different skills but very similar goals.
(Loud background noise)
[Scott]: Yeah, I think some of the reasons why we're asking about… Actually I see now there are a couple of questions. So maybe all this quickly say what else can say and then back up. To what you're saying, I think one of the reasons why some of us were asking or are so interested in this structure of Freenode is because part of the ideals or the ideas that are being put forward, some of the ideas of open source as a counterpoint to copy writing, they tie and to questions of ownership and as authorship as a kind of ownership but also that has to do with us as individuals. Sorry, the very notion of what makes us that. It may have to do with what hour individual place within a group can be. It has something to do with our organizations are structured, even our small ones or even the large ones, have to do with our or ideas what that can be for other areas in the world. Ideas of governments, of property and they're pretty large questions and I think that different pieces, like you said, different pieces of open source and parts of discussions that tie into open source culture. And specifically even licensing for creative practice is and software and things like that has to do with these larger questions. And I think that's what makes some of this discussion so central today because there's a lot of territory being fought over. I mean, we are still in the midst of software wars even though it's hard to see that now with open source making such good business sense to people. But it is still there. And there are so many other cultural battles being fought that these questions are really central. I think that was kind of more of… I don't mean to go on so much there but I guess I was sort of chiming in a little bit to what you're saying. I remember having some discussions with you a little bit along these lines when, the rest of you probably don't know this, but Jonathan lives in Pennsylvania and he is sort of the U.S. point person for Freenode. He happens to live not far from Philadelphia so we went on a picnic at his parents' house last year. Anyway, we had some discussions along these lines. I kind of wanted to bring them up just for context. I don't know how far we should go with them now.
[Jonathan]: You know one thing that kind of struck me there is, going back to...Well this one actually was a (inaudible1:10:29.7) will get back to that. One of the things that struck me there is we as Freenode feel, this is how I feel and I think its how the majority feels so I will roll of this, we are part of the network first as users. We are part of the community as users. And being staffed for Freenode is something that we do as part of the community. And yeah, I will answer Scott's question, I do have some responses to that. I think that is what it comes down to. It's not taking a role in controlling Freenode, it's taking a role in making sure Freenode is working correctly for every one that wants to use it, and that includes yourself. Because you are one of those people who wants to go one there and get things done and make progress in whatever it is you are working on.
So let me answer this question real quick because (inaudible1:11:47.1). So Steven asked how I would (inaudible1:11:56.5) Skype and I don't necessarily have an issue with Skype, it's a good platform. As for how I've used it personally? Well, I've used it four times talking to you guys and in between that I've used it maybe three times between that. It's not something I spend a lot of time on. I do have it and I have installed and I actually keep the logged on most of the time more recently, but, I'm on Freenode constantly. Even when I'm not (inaudible1:12:37.9). And one of the things I like really is just the openness. If you wanted to, you could go visit our website and visit the development section and actually download everything we are using. You can download our IRCD 7, we recently switched after many years of using something called (inaudible1:13:08.3) which you can also download freely. And our Network Services which are what you register your name and your channels, you can download those. You can go tomorrow and build your own Freenode. I like that feeling of knowing that it's their end that people can look at it and know what makes it tick and what makes it work and maybe even make it better. And that openness, I think it's important. And the open as not just of the software and being able to go grab it but the openness of the protocol. Like I said before, very little previous experience (inaudible 1:13:55.1) you can make something that will connect to that server that you just put together and that network that you just built yourself. And people do this. People go out and play with it and see how it works and what makes it tick and then sometimes tell us what's wrong with it. I don't know that Skype is really a reactive to the kind of comments you might send and of what you might think is wrong with it. Maybe they are. I'm not going to say that they're not responsive to such things. I don't really know. You don't have that level of visibility on platforms like this.
[Steven]: (inaudible 1:14:47.3) I didn't think of that answer but it's really obviously and intuitively what makes Freenode (inaudible 1:14:53.7). The thing is that with the free software in the open source movement we are really more, and I mean plausible Artworlds when I say we, and into open source cultural. So we're just kind of taking an idea that you are actually practicing and kind of applying it to cultural activity at large in particular with what have become visual arts. You know, it's kind of a strange thing because we share a kind of core value but really when we talk about Plausible Artworlds sometimes were frustrated with what people who are into other open source culture and free culture what they are prepared to counts as within the mainstream art culture. That sort of thing pushed us towards an open source approach. It appears, from the outside, to be kind of cool and groovy and not too problematic. I guess that's kind of what motivated my question about Skype. Because I use Skype obviously more than you do and it's kind of the way that I keep in touch with people and I guess it's because I haven't really made the effort to promote Freenode. Except there is one tiny technical thing. I feel almost embarrassed or shame to say it, is that with Skype you can talk.
[Jonathan]: Yes, absolutely. I'll be honest, Skype is used by many, many people in the open source world and that's probably the biggest reason. And I think really there's no alternative to that at this point.
[Steven]: That's not entirely true. There are parts of subscriptions like this today with people talking and listening and ways of doing that but there is nothing for streaming online for it other than Skype. For me it's a technical hurdle vs. a practical one because clearly it is possible it just hasn't been done yet. Are you guys talking about that though? Is there any talk of IRC going for audio?
[Jonathan]: I don't think I could ever see it happening as something that would be built into the IRC protocols. And part of the reason for that is the IRC protocol is very old and from a compatibility standpoint, I don't think anyone would want to take that step because they have the potential to break so many things. With that said, it doesn't prevent, kind of like what we're talking about earlier about having a voice conversation on Skype and a text conversation on IRC. If there was a better way to do it.
I don't know if I've ever used it actually.
[Scott]: If you remember early last year actually I could probably look if Mag is still on the call. Actually it looks like she's not. I don't know she dropped are went to sleep. She's also in the UK. Oh, Meg it still there but Mag (inaudible 1:18:28.4) yeah. She and a few other people had set up a platform or I guess you could say is really just a bot that would talk back and forth between a website, posting information on a web site and to Skype. You could talk to it and talk to each other and posts commands on Skype. It would pose back and forth for you. And a number of us, including Sean from the public school and some people from I Beam in New York and other people. There've been some random discussions about how to use bots to try to bring audio into text in text and audio and trying to make some are at work. One of the reasons we use Skype often is that, not justify why we're doing it because I think the reasons are obvious as it's free and we can connect with tons of people, oftentimes people can get on audio but they can be on the text component. Not vice versa of but often people really just want the audio and really aren't that active on text. Some people do both as they are really good a multi-tasking. It's nice that it's integrated. And so if we could find some ways to have some sort of audio service that doesn't really provide out level of integration but you some bots back and forth. I guess I'm taking this opportunity to brainstorm or maybe just bring in some of the brainstorms from other micro conversations that I've been a part of. It seems that work along those lines of what could be really helpful.
[Jonathan]: I can definitely see something back sort of stands on its own and provides a way to call people. Without the integration it's actually really easy to do something like that. There something called asterisks, which is not at all an alternative to Skype per say, actually a PBX System that you put together yourself on a standard computer and a lot of people actually use that for voice conferencing and stuff. So there might be a way to do something along those lines three that. But the issue with building it into IRC, the biggest one that comes to my mind, is that even if the server had a way to support it the clients would not, unless someone went in and fixed all of it. For example, I know a lot of you are using the web chat right now to get onto the channel and all these different things like that; web chats, there's dozens of web chats many of which can connect to Freenode, there's java chats, IRS (inaudible 1:22:07.4) which is what I use, there's MRIC that a lot of people on windows use. I think that I can safely say there are options and adding support for (inaudible 1:22:24.0) would be challenging. On the other hand, having web pages that connects you to a voice chat would be a little bit easier. It's pretty easy to share links over IRC. So there's almost certainly ways to do it. I'm not aware of anything that does exactly what Skype does in the open source world which is sort of unfortunate. Skype is not doing anything that is impossible to open source. If I had to make my guess is on why not yet it would probably be because the server side resources are expensive and it would require and efforts similar to Freenode's own with our sponsors and such for something like that to operate freely because there's no or rarely any commercials
[Scott]: and that's one of the things that surprises me the most is that somehow you guys have been able to pull off this pretty long, well in a very long standing, not exactly a coup. But you've been able to maintain and build something amazing when mostly what being supported are things that are often difficult to fund. Some of the largest financial interests of the people who often fund software projects, they get involved with open source projects more and more, but art necessarily interested in culture. I mean, I may be stereotyping here but I think it's probably fair to say that our interest in the product primarily is to see the culture in quantifiable terms. And so I think it would be very difficult for me to imagine. I mean, it's actually very difficult for me to imagine how you guys have really been able to continue and pull this off. But I'm really excited about that and interested not only in the fact that you been able to just maintain but in what kinds of things can still happen. Like you said with some of the bridges between other types of cultural like non software driven peer directed projects and the techies out there.
[Male group member]: Scott, I was thinking along the same lines just in terms of what does the future hold for Freenode? Is it just sustain what is currently in place or are there changes and developments that you guys see as necessary or welcome to developing or expanding Freenode in the future?
[Jonathan]: While we definitely want to preserve what we have because it's been useful to a lot of people. But there are things that we are trying to do... Like one of the reasons has been to sort of move out of the real world so to speak. I'm a pretty firm believer in bringing people together and actually meeting in person, that's valuable. So with at that end... Last year we started doing something called Geek Mix, which I mentioned a little bit about that earlier, that's a PDBC project which is the parent of Freenode, and they are advertised on Freenode and attended by whenever possible staff. And we had a couple in the Philadelphia area last year that I went two and we are actually doing some this summer is well. A camping trip we are doing. I'm hoping will get a pretty big turnout for it. I think that it's nice to have that in person contact and sometimes the in person contact is to accomplish something. But the Geek Mixes are really more about just getting people together and getting people to meet each other and doing something just kind of fun. It's more of a social activity. Not to say that we don't end up all sitting around a campfire talking about software and technology and whatever else interests us, but we also fight and go fishing into normal people camping staff. Or picnic staff or whatever the case might be. Anyway, we actually have a camping trip coming up in May in Worthington State Forest, New Jersey. So you guys are welcome to join of course. So there's the Geek Mix which are pretty informal and pretty social.
We also have something we're trying to do this year called Bots Con which is a free and open source software conference that we're doing in New York. This is the first time we've tried to do this and I'm pretty close to being a spearhead for that project. As far as directing and participation goes, it's pretty much my project. It's another instance where we get people face to face and do stuff and meet other people and hopefully when you leave, you've made more contacts and new friends and you have people to continue forward with on stuff that you want to do. I know that's been my experience in going to conferences and stuff with businesses. I get to meet people who I can help further their goals and they can help me further mine. It would be great if you guys were a part of Bots Con. I'd love to work something out in that regard. I think there are definitely possibilities for cross pollination and letting people know basically what else there is beyond these open source software projects. That there's this whole culture that a lot of them may not even be aware of.
[Scott]: So Jonathan, I don't know if you have seen Steven's question. Would you think? Should we read this Steven?
[Steven]: Sure. I'm reading it right now.
[Steven]: I can sort of summarize it. I was sort of listening to you in a technical way because I was trying to synthesize basically, I don't know, I guess the philosophical underpinnings of what's going on. When you talk about thoughts of people trying to recognize greater goals than what they had initially identified it seems, and listening to what you were saying earlier about what actually happens on a day to day basis on Freenode is that people have problems and they are sharing them and they are finding that other people have those similar problems and they're trying to find solutions. In fact, it's not so much about there's a community that does problem solving together it's that because there is a kind of a problem that emerges, and it's a problem which is not only technical but it's also a problem of a larger sort or a self conscious problem, is that's what allows a community to be formed. That's a very an American idea because it goes right back to the pre constitution and the times of the colonial townships. And there's a really interesting book that was written by the supremely American philosopher John Hughey called "The Republic and its Problems". I don't want to get to technical here but it is a fascinatingly encountered intuitive idea that seems to be similar to what happens on Freenode, at least the way you describe it. It's that there is no public to start with. In fact there's just a problem which emerges and for the identification, the common and self identification, of the problem it's then that the public which faces the problem is able to connect. And of course what he means by a republic is something that becomes bigger than just a town hall meeting. When that poses them the entire process becomes self conscious. Then it becomes a self conscious public community and can and actually become a society because it's not so much about the ins and outs about the problem, it's about the fact that subjectivity itself emerges from the articulation, the common articulation. If I'm getting it right, maybe I'm not, (inaudible 1:32:20.3) I did kind of hear an echo of speculation of what you were talking about (inaudible 1:32:34.2).
[Jonathan]: I think that makes sense. You know, that the community is committed out of all this. Sorry, I'm reading what Scott put in there.
[Scott]: Oh, sorry to interrupt. It seems to be a self conscious community in an interesting way. The backbone of Freenode and the pieces of these communities. Some of them are quite large themselves, you know how we're talking about the Druple Freenode channels, and there are over a dozen I'm sure of Druple related channels and some right now for example, I'm going to look. Yeah, the main Druple channel has 450 people in it right now. Probably less than 50 of them a seriously actively typing at the moment. But, like me, I'm there. But anyway, there's a lot of networks and so Freenode is a sort of super cluster that in itself sounds to me, like you were talking about Steven, a self conscious public community. The smaller channels might be in themselves as well in the way that they form together seems, I don't know, seems harder to place. Maybe more intuitive, if I can use that word in some cases. Maybe there can be interesting or surprising connections between seemingly desperate elements or groups of people.
[Jonathan]: That definitely true. Sometimes that comes out of when you're trying to get something done; you need to talk to some helpful people to get it done. A lot of times once you've figured out whatever it is you're trying to figure out, you'll sort of linger. You'll hang around. You just mentioned the Druple channel. I don't know if you just happened in there to see who was there, maybe you sort of hang out there now because you've been there before.
[Scott]: Yeah, I hang out there every day.
[Jonathan]: You do hang out there every day?
[Scott]: Yeah, yeah. For sure.
[Jonathan]: This is where I was going earlier when I said that as you participate in the community you sort of expand your horizons, you stay with things you might not otherwise. And you'll see what someone else says about something. A lot of times you'll get a new perspective on things. And especially with the smaller channels that you were just talking about. A lot of those just a friend of a friend kind of migration tends to happen where people connect in new and unusual ways they might not have anticipated.
[Scott]: Right now the BaseKamp channel has nine members in it.
(Typing and background noise)
[Scott]: Earlier I was thinking that it might be good to migrate over there but now I'm not so sure because in order to do that we sort of have to stop talking. Or maybe not. I don't know.
[Jonathan]: I want to add one thing.
[Scott]: Oh, go ahead.
[Jonathan]: The sponsors which I added the links too. When you connect to Freenode it will also tell you who sponsored the server you connected to in your status window (inaudible 1:36:43.1) and it will tell you a few things about them and why the server is named what it is. They're all named after science fiction writers.
[Scott]: Interesting. How do you find that out Jonathan? Is there a command or?
[Jonathan]: If you're already connected and you want it to display again you can type, let me put it in the channel here... Oh, that didn't work at all. It's MOTD for "Message of the Day", without the quotes.
[Scott]: I'm going to type that into the BaseKamp channel now.
[Jonathan]: In the BaseKamp channel window you'll have to go look in the status window, which is the first window. You're using the web chat I believe right?
[Scott]: Oh yeah. I'm actually using (inaudible 1:37:48.8).
[Jonathan]: Okay, yeah it will still be in your status window which will be your first window.
[Scott]: I wonder which one? Hmm. I don't know which one is my first window. You mean the first one I had open?
[Jonathan]: It usually says something along the lines of "status Freenode" or something like that. Let me see if I can find...
[Scott]: Oh, I see. I think...
[Jonathan]: Did you find it?
[Scott]: It might depend on our client. I'm using Colique and I don't actually have one of those windows, sadly. Anyone who wants to get on the web chat can get one. In fact, I'll do that now.
[Male group member]: Scott, if you're interested in doing it you just open up the console window and type in MOTD and it appears to be Gibson.
[Scott]: Oh, there we go.
[Male group member]: As in neuromedicine.
[Male group member]: Reluctantly, I'll paste some of it into Skype so you can see.
[Jonathan]: Like I said, there are mentions of who is sponsoring it and a little bit about the author who it's named after.
[Scott]: Logan's Run is such an amazing thing. Amazing movie. It's so appropriate for artists. I won't get into it except to say that one part of the basic premise is that people aren't supposed to live past 30 years old. Did anyone have any other burning questions? Not that we need to wrap up it's just that we sometimes do earlier and continue on with text chatting. But we have 15 minutes before we max out. I was just curious if anyone that is hanging out that didn't really didn't get to say anything yet or speak out had any thoughts or ideas about any of this stuff.
(Typing and background noise)
[Jonathan]: There are (inaudible 1:41:34.0) is used in educational context. There are definitely cases where it is. Are you asking specifically used by educators to effectively teach or to collaborate on educational practice? I mean, I could give one great example that only recently came to my attention. When I was in the process of planning Bots Con where, I don't know if you're familiar with the project from (inaudible 1:42:11.8) called Posse. Let me get some details on that real quick. Its part of a thing called the (inaudible 1:42:21.8) Source. The premise of the project and this is my understanding as I am not directly involved (inaudible 1:42:34.7) with the people that do, it that's exactly like what I was looking for.
[Scott]: Oh right, nice.
[Jonathan]: So, the purpose of it is to teach professors how to introduce open source into their curriculum and teach using it and with it and the use of it. And this is aimed at college professors. They'll actually be having one of these classes the week before Bots Con at the same venue as us, which is how I became aware of this and started working with some of the Posse people. This is actually probably a real instance of bringing things together because we're teaching teachers how to use open source and that's not just software, it's not just a technology. That's really an opportunity to teach the culture. I would hope, although I can't speak for them, I can hope that the instructors leverage that and take advantage of it. They're also, Freenode by the way, in the channel Hash teaching open source. There are definitely some good people in there. So that's one example of how it's used in an educational context.
(Inaudible background comment 1:44:17.5)
[Jonathan]: Yeah, it definitely is exactly that. As for... I can sort of give you one, but it's been awhile since I've dealt directly with any sort of educational stuff. When I was in college we actually did use, under our teacher's direction, we used Freenode as a resource for solving problems. Going in there with a question and asking a question. And really the lesson that day was, it really wasn't about Freenode, it was about asking good questions, which would have applied just as easily to a forum or mailing list or whatnot. The purpose at that time was to raise your question in a good way and present all the information you need to get a good answer and how teaching that is basically a skill. But there are other instances of it I'm sure although (inaudible 1:45:31.4). Yeah, I agree to that. The reason we used Freenode in that context and for that lesson was because we would get a faster response and faster feedback. We could ask our question and get a response, which is really one of the things that people look for with IRC. You can ask a question and if somebody knows the answer, you get a response right away. It's not like a mailing list, it's more like...Exactly. It's more like talking to someone. So you can start with a question and get an answer and then go on from there to implementation kind of stuff. To "okay, that's my answer now how do I apply that" and how to use it. You can continue that factor with the original person who answered your question or anybody else you might be interested in. And others can benefit too. It's kind of like the difference between what we're doing right now and leaving voicemails for each other.
[Scott]: Or leaving posters stapled to telephone poles.
[Jonathan]: Exactly. You know, that's actually a pretty good example. In a forum, you're hoping to write to the person you'll see at the right time before it goes off. But that can happen as well with IRC because I think the Druple channel, like you said, has about 400 people in it right now. The busiest channel of Freenode is the (inaudible 1:47:32.3) channel and it has (inaudible 1:47:44.7) as a result it moves pretty quickly. So that's not too far (inaudible 1:47:49.7) from hoping the right person will see it. But you also have a lot of interesting people who could answer your questions. If you're stuck, it'll last forever.
[Scott]: I have a practical question. We're sitting in a space right? With a group of people at the BaseKamp space in Philly. And we've got like a bunch of windows open and we're projecting it onto the wall with a big projector. And a bunch of other people are here on this channel, well, right now not too many. A dozen or so of people are looking at their own channels on their laptop or monitor or whatever, or Iphone if someone is connecting that way, I don't know. And anyway, how do you keep from... You know, you're an IRC butterfly and you've navigated very easily so how do you keep from falling into a kind of induced metaphorical schizophrenia that you can get or ever shortening attention spans that you can get from hopping from conversation to conversation or from window to window? Do you know what I mean? I think IRC lends itself to that because you can join, join, join, join join various channels and keep up with lots of conversations. I can see how that has benefits, it allows someone to be an incredibly networked finger Like a bee, a cross pollinator and there are lots of benefits. But I'm wondering about the downsides and if you have found ways to navigate that successfully? Practical. I don't know if I'm asking for advice. No, I'm just kidding. More like thoughts on that.
[Jonathan]: I would say that my wife could probably tell you more about the downsides than I can. It's a real issue I supposed. You mentioned a large number of windows. I think it's pretty common for people who are really into the whole IRC culture so to speak to be in a lot of them. I had a couple hundred windows open in my IRC right now and that's not unusual for me. It's definitely interesting to try to keep track of all your various conversations and I think you build not a couple hundred channels. I'm in about 115 channels on a bad day. I have a lot of private message windows and stuff like that I tend to not close because I like to have the context going back maybe days later. The conversations that I've been involved with previously. The client that I use lends itself towards that sort of activity because IRC is pretty forgiving with big numbers and windows. I'm on a laptop and my IRC window about 5" across right now. I guess my screen has (inaudible 1:51:49.1). But like I said, it lends itself very well to being in a lot of windows. It really doesn't waste screen real estate on that.
[Scott]: Yeah, exactly. Which is where a design comes in. What I was asking earlier about whether certain ideas were built into a system. Often their built in through design or their built in through the technical back end, either the UI or the functionality. It's one of the reasons that makers have such an interesting place because our assumptions about the world, our interests and everything shape the ongoing iterations of the world. And this is a small thing because you're just talking about a chat window, but also you can imagine the kind of experience it gives somebody. The kind of connections it gives to other people, this is a huge part of, not of everyone's life. Not of people that don't have access to technology and that sort of thing. But it's a huge part of a very large and growing number of people's lives these days in these online virtual worlds. Connections with people who we may have never met in real life and maybe never will. Chat roulettes (laughing). Very thin, extremely loose ties with more people than we can ever remember. It's strange and I think the way that we build our technology, the way that we design and you and friends of yours all help to put these things together has something to do with the kinds of experiences that we have in the world and the kind of world that we build. Not to make it sound so (inaudible 1:53:47.3). I think other things have a big impact also. But, it has an impact. IRC Roulette (laughing).
[Steven]: We had thoughts of putting something together along those lines, Meg. In regards to having IRC (inaudible 1:54:10.1) connect you with a random other person that is connected to IRC.
[Steven]: But I never really had the incentive, I guess, to do it. It just seemed like something that would be an uninteresting social experiment. I'll put it that way.
(Inaudible background comment)
[Scott]: Bot Camp needs a hug. I don't want to say that you do Jonathan but, who can't use a hug sometimes? That was a rhetorical question. But yeah. Bot Camp is (inaudible 1:55:02.8) right now. It needs to be restarted, needs a little love. But we're always tempted to go over our time. Even if we start late, we try to end early just for the sake of everyone who comes to these. And we've got two minutes. T-2:00. So, now that we've helped brainstorm IRC Roulette and figured out a bunch of problems, did anyone else have anything they wanted to add before we say our goodbyes? You know, before.
[Steven]: Yeah, maybe I have one question because, well, maybe it's a terminology question. One of the terms that we've been using a lot is these conversations over the past few weeks is the notion of usership. And it's something that came up, Jonathan when you were speaking, and yet I see on the first page of the Freenode site a channel called Free Ownership. I was kind of surprised to see that work ownership emerge like that and it's because as you described it, channels in Freenode are owned and operated by the group which registers them. Is that a kind of very loose usage of the word ownership or am I missing something?
[Jonathan]: It really depends because they are operated by their groups and how their groups choose to do so is really up to them. It's reasonably common for a lot of these groups to basically form the same sort of ideals that we have. They're making people who have the ability to expand and stuff like that, and there has to be someone, not there to run the channel but to support the channel. But that's not always the case. There are definitely some channels that have a more strict form of people being in charge. At the network level we basically leave that up to them. They make the choice. I would say that most of the channels that I participate in, the people who are eventually given the ability to deal with the spam and things of that nature are people who have just been part of the community and it just sort of happens. And there are even channels... It's a simple thing. As an example would being able to set the topic. In many cases that's just left wide open for anybody who wants to can make changes to the topic. Really the only thing that being a channel owner gives you is the ability to say "these are the people who can remove someone from the channel if it comes to that" and it never does. It's almost unheard of, for example, for a channel owner to come in and say "this is what we're going to talk about today."
[Scott]: But it's happened on a few occasions with things like spam bots. Right.
[Jonathan]: That's a different kind of problem. You know. There's a big difference between guiding a conversation and removing obstacles from it. I don't think someone coming in and spamming junk is an obstacle to a productive conversation. With that removed, the conversations happen on their own without the intervention of whoever is there as a manager to keep things flowing if not to control it. So hopefully that answers your question.
[Scott]: Yeah, for sure. Or I don't know whose question it was actually.
[Jonathan]: At the end of the day you can form a group and only (inaudible 2:00:10.6) unless you go out of your way to manipulate where things are going, then natural conversation will occur. Usually in the extent of controlling the flow, it comes down to "this is the topic of this channel and anything generally related is okay" and that applies more to support channels than anything else. A channel like BaseKamp I think is almost where people are going to talk about what's related to whatever they want is okay as long as it's not like racism or something like that, or spam.
[Scott]: Yeah, usually it's just filthy jokes.
[Jonathan]: The support channels can be a little different because they generally, the people who run the support channels generally try to keep them available for support purposes. And a busy channel like (inaudible2:01:11.6) where people are talking about their pet bunny, they might not let that happen.0we depart to meet up next week.
[Scott]: Well, we're really excited to see where things go Jonathan. And, I'm pretty interested in the Geek-Nic. Canoeing.
[Jonathan]: Are we going to see you camping?
[Scott]: I think it's a very, very strong possibility. I don't have any camping equipment, it's been so long. But I'm really intrigued and it's so close.
[Steven]: I have a tarp and two pole sticks. That's it.
[Scott]: Awesome. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe a few folks from the camp might want to join up. I'm really tempted. I'm more than tempted, I'm leaning really strongly.
[Scott]: If I can swing it in fact, I think I'm going. Yeah, so thanks a lot and we're definitely psyched to continue have connection between you guys and things that we're doing. Connect on (inaudible 2:02:31.3) and all of that. It sounds like we'll have some face to face time to talk about it.
[Jonathan]: I think that'd be great. I really hope to see you guys there. Thanks for inviting me tonight.
(Inaudible background comment)
Not a problem. I'd like to join you a couple other times at some point as well. I believe you do this every week?
[Scott]: Yes. Every Tuesday 6:00-8:00.
[Jonathan]: I know a fair number of you are out of the area so this isn't really a Freenode thing exactly. But the Philly (inaudible 2:03:24.9) has very frequent meetings and we've taken to having one of them at my house actually. It's more of a social than work thing. So if any of you would like to join in on that let me know. I'm in Bridgeport.
[Scott]: Awesome. Do you guys meet in Philly at all ever?
[Jonathan]: There is a Central Philadelphia meeting once a month. Let me get you their site as well actually.
[Scott]: And if you ever need a space, we've been talking a lot about this space in between us and other art activities can be a co working space, an open space for different kinds of meet ups between people who are involved in building things or ideas. Let us know. Cool.
Alright, well have a great night. Some people may continue on IRC, but hard as it is, we're going to stick to our timeline and say goodnight. See you all next week.
(Group chatter and goodbyes)
END OF TRANSCRIPTION
Created on 2010-04-06 21:16:55.