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Erick Bessa Pinheiro

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After the Matrix: Post-Media Tactics and the Ownership of Life
by Ricardo Dominguez (or someone almost like me)

"To every time its art. To every art its freedom."

- Joseph Olbrich, 1889

"Resistance comes first."

- Giles Deleuze

We are no longer under the sign of natural selection or even artificial selection—we are now under the sign of information selection. Everything on the planet, from indigenous aromas to public spaces to our atoms, is now forced to march into the Intellectual Property filters of globalization. Communication and evolution are little more than informatic-commoditization systems now. The neoliberal matrix that started to emerge fully in the 90's has played itself out on three stages: digital/Virtual Capitalism, genetic/Clone Capitalism and nanotechnology/Particle Capitalism. Each of these stages of technocapital are being integrated via a new "deep harmonization" of the global Intellectual Property agenda: copyright laws, trademark laws and patent laws. A process that starts in the research chambers and ends in ownership enclosures, from patenting technology to patenting life, from patenting information to patenting atom-based reality.

Groups of artists and activists working with post-media tactics have been developing counter-gestures to disturb the neoliberal matrix at each new stage of the technoscape. These projects attempt to open the public debate around the problems that we all face with the invisible enclosure of life. This presentation will outline a few of the artist/activist projects that have emerged since 2000 which have focused on the question of global control of intellectual property. Projects that ask us to reconsider the question: who owns life?

Public Life/Public Space

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale!

- Network, 1976

One morning of October 10, 2003, the people of Vienna awoke to the announcement that Karlplatz had been sold to Nike and would now be called Nikeplatz. This was part of Nike's international market strategy to embed itself not only as a store at the local mall, but as a form of everyday space. Nike would now "Swoosh" the streets, squares, parks and boulevards of the world in years to come. Soon after the announcement most of the citizens of Vienna became puzzled and angry that the city square had been sold to this multinational without their formal consultation.

Within a few hours the press discovered that this was a

post-media performance, complete with a Nikeground Infobox that had appeared at Karlplatz that day offering information about the giant "Swoosh" monument that was going to be built at the heart of the old Karlplatz/Nikeplatz. Nike immediately denounced the performance.  "These actions have gone beyond a joke. This is not just a prank, it's a breach of our copyright and therefore Nike will take legal action against the instigators of this phony campaign." On October 14, Nike sent a twenty-page injunction requesting the immediate removal of any "reference to copyrighted material and that activity related to Nike cease immediately. Failure to comply with request would mean that Nike would claim 78,000 Euro for damages."

The art group, their collaborators,

the producers Public Netbase and their lawyer quickly decided to ignore the injunction and stated that the Nikeground project would continue till October 28, 2003. The artists and lawyer consistently stated that Nikeground was an artistic performance and part of contemporary art practice that "has always used symbols of power from the society of its time as its subject. Nike invades our lives with products and ads but then forbids us to use them creatively." The court in Vienna rejected Nike's plea for a provisional injunction on formal grounds that Nike International's principal office was not in Austria, but in the U.S.A, and therefore would have to pay the court cost.  Nikedid not seek further legal action against Nikeground. by created a hyperreal theater that questioned the power of the trademark in the transnational markets spatial drive, creating a counter-space in the social imagination. As is the case with most post-media tactics, the project appropriated the collective social fact of the Brand that has created a ubiquitous enclosure of mental and social space in everyday life. The Nikeground performance created an extra-hallucinatory space that was neither a totally emancipatory nor completely disciplined, but an uncanny disturbance where the imagination became a contestation of excess by excess. Such a project allows everyone flowing the last zones of the public culture to annex symbolic control of the imagination by the global force of Intellectual Property laws by pushing its desire beyond fiction.

Public Text/Public Rights

We like nonfiction, and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious "intellectual property" laws that serve fictitious copyright holders. We live in a time where we have fictitious private institutions that are going to war against piracy for fictitious reasons.

-, 2004

In August 2002 the founder of, artist Sebastian Luetgert, received an injunction for distributing two works by Theodor W. Adorno: "Jargon der Eigentlichkeit" and "Fascism and Anti-Semitic Propaganda" from the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Culture. removed the text immediately from the site to avoid further legal problems. The project started in March of 2001 as a continuation of the plagiarist movements from the Situationist to today's copyriot gestures. is a cut-and-paste action developed to sideload selected text freely as ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Entire works of philosophy, theory, fiction and poetry from classics to recent net postings are available for anyone's reading pleasure.

On December 2003,'s Luetgert found himself facing an arrest warrant for the alleged damages to the Hamburg Foundation for unpaid claims of 2,300 Euros related to the unauthorized copying of the Adorno essays. If Luetgert did not pay he would be facing jail time. In response to this warrant Luetgert sent a letter to Jan Phillipp Reemtsma, the enlightened head of the Hamburg Foundation, to request a scholarship in the amount of 2,300 Euro so that he could pay his debt and avoid jail time. This offer was refused. The case is still pending.

As is the nature of post-media tactics, a rapid campaign to end the stranglehold of copyright holders and the lawyers who work for them to control what the public can archive, share and read was initiated. At the core of the action two declarations were upheld: one, that text itself always/already resists the legal space of Intellectual Property; two, that the Internet would route around the legal enclosure not only of the Adorno text, but of all texts, from the Gutenberg Bible to Negri and Hardt's Empire. Here again, the gesture for resistant excess beyond the excess of the global enclosure by the neoliberal agenda of "War on Piracy" comes to the foreground.  The force of the public share gesture disallows the very concept of ownership to even coagulate for moment before it is sidestepped, or as Bill Gates recently warned, "a type of modern communism" lurks in the code of code itself, a type of communism that has always lurked in the economies of the text, in the economies of life.

Public Patents/Public Life

"The Ibiology Selection Bomb is preparing the social body for the internalization of the free market system. Your cells are for sale under the new world disorder."

- Diane Ludin (, 2001

(The EU has adopted a "database right" which actually does accord intellectual property protection to facts - changing one of the most fundamental premises of intellectual property: that one could never own facts, or ideas, only the inventions or expressions yielded by their intersection.)

- (2004)

On World Food Day on October 16, 2004, Iraqi farmers awoke to another U.S. bomb being dropped on them, but this time it was a patent bomb.  With silent stealth the U.S. carefully put in place a new legislation that prevented Iraqi farmers from saving their seed and effectively handed the seed over to transnational corporations. One more seed had been added to the ownership database of the Kingdom of Biopiracy. Diane Ludin, an artist and poet, and her i-Biology Patent Engine (i-BPE) team have been mapping the core of patent bombs since December 9, 2001, by developing doppelgangers of the U.S. Patent and Trade Mark Office database and the Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas (OEPM) which represents 18 Latin American patent databases. In the U.S., at least, most start-up biotech 'boutiques' now allocate more money to intellectual property lawyers than to their scientists.

The i-BPE database maps the patent system that is being used to translate life into a product for "institutionalized profit." (In the genetic realm, U.S. and E.U. patent law has moved perilously close to being an intellectual property right over raw facts—the C's, G's, A's and T's of a particular gene sequence are open to a totalized economic condition, rather than the extension of scientific knowledge.)Ludin felt that by engaging with the informatic root of the real manifestation of i-biology now—the patent—people could start to understand the structure of this invisible economic bomb. Diane Ludin's i-Biology Patent Engine allows individuals online not only to see the current structure of patents, but also to reclaim that patent for themselves or for others: it allows them to re-patent the patent. Again the excess of excess becomes an important counter-gesture of this post-media tactic by allowing individuals to see the irrational process that guides the transnational aggression of patent bombs around the world, by enacting an even more irrational gesture of patenting the patent as a poetic function.

As was the case with the other tactical post-media projects mentioned, i-BPE did not have an easy birth.  I-BPE was part of a larger new media project entitled "Kingdom of Piracy" that had been commissioned by Acer Digital Art Center in Taiwan (a culture project by Taiwan's enormous computer transnational Acer Group) and was launched on December 9, 2001. "Kingdom of Piracy" sought to develop projects that engaged in artistic acts of "piracy" as a tactic for intellectual discourse and poetic intervention, but "not as any endorsement of piracy as a business model."  On April 2002 Acer changed its mind about the project and took it offline.   Acer demanded editorial rights to artists' links and requested a change of the title. This all occurred as a major anti-piracy initiative was being launched in Taiwan.  The curatorial team, Su Lea Cheang, Armin Medosch and Yukko Shikata rejected this demand. Acer also refused to release the funds that had been promised to the artists as part of the commission. They were able to reroute the project to another server, and "Kingdom of Piracy" and i-BPE premiered at Ars Electronica on September 7, 2002. A year later the curators were able to make Acer pay all the commissions that were due under the original contract.

Public Disturbances/Public Post-Media

Let us work and play as if there were an opening, an opening

like a gathering, like a encounter where something can happen, where many things can happen, where there are swarms of people, of food, of wine, of irreducible algorithms, of unimagined possibilities, of beautiful refrains which feed the world at the velocity of dreams.

- Ricardo Dominguez,

or someone almost like me (2005)

These post-media tactics disturb the political Agora of traditional politics and the frame of formal aesthetics by transforming both conditions into practices of micro-actions in the cramped spaces of the here and now, of gestures that reshape specific spaces with immediate actions that shift and destabilize the major zones of power. These post-media projects promote a politics of the question that seek a language and imagery that moves through and beyond the neoliberal imaginary. They speak of another form of communication and evolution outside of the irrational Darwinian market. These projects flow in the open spaces of co-evolution and open dreams. They are spaces of feeling and passion that are the living registers of a counter-power that global capital can never completely subsume.

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