EPIDEMIC art installation in D.I.N.A event, 2001

This posting is an attempt to explore some connections between tactical media and citizen activism in 2001 and 2010.

2001

Some more or less nostalgic memories from year 2001 -

In May 2001 I participated an event called D.I.N.A (Digital Is Not Analog) in Bologna, Italy. The event had been announced just a few of days before it took place, probably because the organisers didn’t actually want to attract too much audience, due to a very unusual lineup of presenters. Many of them had never revealed their real identities, they had only become known via their websites and alias names.

NETOCHKA NEZVANOVA

The ‘person’ I was most curious to meet was Netochka Nezvanova. ‘Netochka Nezvanova’ is Russian and means ‘nameless nobody’, a title and the main character of an unfinished novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The writings of the online Netochka gave an impression that she was one female person – even though it was quite certain that there were more than one person involved in her projects.

Netochka was famous/infamous for sending a huge quantity of emails to many international lists, using her own cryptic language. The postings were a mix of shameless self-promotion (for herself and her nato.0+55+3d software), philosophical ramblings and provocative comments about some well-known individuals in the net culture scene. Some of her websites were eusocial.com, membank.org and m9ndfukc.com, and her writings gave an impression that she had her own anarchistic wordview and political agenda, but it was impossible to figure out what it was. Here is a small sample:

aprez - az laughtr g!vz ua! 2 konzum>tearz.
 + memor!ez r sk!nd al!v - ch!ldhood !z bloun
 through dze ruztle ov autumn leavez +
 celz [ue] reg!ztr !n un!zon dze magn!tude
 ov a s!ngl !mprec!z!e.
nn. tu!rl!ng. out ov s!ght. u!th!n u.
akt!vat!ng d!zturbansz !n sod!um-potass!um
 eku!ll!br!um akross neuron membranez.
apropoz = 01 apple.com agent = ov op!n!e ur =cw4t7abs reklama
 = luvl!. != made !t ultra publ!k tzo = muzt !osc!lat u!ldl!.
 he = thought ! = uaz tr!zte + angr! auss!. naja.
 !ch b!n ganz gluckl!ch + fre!. salut.

When it was Netochka’s turn to give a presentation, she sat down on a chair and placed some living snails on her gray dress. She continued by reading a poem and meanwhile the snails ‘drew’ an abstract ‘painting’ on her dress.

Netochka’s snails

ZAPATISTA AIR FORCE

Another invited presenter was Ricardo Domingues, one of the members of Electronic Disturbance Theatre. Ricardo gave a presentation about Virtual Sit-Ins, a method for organising online protests. The participants of a virtual sit-in would download an application that would send a large amount of requests to a certain website, eventually causing it to crash.

Ricardo also told about the Zapatista Air Force. The Chiapas government had been spreading a false rumour that the Zapatistas were planning ‘new acts of violence’. This rumour was used as an excuse to increase the governments’ military force in Lacandon jungle where the Zapatista army was supposedly hiding.

The local people responded by organising a demonstration, or rather an act of political theatre, by throwing paper planes over the fence of the military camp. They wanted to break the ‘sound barrier’ which the government had established between them and the soldiers. One of the messages said “Soldiers, we know that poverty has made you sell your lives and souls. I also am poor, as are millions. But you are worse off, for defending our exploiter”.

Inspired by this event, the Electronic Disturbance Theater released a software called “Zapatista Tribal Port Scan” which would repeatedly send a poem about the Zapatista struggle for peace to government’s servers, through the “barbed wire” of internet.

Ricardo Domingues

More