The history of grassroots struggle is constantly threatened by oblivion.1 Here I want to recall just a few key elements in the extended chain of transformations that led to the formulation of a new aesthetic and communicational style by the transnational social movements of the late Nineties. The analysis begins with a conceptual innovation in media theory that took place in the United States in the wake of 1968. Then it shifts to a territorial experience that unfolded some ten years later in the Netherlands. Those two backgrounds can help future generations understand the aesthetic and organizational styles of the global tactical media network that emerged in the final decade of the twentieth century. This network drew on many sources and experiences, but its catalyst was a concept launched in Amsterdam: the concept of tactical television.
As dissent spread across the world in the late Sixties, a new territory of resistance emerged, on which radical experiments could be conducted. A proliferation of concepts soon followed. Writing in the journal Radical Software in the early Seventies, the alternative media-maker Paul Ryan used information theory to imagine how grassroots video production could disrupt and transform the broadcast system, which in his view was a major factor of social entropy. Ryan titled his text “Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare,” in sympathy with the Vietcong and other Third-World rebels. The word “warfare” stresses the friend-enemy distinction, on which political struggle is founded. Yet Ryan was not convinced by the violent tactics of insurrectional groups like the Weatherman: “Nobody with any wisdom is looking for a straight out fight. We have come to understand that in fighting you too easily become what you behold.”2 Rather than a civil war bringing two opposing parties into a dialectical struggle for victory, he saw the need for a deeper ecological transformation affecting the social whole. The title of his text therefore demanded a multi-layered explanation:
“Warfare… because having total control over the processing of video puts you in direct conflict with that system of perceptual imperialism called broadcast television that puts a terminal in your home and thereby controls your access to information….
“Guerrilla warfare… because the portable video tool only enables you to fight on a small scale in an irregular way at this time….
“Cybernetic guerrilla warfare… because the tool of portable video is a cybernetic extension of man and because cybernetics is the only language of intelligence and power that is ecologically viable.”
Ryan saw himself as an activist McLuhan, looking to transform the media system rather than just critique it. He was part of a counter-cultural research and development foundation named Raindance Corporation, in ironic mockery of the Rand Corporation, a Navy think-tank. His text – which inspired Michael Shamberg’s famous book, Guerrilla Television – develops two main ideas, both of which have everything to do with the future developments of tactical media. On the one hand it was a matter of jamming, puncturing, subverting and disabling the dominant media through consciously conceived and carefully distributed alternative production. To do this required analyzing the systemic equilibrium of broadcast information, in order to discover where its weak points lay. But it also required fostering a very broad basis of social antagonism. The subversion of broadcast TV was to be accomplished by a multiplicity of self-enabled and mutually supportive groups, “ad hoc heterarchies of power which have their logistics down.” Ryan’s description of the guerrilla media-makers is almost Maoist in its populism, but it is also extremely sensitive:
“The most elegant piece of earth technology remains the human biocomputer, the most important data banks are in our brain cells. Inherent in cybernetic guerrilla warfare is the absolute necessity of having the people participate as fully as possible. This can be done in an information environment by insisting on ways of feeding back information for human enhancement rather than feeding off people for the sake of concentration of power.”
In fact, the “warfare” described in this text was primarily a matter of education – or more precisely, self-education through consistent reciprocal feedback among the autonomously constituted groups. In that sense it was about producing, not just a subversive or oppositional culture, but above all an ecological one, developing in fundamentally different directions than the industrial war machine. “We need to know what not to be,” he stresses.
The other idea of the text begins from that observation. Ryan, who was strongly influenced by the cybernetic utopians of the late Sixties, saw himself as working toward the creation of self-organizing social systems, able to cooperate outside the coercive and competitive rule-sets enforced by the pyramidal powers of the Establishment. While warfare requires the friend-enemy distinction, cooperation entails continuous internal differentiation and productive coupling on the friendly side of the spectrum. “Screw us and we multiply,” as the Occupy movement recently put it. For Ryan, cooperative coupling entailed going beyond the binary reduction of dialogue: “Dialogue degenerates and moves to conflict without an understanding of mutual intent and non-intent. While it does not seem that we can work out such a common language of intent with the people pursuing the established entropic way of increasingly dedifferentiated ways of eating bullshit, it is critical we develop such a language with each other.”
His first proposal of a language beyond confrontational dialogue was enigmatic, but visually suggestive. It consisted of what he called “Klein worms,” which were topological figures related to Klein bottles, showing reversible relations of container and contained: relations of multiplicity in unity. The artist Claude Ponsot sketched these figures in a series of illustrations accompanying the article. What one sees, in varying configurations each time, is a whole with emergent parts that split off and are then reintegrated, only to emerge again without ever being fully subsumed. This is quite different from a dialectic that constructs its higher unities through the suppression and sublation of opposites. The underlying notion appears to be that of cooperation without subordination, within a social whole whose differences go on differing. Topology was the artistic but also mathematical expression of a movement ecology.
The aim of this topological exchange between an artist and a theorist was to produce an enacted model of the ways that conscious, self-reflexive subjects could shape their interactions with each other, much as Gregory Bateson would do in the “metalogues” of Steps to an Ecology of Mind, where a father and his daughter engage in exemplary reflection on the conditions of their own communication.3 For Ryan, the media-maker, it was crucial to give this enacted model an electronic dimension, so that it could enter the everyday battle against “perceptual imperialism.” He therefore translated his topological insight into a formulary for an experimental video practice that begins with self-reflexivity and expands outwards to an intersubjective relation:
“Taping something new with yourself is a part uncontained.
To replay the tape for yourself is to contain it in your perceptual system.
Taping yourself playing with the replay is to contain both on a new tape.
To replay for oneself tape of self with tape of self is to contain that process in a new dimension…
To watch another’s edited tape is to share in the way he thinks about the relation between his various perceptions in a real time mode. This enters the realm of his intention.
If you are editing some of your tape along with tape somebody else shot and he is doing the same thing using some of your tape then it is possible to see how one’s perceptions relate to another’s intentions and vice versa.”
The artistic dimension of what is now called tactical media has everything to do with the intertwining figures of multiplicity uncovered in the early Seventies, at the time when television – and therefore, the spectacle society – was perceived to be the essential obstacle to social change. Yet despite the proliferation of alternative media projects in that decade, video did not fulfill its promise of overcoming the norms of the spectacle society, not least because the crucial machinery of distribution remained under the control of the corporations and the state. Looking back on the New York scene in a 1988 text entitled “A Genealogy of Video,” Ryan observed that what experimental video ultimately turned into was not a tool for social change, but an art form. Much of the problem, as he saw it, was institutional, concerning the way that money was allocated to those experimenting with a technology of almost magical promise. But there were deeper reasons: “At the core of the difficulty is the fact that there has been no resolution of the problematics underlying the industrial culture promulgated by broadcast television.”4
Further insight into the place of the artist within the culture of industrial capitalism, marked by its well-known bias toward possessive individualism, can be gleaned by watching the work Exchange (1973), where Robert Morris made exactly the kind of video experiment that Ryan describes, in collaboration with fellow artist Lynda Bengelis. The piece begins with a blur of light and a highly distorted voice that seems to be describing the process of collaboration. After several minutes, a faint but clearly audible female voice intervenes: “This is a tape I made….” A droning male voice, which we soon understand to be that of an actor, overlays the woman without entirely drowning her out:
“This is a tape he made of a tape she made of a tape he made in the studio. This is a tape he made of a tape she made. On screen is her tape of his tape. His tape is the last image in the background, which she photographed with other faces. This tape is of that. His tape was raw material. The tape on the screen is raw material. Rephotographing his tape made it her work, or commenting on it made it her work, or both. She is heard but never seen. Nothing here has been rephotographed. Can it then be raw material?”5
The text goes on and on like that, with the actor’s voice discussing the exchange and editing of the tapes. Meanwhile we see Morris from the back, looking into a monitor which shows his own image relayed in real time. A great variety of other images are montaged in, presumably from the tapes elaborated in the dialogue with Bengelis. The reversible relations of container and contained are explored through the narration and the editing, exactly as Ryan had envisioned. Yet the result of this “exchange” is a product, an artistic work signed by Robert Morris, a documentation of his exceptional talent and mental agility. It is as though the intersubjective relation had telescoped back into a self-reflexive one.
In the case of Morris and Bengelis, the experiment in overlapping subjectivities had to do with the collaboration between artists of different genders pursuing diverging aesthetic goals. Such questions could be treated between friends, in the calm of the studio, at the price of a certain narcissism. What we see is exactly the narrowing of video practice that Ryan described, its reduction to the art context where the potential for social change remains alive, but suspended. In the case of tactical media-makers in the Nineties, the experiment would involve a vast network of collaboration between individuals and groups of differing cultural and political orientations, caught up together in social movements where the antagonism between friend and enemy is violently played out in the streets. At that point the arrested potential of alternative media found a new future. The machinery of global distribution offered by the Internet obviously had a major role to play in this reopening, but it was not the only factor. To grasp the sources of the images, practices and concepts, we have to plunge into existential territories.
What is a social movement? Where does it come from? How do its participants deal with a collective self-image – or indeed, with collective self-knowledge – in a society whose spectacular media will gladly take care of that for you? These questions were asked with humor and frank lucidity in an anonymously authored book about the Dutch squatters’ movement of the late Seventies and early Eighties, published in 1990 by the Society for the Advancement of Illegal Knowledge, or Adilkno. The title (in the 1994 English translation) is Cracking the Movement: Squatting Beyond the Media.
The extended recession of the late 1970s was good for at least one thing. Large numbers of buildings in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities lay vacant and ready for the taking. Under a “tolerant” social democracy with squatters’ rights firmly in place since the Sixties, the time was ripe for urban experiments that developed in many different directions, but always began with one simple act: breaking a locked door, entering a vacant space and installing a new locked door. Its key opened up to fresh definitions of property and inhabitation, to be decided by those directly concerned.
Autonomy, as the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis stresses, is when the social self (autos) gives itself its own law (nomos).6 For him it requires the break-up and re-elaboration of existing institutions, on both the objective and psychic levels. In the wake of the Italian movement of ‘77, autonomous movements or “Autonomen” began springing up all over Western Europe, helping to create the radical youth culture that was simultaneously disappearing from the United States. In the Netherlands, the squatting movement came to a height in 1980 and remained there for several years, even as Ronald Reagan took power in the Empire and neoliberalism commenced in earnest. Internationally, the period was marked by the Pershing missile crisis, which saw a flowering of informal East-West collaboration as grassroots groups on both sides of the Wall struggled against the nuclear technologies of the Cold War. The notion of civil society – that is, of the autonomy of society as a sphere distinct from economics and government – was crucial in the political philosophy of the period.7 But what mattered on the ground, in the eyes of Adilkno, was something more elemental: the capacity to gather other people in defense of a place of inhabitation and a whole way of life.
This is the center of Adilkno’s story. Squatting was only viable because of carefully organized phone trees that could call forth a crowd on a moment’s notice, whenever the police sought to go through the squatters’ door. But the benefits of these sudden gatherings were not only defensive. What the press calls a street riot can become, for those involved, a moment of existential metamorphosis. Here’s how it is described in “Special Movement Teachings,” a chapter of Cracking the Movement:
“During such an event, the meeting takes place between the strangers who populate the city. The crowd, which as a stream of traffic had become invisible to itself, recognizes itself anew and reacts as such: it rediscovers its reality in a concrete form. The individuals who, according to Canetti, overcome their fear of touch in the crowd, meet each other as bodies and embrace that experience at once. And this while in the day-to-day order the other was merely an image, a collection of advertising messages regarding lifestyle, status, sexuality, subculture. The accumulation of characteristics everyone makes of himself loses its disciplining impact on the spot…. However exceptional the damage caused in the stories that make the rounds later, the concrete incidents are shorter-lived than the ultimate surprise at how in the world this could have happened. The chain reaction has surpassed every initiating action. The amazement over this can be hardened into a nostalgic attitude, which demands that the events of the good old days, having become inconceivable, will not happen again. But it can also be transformed into the radiance of the promise that the adventure can be relived, that the same event can be staged more times, from beginning to end, but by us ourselves.”8
The book is full of these kinds of descriptions, which convey the affective, trans-subjective experience whereby the alienation of the contemporary city is momentarily overcome, the anonymous other reveals him or herself to be a vital ally or even a friend, and the street, formerly reserved for the controlled circulation of traffic, becomes an inhabitable territory. This experience of encounter is illegal knowledge, the foundation of a possible autonomy. Just a few paragraphs later, in an unmarked borrowing from the philosopher and fiction writer Georges Bataille, the riot is termed sovereign – that is, independent of any causality or instrumentality, “because it is not performed for the eye of the media, it strives after no propagandist goals, is not aimed against bosses or the state, but shrieks over the street for its own sake and ultimately leaves its participants behind in the freedom of surprise and the shiver of panic.” The event is trans-personal, beyond any singular self-identity, outside any plan or stable narrative. Which, by the way, is more or less exactly what I experienced decades later, at the turn of the century, in events that transformed my own existence.
Interestingly, the great antagonist of the squatters’ movement as recounted by Adilkno is neither the police nor the capitalist state, but the media. The sovereignty from which the movement emerges is betrayed by its unsolicited media reflection, which sensationalizes the violence of confrontation in its own quest to capture a passive audience, while at the same time reducing everything about the ecstatic experience of the crowd – and about the pragmatic reality of squatting – to legalistic and economic categories that serve the state in its defense of property rights. The movement born in the street is destroyed on the screen. This is the archetypal failure of social movements in the age of spectacular media. Yet the paradoxical thing about Cracking the Movement is that it denies the very existence of the squatters’ movement, ascribing the desire for that name and that identity to to the imaginary stage that the presence of the cameras conjures up in the minds of those who once acted on their own account, and now seek only to maintain and prolong a narrative which has become estranged to them. Even the movement becomes a mythology, and not its own. The problem of representation in its inadequacy to lived experience and to the immediacy of the deed is posed here at its most intimate level. The implication, captured brilliantly in the title of the book, is that the squatters themselves (krakers in Dutch) must shatter the distorting mirror of “the movement” in order to regain their sovereign capacity to act, their mobility.
Viewed from the outside, through the prism of an exceptional piece of writing, the squatting scene appears as a territorial experience whose primary aesthetic component is a cry in the street. This movement established the distinction of friend and enemy which is irreducibly necessary for any kind of political confrontation. What’s more, it was also able to articulate itself internally into many concrete forms. Yet at least some of its participants were left with a sense of blockage, an inability to go further in the process of social transformation, due to the reifying effects of the spectacular media. The most significant cultural and political productions of the following decade could be seen as a dialectical, or perhaps, ecological response to that sense of blockage. How to create more diversified aesthetic forms? How to communicate with other territories? How to extend the political confrontation into the transnational arena that governmental and economic powers were increasingly occupying? And how to understand the development of the movement “itself” – without reverting to an imaginary stage whose scenery and showtimes were provided by the major media?
The Eighties left Amsterdam with a fresh memory of street protest, a diverse network of self- institutionalized spaces and a keen awareness of civil-society struggles elsewhere in the world, particularly under the authoritarian regimes of the former East. Among the grassroots institutions were Autonoom Centrum (a political information and action center focusing on migration), Montevideo and Time Based Arts (both devoted to video), Hack-Tic magazine (a hacker ‘zine that would launch the first Dutch Internet service provider, XS4ALL, in 1993) and Paradiso, a former church in the city center, squatted in 1968, which operated as an independent music venue but additionally hosted international conferences like “The Galactic Hacker Party” (1989), “The Seropositive Ball” (1990) and “Decolonization of Imagination” (1991). Amsterdam also had an “open channel” program for public access to radio and cable TV broadcasting, thanks largely to the polemical efforts of media pirates who broke into the airwaves in the early Eighties. After 1989 when the Wall came down and the transnationalization of Europe began, the city was in a position to become a hub for radical political cultures on the Old Continent, with strong ties to the Americas as well. One of the things it would produce was a networked and therefore deterritorialized version of the squatters’ intense encounters in the streets: the Next 5 Minutes conferences, a “public research trajectory” which was launched in 1993.
The most original characteristic of the N5M meetings was their combination of art, activism and hacking, all on an equal footing, without essentializing separations. Two things stand out as particularly striking when one considers these conferences in retrospect. The first is the complex composition of the organizing team. While part of the thrust came from alternative culture figures like the artist and arts organizer David Garcia, the pirate media-maker Menno Grootveld and the critic and theorist Geert Lovink (who was part of Adilkno), another driving force came from Bas Raijmakers and the Cultural Studies Research Group at Amsterdam University, who brought in the crucial reference to Michel de Certeau’s notion of tactics. In his introduction to the N5M Zapbook, Raijmakers wrote:
“Because TV-tacticians haven’t got a place inside the world of TV, their politics and/or aesthetics are shaped by different tactics used in different contexts. It is always the context in which tactical TV is made that influences the tactics deployed. Tactical TV is about ‘…clever tricks, knowing how to get away with things,‘the hunter’s cunning,’ maneuvers, polymorphic situations, joyful discoveries, poetic as well as warlike.’ (De Certeau).”9
The cultural studies influence can be glimpsed in the diagrams that illustrate the N5M1 Zapbook, which show the terms “marginal” and “mainstream” as opposite poles of a single field, and depict strategy and tactics as two sides of the same coin. The implication was that the tactical element could seamlessly extend its subversive twist into the mainstream. To which one could reply that the mainstream can also easily disarm and strategically repurpose the tactical, as any participant in the autonomous squatter’s movement would have known. The potentially mollifying effects of this unified field discourse were countered by the other impressive characteristic of the conference, which was was its global scope, at a moment before the World Wide Web, when the effortless communication we now take for granted did not yet exist. A global range of subject and class positions, all self-consciously expressed and articulated, cannot simply be co-opted or absorbed. The N5M team made a deliberate organizational effort to identify and contact media-makers around the planet, to invite them to the conferences and to assemble a videotape library that could be consulted during and after the meetings. The wide-open call, in tension with the refusal of any facile self-marginalization, explains much of the success of the project. As David Garcia recalled in 1996:
“A number of us who had been active in Amsterdam tactical media over the years started wondering how many groups from around the world believed, like us, in television as a participatory and emancipatory tool. We knew of random examples like Social Dialogue’s samizdat media from Romania, or the Gay Men’s Health Crisis whose weekly programs, Living With AIDS, provided a weekly diet of information on Manhattan cable. We knew there was more, but how much more? To answer this question a conference of ‘tactical media’ was organized. A conference designed to bring together as many of those who were involved in democratization of television together, as possible.”10
The impressive scope of these encounters – which were literally meant to blow your mind every five minutes or so – is attested by the archive of videos preserved at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, and by the websites that cover the editions of 1996, 1999 and 2003.11 Rather than attempting any finely grained coverage of the people and projects involved, I just want to focus on the impact made by one of the films presented at N5M1, Videograms of a Revolution (1992) by Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica.12 This complex piece of montage uses an assemblage of “found footage” (private or unofficial cameras roaming through the streets and even through the halls of power) to track the simultaneous breakdown of of the dictatorial state and of official broadcast TV in Romania in 1989. Through this approach, you can see spectacular power crumbling before your very eyes. Even as it portrays the collapse of the old media regime, however, the film also shows the constitution of a new state authority and a new state TV on different grounds, closer to the liberal modes of pluralistic management and control that have long been known in the West. Both the foundations of televisual power and the fragile breakthroughs of independent activist cameras are thereby revealed, opening up the space for a debate on the kinds of tactics to be adopted by grassroots counter-information groups in the face of changing regimes of the spectacle. Far from being an exotic case study of a thwarted uprising in a poor and distant land, Videograms of a Revolution offered an advance glimpse of the complex struggles that were waiting for the tactical media generation.
In 1993, the audiovisual regime of the West had already been shaken by the arrival of satellite TV and the new 24-hour channels – but also by the capacity of grassroots groups to seize the same technology, as demonstrated in the US, for example, with the Gulf Crisis TV Project carried out by long-term media activist groups Paper Tiger and Deep Dish TV, who used satellite transmission to broadcast alternative journalism and video art in opposition to the 1991 Gulf War. Around the same time, the intensification of the neoliberal order of private property and police violence pushed younger artists like Paul Garrin toward an activist stance. Garrin’s famous 1989 tape, Man with a Video Camera (Fuck Vertov), was a convincing demonstration of how to insert damning activist footage into the nightly news, and just as importantly, an enacted model of how an up-and-coming New York artist could radicalize himself into a virulent media-producer.13 Soon afterwards, in 1992, the networked distribution of an amateur video showing the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles would set off a major riot in the streets. In a more critical vein, anticipating what would later be called the “hacker ethic,” video-maker Brian Springer showed how simple amateur techniques could turn the major media into their own denunciation. Springer bought a cheap consumer satellite dish and used it to capture unencrypted live feeds of campaign interviews during the 1992 presidential elections. He then edited the uncensored exchanges recorded during commercial breaks into the pirate documentary Spin (1995), a devastating look between the scenes of the mass-media manipulation of democracy.14
Shortly after N5M1, the entire broadcast regime would be transformed in depth by the introduction of a new distribution system wide open to grassroots and dissenting uses: the World Wide Web, which made global computer networks accessible to everyone. An illegal film like Springer’s could live on the net, and dissident video could at last find its publics. Computer hacking then emerged as a crucial component of both activism and art, and in 1996, at N5M2, the concept of tactical television was replaced by the wider concept of tactical media. Because it had used a real situation to dramatize the range of possibilities that open up briefly during a period of accelerated change, the film Videograms of a Revolution served as a spark for intense discussions of what tactical media could or could not do at a particular historical juncture, marked by its own unique urgencies. Exactly that was the burning question at all the Next 5 Minutes conferences.
From Virtual to Actual
Going further, one would have to discuss the emergence of Internet mailing lists in the mid-Nineties, typified by the text-filtering list Nettime, which was founded at the Venice Biennial in 1995 and was also closely associated with the networking hub of Amsterdam. Because the Web was slow and clumsy in those days, this was the golden age of text in unadorned ASCII characters – the perfect medium for intensive theoretical debate and literary experimentation, in direct contact with a technology that could still be changed hands-on. The flavor of the list is captured by the book README! Filtered by Nettime, which was collaboratively edited by a group of list participants, some of whom gathered at the Hybrid Workspace organized by Geert Lovink at Documenta X in 1997.15 Similar lists proliferated – Syndicate, Fiberculture, the Old Boys Network – as well as more curated experiments in organized chaos, like the Eyebeam-Blast forum moderated by Jordan Crandall.
In parallel to this artistic activity, email lists had already emerged as a crucial activist organizing tool, particularly in the many transnational campaigns surrounding the Zapatista insurgency in southern Mexico. The Zapatistas’ version of what a global alternative media network could look like was articulated in a video letter by Subcomandante Marcos to the Freeing the Media Teach-In organized by Paper Tiger and other groups in New York in 1997, and was subsequently elaborated by a working group of the Second Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, in Spain in the summer of that year (as recounted in a memorable report-back by the activist Andrew Flood).16 Online infoshops and other continuously updated political websites rapidly led to a new civil-society phenomenon (or counter-civil-society phenomenon, if you like): namely the activist swarm, or what a pair of infamous Rand Corporation researchers termed social netwar.17 At the time, email was the “killer app.” What now seems like a routine part of ordinary life – far outstripped in real-time intensity by Twitter – was experienced back then as a major shock to the nervous system and the imagination, of the kind brought by the introduction of every new communications medium.
The Nineties were a freewheeling decade, as hundreds of thousands of people who had never met in the flesh felt out the novel experience of addressing each other as individuals, and maybe even as equals, on media that had worldwide reach. Limits on the right to speak and to participate in serious conversation temporarily seemed to crumble, along with forms of prestige and authority dictated by geographical location and the rank order of cities and countries in the global economic hierarchy. Of course that impression of openness now appears naïve, as it also did to many at the time. It’s striking to see that as early as 1996, much of the N5M2 conference was already devoted to the critical analysis of the new networked power structures, as dissected by Critical Art Ensemble, Arthur and Marie-Louise Kroker, the writers of Ctheory and many others.18 Similarly, the Nettime list was decisively oriented by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron’s attack on the cyber-libertarian rhetoric of Silicon Valley, which they dubbed “the Californian Ideology.”19 As the Nineties wore on, the activist tone mounted and friend-enemy distinction at the heart of political confrontation began to be redefined for the era of corporate globalization.
At the same time, the intimacy, experimentalism and blue-sky theorizing of email exchanges helped open up a new kind of social reflexivity, which could be embodied in conferences or other meetings and then activated on the streets. Art was often mingled with abstract concepts and concrete political commitments, bringing elements of possibility, uncertainty and otherness into the mix. The ideas of Deleuze and Guattari, with their attention to aesthetic intensities and the social or machinic unconscious, picked up where the countercultural cybernetics of Gregory Bateson had left off in the Seventies. Paul Ryan’s ecological vision of a fully self-aware videography of cooperative relations without hierarchy and subordination was never fulfilled during the Nineties (though the Timescapes project orchestrated by Angela Melitopoulous in the early 2000s strives in exactly that direction).20 But one could argue that something more vital was achieved. The intense encounters of the virtual realm were pursued back out into the streets. Hundreds of thousands of people from all four corners of the planet learned to collaborate, however approximately, on a vast set of undertakings which were variously called the global justice movement, the counter-globalization movement, the no-global movement, or the movement of movements. The existential territories of the squatting movement were reinvented in cities around the earth.21 In the course of the Nineties, a complex emancipatory force was articulated at the grassroots of world society, capable of provoking new and astonishing events.
Brian Holmes is a cultural critic, currently living in Chicago. Since returning to the United States he has begun collaborating on a long-term research project to analyze the economic crisis. His work has been published in a large number of books, magazines, catalogues, pamphlets, webpages, email lists and, is available at www.brianholmes.wordpress.com.
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|1.||↑||This text springs from an experiment with living memory: the website Tactical Media Generation, at http://autonomousuniversity.org/content/tactical-media-generation.|
|2.||↑||Paul Ryan, “Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare,” in Radical Software 1/3 (1971), available at http://www.radicalsoftware.org/volume1nr3/pdf/VOLUME1NR3_art01.pdf. Further quotes of Ryan are from this article, unless otherwise indicated.|
|3.||↑||Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York: Ballantine, 1972), pp. 1-58; available at http://monoskop.org/images/b/bf/Bateson_Gregory_Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind.pdf.|
|4.||↑||Paul Ryan, “A Genealogy of Video,” in Leonardo 28/1 (1988), p. 44; available at http://beausievers.com/bhqfu/computer_art/readings/ryan-genealogy_of_video.pdf .|
|5.||↑||Robert Morris, Exchange, 1973, 36′; available at http://www.ubu.com/film/morris.html.|
|6.||↑||Cornelius Castoriadis, “Power, Politics, Autonomy,” in Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy (Oxford U.P. 1991), p. 146; available at http://autonomousuniversity.org/sites/default/files/Castoriadis_Power-Politics-Autonomy.pdf.|
|7.||↑||For a philosophical synthesis of the debates that emerged from resistant circles in the former East in the early and mid-Eighties, see Jean L. Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1994).|
|8.||↑||Adilkno, Cracking the Movement: Squatting Beyond the Media (New York: Autonomedia, 1994), available at http://thing.desk.nl/bilwet/Cracking/contents.html.|
|9.||↑||Bas Raijmakers, “Introduction,” N5M Zapbook (1992); available at http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net/articles/3368/Introduction-to-the-N5M-Zapbook.|
|10.||↑||David Garcia, “A Pirate Utopia for Tactical Television” (1996); available at http://www.medialounge.net/lounge/workspace/nettime/DOCS/1/pirate.html.|
|11.||↑||Restored websites of Next 5 Minutes 2, 3 and 4: http://www.next5minutes.org/about.jsp.|
|12.||↑||Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Videogramme einer Revolution (Videograms of a Revolution), 1992, 106′; available at http://youtu.be/sTm8YVUpLUE.|
|13.||↑||Paul Garrin, Man with a Video Camera (Fuck Vertov), 1989, 2′; available at http://replace.tv/index.php?option=com_seyret&task=videodirectlink&id=5.|
|14.||↑||Brian Springer, Spin, 1995, 57′; available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlJkgQZb0VU.|
|15.||↑||README! Filtered by Nettime (New York: Autonomedia, 1999); available at http://www.medialounge.net/lounge/workspace/nettime/DOCS/zkp5/intro1.html.|
|16.||↑||Andrew Flood, “Dreaming of a Reality Where the Past & Future Meet the Present” (1997); available at http://artactivism.members.gn.apc.org/allpdfs/074-Dreaming%20of%20a%20Reality.pdf.|
|17.||↑||David Ronfeldt, John Arquilla and others, The Zapatista “Social Netwar” in Mexico (1998); available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR994.html|
|18.||↑||See the extensive archives at http://www.critical-art.net and http://www.ctheory.net.|
|19.||↑||Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology” (1995); available at http://www.medialounge.net/lounge/workspace/nettime/DOCS/2/californ.txt.|
|20.||↑||See the documentation at http://www.videophilosophy.de/tc-geographies.net/index.html.|
|21.||↑||For the description of such a territory, see Brian Holmes, “Do-It-Yourself Geopolitics: Global Protest and Artistic Process,” in Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (Zagreb/Eindhoven: WHW/Van Abbemuseum, 2009); available at https://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2007/04/27/do-it-yourself-geopolitics.|