Work, Musings, Writings and Projects from FLEFF's Checkpoints Lab 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
We were privileged to have three wonderful presentations during our FLEFF Lab: Checkpoints Project panel. Monica Haller and Elvira Dyangani Ose appeared in person, and Leslie Garcia appeared remotely due to circumstances beyond her control (but was able to come two weeks later to give a well-received workshop to the class). We'd like to feature a selection of summaries from the panel to show the diversity of responses and projects discussed.
The FLEFF Panel: Activist Retooling was taken place on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. It featured three guest panelists: Monica Haller, Elvira Dyangani, and Leslie Garcia. The panel’s concentration was on the guest panelists’ projects that focused on the importance of media activism. It was significant to see that all three panelists were females who emphasized the role of women empowerment in the realm of media and the arts. The three projects underline the uses of media technologies and arts to convey the political structure of our cultures. It was interesting to see the diverse background of the panelists who were united on the issue of social change and empowerment through the use of collaboration in arts.
The panel started off with Monica Haller’s Veteran’s Book Project. Haller works with many U.S. veterans who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to create a book that archived and displayed their lived experience affected by the U.S. wars. The books were a collection of images, photos, postcards, letters, and journal entries that the veterans have invited to share with us, the public. It is a door into their memories and experiences. The books combined the use of photography, writing and printmaking. Though we did not go through the same experiences they did, the books had a striking impact on a reader once opened because of the lack of text, just raw images and personal handwriting. There were no Photoshop alternations. I admired Haller’s projects and its intended purpose to share a collected memory of a bleak and opaque war we sometimes forget we are having through the individual experience of the experts. The books are not mass-produced but made to order and much of the profit will go to the veterans and their families. Currently, Haller is hoping to work with the Iraqi people who are most directly affected by the war.
The second panelist was Elvira Dyangani, an Equatorial Guinean who is a Spanish curator of Contemporary Art. She focused on Contemporary African Art and Culture. She showed a lot of examples of the projects she worked in Africa dealing with community activism and reclaiming the urban space. An interesting project she showed us was called “Dikalo de Bessengue” which involved artists working with a group of young local people from Douala to create an experimental radio for the whole town. They were all rapping in French and bonding with each other in the collective experience. The radio was made to be a radio for the people by the people, empowering local communities. She talked a lot about the African art movement in modernism and showed us links from the Nishio workshop, Dak’art, the Chimurenga Library, WikiAfrica, AfroPixel, and Ker Thiossane. Although presenting us with the many examples of projects and art establishments she has worked with, I was lost and confused in her presentation because she did not explain the main focus and theme of her presentation.
The third and final panelists was Leslie Garcia, who unfortunately was not able to physically come to the states but we were able to skype her from Mexico City. Leslie’s collaboration on the Dream Addictive project was very innovative in combining applied science, from computing, visual programming, hardware production with art and design. They work through Open Source publicly and freely sharing their ideas and knowledge on research. Based in Mexico, she said it was challenging to have Mexicans support and display their work; usually they have to come to the U.S. They also develop workshops under Upgrade! to teach women about technology and those who are interested. I am curious to see where they get funding to develop such technological projects and where they can be able to install their exhibitions on a larger scale to the public. A lot of times media labs are supported by corporate sponsorships in aims of creative and innovative marketing. However, Dream Addictive seems to still have the indie and underground appeal that is meant to be shared, enjoyed and educated to all. Having the Open Source ideals in their best interest and McLuhan’s quote as their motto, Dream Addictive seeks to empower, distribute and promote knowledge of electronic culture and raise awareness of sustainability in their projects.
During the FLEFF panel, some of the most intriguing works presented involved how artists and activists in Africa used public space as a means of expressing and reclaiming identity. Throughout the course of our class, notions about public space--and our relations with them--have consistently been a topic of conversation.
At its most organic, public space typically refers to "an area or place that is open and accessible to all citizens, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic level."
When put into practice, public space is far more limiting than such a definition explains. For example in the "Game on Public Space and Women," Andrha Pradesh explored the relationship that women have with public space and nuances inherent in that relationship. For example, the project, which was based on three years of research, highlighted how, “There is still a very conditional access to public spaces for women in the society. A loitering woman is looked upon as one with loose morals unlike the ‘good private woman’ who is out in a public space with a ‘purpose.' Only when men and women have the freedom to move about in public spaces without any purpose, can the boundaries and divisions within a society be removed.” (Shilpa Ranade)
Another group whose work focused on reshaping cultural relations through public space was the Critical Art Ensemble, a collective of "tactical media practitioners of various specializations" who explore "the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism." Public space is in many ways the epitomization of these intersections which are, at least in my opinion, defining factors in the establishment of identity; not just on an individual level, but a cultural one as well. For this reason, art that looks at reclaiming or reshaping the nature of a public space by the community can also be seen as a call for the reshaping of societal dynamics. The work of artists in Africa that were shown during last week’s panel highlighted how activism can be used to influence notions of public space and societal relations, particularly in terms of community relations with what is considered public.
Out of all the presentations given, I found I was most passionate about Monica Haller’s project. The artist is concerned with social justice and strives to produce a product that highlights the individual’s experience. In her project she explained on Wednesday, Haller presented a series of books. These books are authored by various kinds of people affected by the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the help from Haller as the editor and consultant.
The series is called “Objects of Deployment” and is part of what is called the Veterans Book Project. Each book acts as a separate archive of one person’s perspective. The author’s are war veterans, mothers of soldiers, and citizens of the countries personally involved in the current global issue. The author’s incorporate personal photographs, letters, journal entries, and poems from their experience in the war.
Haller has set up workshops for the bookmaker to fully form their approach and lay out of their personal archive. These workshops travel and meet the authors at their desired locations. It is here that their message or plan becomes more directed. The software provided was viewed as incredibly easy for the participants. When un-hashing a part of his or her lives that is difficult to ponder about, the last thing needed is a frustrating template.
Looking through the books during the presentation, I found that I became very connected with the bookmakers and their final product. The project takes on a life that is unrecognizable to the general public. The books provide voices and perspectives that go unheard. These are books are archives. In class discussion we spoke of Derrida, who had spoke of a multiplicity of ways to read a text. In this project, it is interpretation of perspective that provides the most interesting components. For instance, the photographs taken and incorporated by each author truly exemplifies the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
The series seems to unlock a latent world to the true reality life in the war life. However, the project is not solely for the public, but for the bookmakers themselves. It is therapeutic and releasing process, as if to say, “here, this is what my life truly is.” In one book a young soldier states how the truth was he never shot a gun. Confessions like this truly form an intimate connection between author and reader.
These books are beyond beautiful. While some images maybe disheartening and grotesque, that is the point of the project; to depict the reality of it all. The project puts a face to a generalized group. No longer are these individuals just labeled among the masses as “soldier,” “citizen,” or other, but are acknowledged as Jim Wilson, Jon Turner, and Pamela Olson.
This project is provided to the public for free as a PDF or print on demand. The availability of this piece incorporates the series as a more global interaction. The presentation and the ultimate product have been inspiring in a beautifully simple and complex way.
As we learned back in February from Derrida, archives are conglomerations of data, which help form our vision of the past, present, and future. The authority of an archive is granted because it contains and controls the presentation of information, the building blocks of our knowledge. There is particular power in the way in which the information is presented, the form of the archive, because it shapes how certain aspects are valued. A fairly simple example of this would be an archive of music arranged by producer versus one arranged by artist.
The power an archive has in shaping popular perception can be more potent, and also, more subtle. Archives have the power to reinforce or contradict popular beliefs through the information they contain and the way it is presented. the Veterans Book Project is an example of an archive working counter to the mainstream narrative.
Veterans Book Project is a collaborative art project directed by artist Monica Haller. Haller operates as consultant, editor and publisher for Veterans, families and people effected by the war to make books of their stories. The books contain mementos from the authors time with war: photos, postcards, letters and rerecorded memories. There are currently 31 books completed, however through workshops Haller runs across the country, more will soon join the ranks.
The library of books created by this project is a powerful archive of the US’s current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cover of each book is decorated with a name and a photo, with little indication of the heart wrenching stories that will follow. Through the presentation of data in these books a new narrative of the wars is created: a narrative on the ground, an intimate narrative.
One could argue that much of the information in the books is already offered through news sources, both mainstream and alternative. However, the presentation of these books reforms the narrative, changing its impact by decreasing the amount of check points through which the information must pass. Instead of a long chain of information sources and nodes diluting the personal aspect of the war, there very few checkpoints between teller and receiver. In fact, the main check point is the book, offer recipients direct access to an archive of data about the war and its individualized effects.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Interview with Elvira Dyangani Ose, curator and art/architectural historian, in preparation for the upcoming FLEFF11 Checkpoints Panel entitled Activist Retooling, Fourfold, to be held on 12 April from 7-9PM in Business 104 on the Ithaca College Campus.
Interviewed by Claudia Costa Pederson; video edited by Nicholas Knouf.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Week 7's student summary comes from Annie Bunyavadhana.
In Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers, by Gabriella Coleman examines how Free and Open Source Software developers were able to use their techno-craft to defend against the legal efforts that try to constrain their autonomy.
Connecting code and speech as presented in a haiku written by Schoen for a protest, Coleman argues that source code is speech. Developers construct new legal meanings by challenging the idea of software as property and by crafting new free speech theories to defend the idea that software is speech.
The essay used jurisgenesis to demonstrate how F/OSS (Free and Open Source Software) developers explore, contest, and specify the meaning of liberal freedom with the development of new legal tools, how developers bolster this legal expertise to engage in “contentious politics,” and how this technology based movement emerged into freedom and much more, the democratic citizenship. What is impressing to me is that this was a time where tens of thousands of technologists, who call themselves as hackers, were able to develop and enhance a project all virtually on the web, instead of trying to destroy the other person’s work. They were also reliable too. The free software developed by MIT hacker Richard Stallman, could be copied, shared, circulated, and modified, unlike proprietary software. The Linus kernel project later transformed Free Software into a larger scale movement where thousands of contributors can alter the legal and ethical principles of Free Software. By the late 1990’s, Eric Raymond revamped Free Software to attract business investors into “Open Source Software.”
Soon enter the legal issues where Coleman suggests that the law and technology blend into each other. With copyright laws and patents restricting developers from modifying and accessing the already made programs, the General Public License (GPL) or copyleft was invented to allow users and hackers to appropriately “transform to include a more specific language of free speech” (424). Coleman presents an insightful discussion on how political policy has placed restraints on creativity in that of copyrights from the time of print to today’s culture of programming. Hackers, or the artists, themselves have been successful in fighting the legal and political battle to suit their needs to be transformative and populist ideals to have their source code open and free to the public.
This idea of how free and public should information be relates to the project on Wikileaks. Who owns the right and control over the information? Should the owner/artist/programmer/investor profit from the information at the public expense? How does this correlate to our economic system and political ideals? If we are to have free speech, shouldn’t it be a right for citizens to have access to these information and freely share it without legal institutions coming in the way?
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Week 7 looked at the phenomenon of Wikileaks, and especially how it intersects with digital and physical borders on the so-called "immaterial" Internet.
Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens, “<nettime&rt; Twelve Theses on Wikileaks by Geert Lovink & Patrice Riemens”, December 7, 2010, (accessed January 23, 2011)
Alexander R. Galloway, Protocol (Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2004), 28–53, 240–246
Gabriella Coleman, “Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers”, Cultural Anthropology 24, no. 3 (2009)
Gabriella Coleman, “What It’s Like to Participate in Anonymous’ Actions - Gabriella Coleman - Technology - The Atlantic”, December 10, 2010 (accessed January 23, 2011)
Faculty of the College of Ontopoetic Machines, “<nettime> Six Anti-Theses on WikiLeaks”, December 11, 2010, (accessed January 23, 2011)
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This week's student summary comes from Julian Weisner.
Since the assimilation of computers and machines into daily human life there have been questions about the benefits of these “advancements” Recently more than ever as a culture filled with technology I have seen and heard of many downsides to these “advancements”. Just as we have gained new materials and media for communication, art, and interaction; we have lost touch with who we were and how we used to communicate, depict ourselves, and interact. Hakim Bey discusses this idea in art and play, and portrays this quite vividly by pointing out our losses: “We miss the directness of play (our original kick in doing art in the first place); we miss smell, taste, touch, the feel of bodies in motion”.
There are mixed interpretations for why we seem to be growing more and more distant from what we were. There are fingers pointed at capitalism and greed, machines and computers augment production and accomplish tasks faster, and time, is, money, or as Anthony Dunne depicts, large corporations develop these technological instruments to coddle us [as in the masses(sheep)] into select roles, rooting out ingenuity and creativity and laying it all in the hands of top engineers and scientists in corporations who appease to the lack of human initiative, which allows us to let this easier way of life to envelope us.
Either way human life has forever changed due to our technology. We kill to keep up with it, quite literally. In central Africa there is an abundant amount of Coltan. An element necessary for cell phones, computers, and video games ... William Shaw depicts the conflict that has ensued as such:
The Congo has the world’s largest coltan reserves. These have been systematically fought over by the new kleptocrats, the warlords, and exported clandestinely via neighbouring countries, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. The boom in mobile phone sales coincided precisely with the eruption of what has been the world’s bloodiest conflict since WW2. Around 4 million have died so far in the violence and its aftermath. Disease and ongoing violence means that Congolese are still dying at a rate of 45,000 a month.
He even links the conflict to its true source…technology.
Hakim Bey writes about a new way of battling the invasion of technology into what should be purely human. Like creativity, interaction…life. He notes on the creation of Imediatism. A form of art or activity in which the product cannot be sold, and the action cannot be taken back. The idea is to create more human interaction and ideas, allowing us to root out the corporate and technology that has penetrated every medium of life. It isn’t to get rid of it, just to loose it for a bit and Play.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Week 6 explored the poetic and the political in design, and especially how they interface with what can and cannot be done with technologies.
Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects (Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser, 2002), 57–73
Anthony Dunne, Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design (Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2005 ), “(In)human Factors”, 21–42
Hakim Bey, “Immediatism”, 1994 (accessed January 23, 2011)
Michael Connor, “Rhizome | Interview with Graham Harwood”, January 28, 2009 (accessed January 23, 2011)
Mongrel, Tantalum Memorial (2008)
Norene Leddy, Platforms (2006)
Dunne & Raby, Between Reality and the Impossible (2010)
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The selected summary for Week 5 was written by Annie Bunyavadhana.
"Precarias a la Deriva: A Very Careful Strike" uses the theory of the derive to develop four hypotheses on the duty of care and the caring labor which is maintained mostly by women in a patriarchal and capitalist society. The first hypothesis states that sex, care and attention were historically traditionally assigned to women. Tracing from Biblical characters such as the pure Virgin Mary to the harlot Eve and her followers assumed the bipolarity of the maternity and the sexual woman. It soon becomes the stereotype and the stigma that endures in time and transitions into a new context in the age of industrialization and urbanization. The capitalist economy places economic value on the feminine sexuality. Now, enters the manner of prostitution we come to know today. The bipolarity of the good woman and the over-sexed woman becomes evermore distinct and the border between the two would be more rigid than ever.
The second hypothesis states that we must find the connection and think from the point of view of the communicative continuum, that combines our relationships and enhance new positions. The traditional contracts of matrimony and prostitution have transformed from the the Fordist nuclear family to other forms of cohabitation in monoparental and transnational families. The transition and market development also shifts domestic work to outside the home and into factories and commercial markets. Women can play a part in the consumption model.
In the third hypothesis, there needs to be four elements: affective virtuosity, interdependence, transversality, and everydayness to the careful know-how. Security finds itself in fear and precarity makes us drift into isolation and containment. We must look to the matter of our social ecology and the four elements to help us break the precarity.
The forth hypothesis states that we should place care in he center, without separating it from the sex nor communication. Although care is already in the center, we need to re-place it because it has been misplaced in the patriarchal world. The duty of care has become exploited and objectified. There needs to be a new revolutionary logic that recognize the fundamental value in the social wealth that care produces. One of the tools to revive it is the caring strike. Those in the field: the maids, the whores, social workers, and other women need to break the barrier and rediscover their fundamental role. There cannot be an imposed attribution to the roles of gender that will confine us in our limited economy. It needs to be replaces with the ecology of care.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This week focused on issues of movement and possibility within the space of gender and the environment.
Amanda Schaffer, "Prescriptions for Health, the Environmental Kind - NYTimes.com", August 11, 2008, (accessed January 23, 2011).
Sabine Falk and Christoph Schäfer, "THE THING Hamburg: 'You have to deal with the corrupt apparatus of culture'", February 26, 2009, (accessed January 23, 2011).
Precarias a la Deriva, "A Very Careful Strike".
Natalie Jeremijenko, Environmental Health Clinic (ongoing)
Critical Art Ensemble, Peep Under the Elbe (2008)
Kate Rich, Feral Trade (ongoing)
Monday, March 7, 2011
Week 2 involved exploring various types of so-called "immaterial" borders, especially as they intersect with physical ones. We looked at the US/Mexico border, and a series of online projects that examine through games and fiction; the Straits and Gibraltar, migrant labor, and attempts to setup non-state electronic networks across it; and borders of gender, and especially how that intersects with the right of women to move freely throughout the city.
Shilpa Phadke, Shilpa Ranade, and Sameera Khan, "Why Loiter? Radical Possibilities for Gendered Dissent", in Dissent and Cultural Resistance in Asia's Cities, ed. Melissa Butcher and Selvaraj Velayutham (London, UK: Routledge, 2009)
Andhra Pradesh, "Game on public space and women", March 11, 2009, (accessed January 23, 2011).
Editorial Team, "technological observatory of the straits", in fadaiat: libertad de movimiento + libertad de conocimiento, ed. Pilar Monsell Prado and Pablo de Soto Suárez (imagraf impresores, 2006), 169–174.
José Pérez de Lama, "notes on emergencies at the straits of gibraltar", in Prado and Soto Suárez, fadaiat: libertad de movimiento + libertad de conocimiento, 201–205.
Javier Toret and Nicolás Sguiglia, "mapmaking excess. labour and frontier by the movement’s paths", in Prado and Soto Suárez, fadaiat: libertad de movimiento + libertad de conocimiento, 193–199.
Mark Tribe, Tijuana Calling (2005)
Gender & Space Group (Pukar), Gendered Strategies For Loitering (2008)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
For the first week we introduced the students to ideas of borders and checkpoints within and beyond their normal definitions. The following are the texts and projects we discussed.
Christiane Paul, Digital Art (Thames & Hudson, 2003), 204–211, "Tactical media, activism and hacktivism".
Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance (Autonomedia, 1994), 10–33, "Nomadic Power and Cultural Resistance", http://www.critical-art.net/books/ted/.́
Alex Dunbar, "FOLLOW THE GPS, ÉSE: The Transborder Immigrant Tool Helps Mexicans Cross Over Safely”, 2009, (accessed January 23, 2011).
Robbin Murphy, "Artists and Legal Ambiguity on the Internet", (accessed January 23, 2011).
Heath Bunting and Rachel Baker, BorderXing Guide (2002–2003).
Ricardo Dominguez and Brett Stalbaum, Transborder Immigrant Tool (ongoing).
Thursday, February 24, 2011
We are happy to announce the opening of the FLEFF Lab: Checkpoints Project class blog! We'll be posting about the goings on of the course, including a selection of student writings each week as we move through the syllabus. Here's the description of the course:
FLEFF LAB: Checkpoints Project explores the concept of checkpoints, the FLEFF 2011 festival programming stream, through a range of theories and practices of social media, social networking, emerging technologies, user-generated content, and other structures. Students will engage in group projects that combine conceptual investigation of open space modes with digital interfaces and social media. Finished projects and prototypes will be mounted on the FLEFF website.
The syllabus for the course is available online; later posts will go through what we've discussed so far, including further links to projects we've discussed in class.
We welcome your comments and hope you enjoy following what's taking place in FLEFF Lab: Checkpoints Project!
Nicholas Knouf and Claudia Pederson, co-lecturers
Nicholas Knouf is a new media artist, technologist and software/hardware designer whose research explores the interstitial spaces between information science, critical theory, digital art, and science and technology studies.
Knouf’s artistic projects have been shown internationally in Spain, Greece, and Brazil. Recent projects have been featured in international exhibitions such as “Esse, nosse, posse: Common Wealth for Common People” at the National Museum for Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece (2010) and electro_online (2009). Past and current work has been recognized by a number awards, including an Honorary Mention by Prix Ars Electronica in [the next idea] category (2005), the Leonardo Abstracts Service (LABS) for his master’s thesis (2008), a memefest Award of Distinction (2008), and a special transmediale “Online Highlight” (2009). Additionally, his work has been discussed in print and online media, including ID Magazine, the Boston Globe, CNN, Slashdot, Afterimage, and networked: a (networked_book) about (networked_art). Knouf is currently is a PhD candidate in information science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
Claudia Costa Pederson is a "play" theorist and creative collaborator with national and international artists. Her research interests center broadly on the interactions of creativity and collectivity in modalities of thought and artistic practices. Her research and work brings these interests to bear on transnational electronic arts, including videogames and digital performance.
Pederson is currently a PhD candidate in the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University, with dissertation research on how digital play reconfigures the technical, formal, and social in relation to the politics of everyday life. Her research examines the convergence of the fields of art, entertainment, the military, and medicine, through experimental game design. She has published on digital culture, gaming and play in such journals and online research collaborations as Afterimage, Research Center for CyberCulture Studies, Empyre, and other scholarly and new media publications.