Archiv Kultur und Soziale Bewegung

Kulturelles Kapital

Erfurt, July 2005

The archive at the first Social Forum in Germany, Erfurt, July 21-24 2005


Application 01
Culture Jamming, Adbusting, and Hacktivism

9:30-11:00 AM, July 22, 2005, with Margarita Tsomou

A short introduction on the Culture Jamming phenomenon sparked a discussion of the broader formal and sociological interpretations of the activist practices and motives. Our goal was to address open questions currently circulating in the Culture Jamming movement, so a certain knowledge of the topic was a prerequisite.
Some points addressed in the very fruitful debate:

There was some reservation expressed about ad-subversion, in particular the danger of its falling short when it comes to attacking advertizing´s aesthetic codes. Such practices may, instead, uncritically affirm the glossy aesthetic they imitate. Someone then raised the question of the cooptation of Culture Jamming techniques by the sales industry. The view that this situation is no reason for resignation, but instead a stimulus for producing "counter-images" was generally agreed on among those present. But the point is not to add more images to the image-flood our media society is generating; if Culture Jamming is to draw attention to social injustices, the aesthetic production must be combined with discursive argumentation and campaigns. Culture Jamming was generally described as a negative form of intervention upon "given" sign-material. There were some comments that the aesthetic products of a social movement can´t be solely drawn from the process of re-working hegemonic forms—social space should also be occupied by our own forms, signs, and suggestions; positively. A further point flared up around the definition of the Culture Jamming movement as a typical instance of "artist critique" as Chiapello/Boltanski ("The New Spirit of Capitalism") define this term. The Jammers´ capitalism-critique is "artist critique" to the extent that it is directed against standardization of life and lack of freedom, the economization of human creativity, normative pressure in everyday life and the manipulation of thought. All the more so, as the Culture Jamming movement takes its distance from those taking a "social critique" approach. The latter put the demand for equality at the heart of their struggles; the Jammers focus on demands for freedom. At this point, it was interesting to compare the current Jammer scene with John Hearfield´s approach in the 1920s. Within the "social movements" (to use a current term within a very different context) of the day, Heartfield, one of the most significant historical forerunners of the Jammers, made a constant effort to work side-by-side with "social critique" activists.

Luther Blisset, Sonja Brünzels, autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe (Hg.), Handbuch der Kommunikationsguerilla, Berlin, Hamburg, Göttingen 2001.

Christoph Behnke, Culture Jamming und Reklametechnik, siehe:—behnke01_de.htm 01.03.05.

Culture Jamming. Kokerei Zollverein. Zeitgenössische Kunst und Politik, Reader zusammengestellt von Jeronimo Voß, Essen 2003.

Thomas Edlinger, DYI-Norm. Zur Konjunktur von Kreativität und Nonkonformität, in: Springerin, Band X Heft 2, Sommer 2004.

Naomi Klein, No Logo! Der Kampf der Global Players um Marktmacht, Bielefeld 2001.

Application 02
Posters and Graphic Design in the Context of Social Movements

11:30 AM -12:30 PM, July 22, 2005, with Erik Tuckow and Sandy k.

This presentation was promoted with the slogan: "Design beyond nice posters, political visual communication, and other misunderstandings." We looked at examples of political posters, the stories behind their development, and saw that the key to a poster´s effect is not just a good message/design combination, but also: the speech conventions and codes of the public addressed and of the person putting up the poster, where the poster ends up, and the taste preferences of the person/group commissioning the poster.
The ensuing discussion led us to various fundamental themes such as the possibility of collective poster design and the question of the aesthetic (and thereby political) responsibility of designers with regard to trendsetting within a movement.

engagement und/et graphic design, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (Hg.), Berlin 2000.

Liz Mc Quiston, Graphic Agitation 02, London 2004.

Application 03
Critique of the Cultural Strategy—on the Politics of Visibility in Social Movements

2:30 -4:30 PM, July 22, 2005, with Jeronimo Voß

Taking various examples, such as the "Intermittants du Spectacle" in France, as a point of departure, we will discuss possibilities, limits, and problems relating to cultural representation strategies in the context of political organization. How can cultural workers make use of their competencies in the production of visibility in order to help social movements face their concrete challenges, and to develop and organize new collective interests? The Intermittants, understanding themselves as "precarious" cultural workers, held strikes against cultural festivals and engaged in cultural activism in the summer of 2003. This had considerable success in raising public awareness of and resistance to social cutbacks in France. Strategically, the artists often resorted to arguments relating to the autonomy of "art" and even to "creativity"—often drawing a contrast to mass-media culture. The Visible Collective (New York) focuses on the many victims of the Patriot Act and the rising tide of islamophobia in the U.S. In so doing, this collective of media-artists and activists makes use of the “art” format, as institution of representation (which thereby makes
things visible), in various museum-installations. A comparison of these two strategies will help us try to discuss the potential and problems of social movement/art collaboration.

Green Pepper Project: Precarity, 2005, Film-DVD, darin: ‘Intermittants’.

Barbara Serré-Becherini: Kritik der kulturellen Strategie, In: Jungle World: The Planet 01, 2004.

Brian Holmes: Reverse Imageneering, Towards the New Urban Struggles, 2005.

Visible Collective:

Application 04
Applied Art Criticism

11:30 AM-1:30 PM, July 23, 2005, with Michel Chevalier

This workshop aims to crack the lockhold clichés can have on an understanding of the meanings, stakes, and motives involved in art production. Due to time constraints and technical difficulties, the workshop took a condensed form, mostly examining art magazines, slides, and sharing experiences. We also viewed excepts from the 1984 video "Eva Cockcroft Reads: Artforum" by the New York "Paper Tiger TV" collective. In it, Cockcroft discusses a "turn" towards market-oriented conservatism at Artforum after its editors were forced to resign as a result of gallery/advertizer pressure. We discussed whether this case was a sign of a paradigmatic shift, at the turn of the ´80s, to which the art world is still subject today. In this light, ´90s institutional critique was held up against ´70s institutional critique; the differences between education and seduction, sociology and cultural studies were also discussed. There was also a debate about which subversion strategy is most pertinent today: a "war of position" approach, which considers the thesis of an ongoing crisis in capitalism to be a myth; or an approach which goes with the capitalist flow, even accelerating processes, knowing that crisis will come and that the bubble of art will burst once and for all.
Questions of what good art is, historical precedents, and even of its possibility, were also raised.

Paper Tiger TV Video Nr. 58, Eva Cockcroft Reads: Artforum, New York, 1984.

Pierre Bourdieu, La distinction, Paris 1979.
Luc Boltanski, Ève Chiapello, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris, 1999.

Nathalie Heinich, Le triple jeu de l ́art contemporain, Éd. de Minuit, 1998.

J.V. Martin, J. Strijbosch, R. Vaneigem, R. Vienet, Réponse à une enquête du centre d ́art socio-expérimental (1963), in: Internationale Situationniste, Paris, Fayard, 1997, S. 404-408.

Richard Bolton, Enlightened Self-Interest: The Avant-Garde in the ́80, in: Grant H. Kester (Hg.), Art, Activism, Oppositionality Essays from Afterimage, Durham, Duke 1998, S. 23-50.

Red Group, Manifesto (1924), in: Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Hg.), Art in Theory 1900 -1990, Cambridge, Blackwell 1992, S. 388-389.

Application 05
Open Discussion

5:00-7:00 PM, July 23, 2005, with Rahel Puffert and Nicole Vrenegor

We had originally planned to address the topic "culture and social movements" from the various perspectives of those present. The introductory account of how the Archive came to be drew questions and comments about the conceptual foundation of the room´s architecture, however. We also felt it necessary to mention the different content-related motivations within the group, how the actual inventory reflects them, and the (often) controversial and (mostly) productive discussions that we´d had.

Guests also expressed criticism and enthusiasm with an eye on locations the Archive could travel to in the future. There was some appreciation of its relevance for critical audiences.
Some excerpts: a photographer drew attention to our use of academic language which has an exclusionary effect in discussions, and which also strays from a cooperation and "redistribution" with interested speakers.

An activist/journalist warned that the understanding of culture among many left groups is quite different from ours, and that they are often quite skeptical of "art."
An artist criticized the formal execution of the plots and boxes and found the general aesthetic "arty" but not good enough to hold its own in an art context.
A publisher was especially pleased by the visualization of the books and encouraged us to keep it up.