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GALLERY 2010/2011


Squatting Supermarkets



Description of campaign/project

Squatting Supermarkets is a platform. Mental and technological. It is an attitude suggesting the use of several technologies to create added spaces to reality: for critique, expression, action. The idea was born when different paths merged. Some of them were extremely physical, such as the Superfluo,(Superfluous, but also super-fluorescent), a supermarket in Rome we used to go to because its first floor had been squatted with a joyful action built on music, useless things and queer performances, rediscovering human relations and creative and sustainable forms of economy, while on the other floors amazed people went about their regular shopping. Other paths were extremely immaterial, and featured technologies that had been used to reinterpret the web, search engines, information flows offered by governments a social networks. Other ones were designed to invade bodies and minds with new forms of sensation and communication, creating brand new forms of identity , or bringing back old ones, reimagined in the surreal worlds of virtual realities. It is NeoRealismo Virtuale, (NeRVi,Virtual NeoRealism), the creation of digital immaterial spaces superimposed on bodies and architectures. Places for narratives, performance, conscience and knowledge flows. Two goals. On one side, to systematize practices and technologies, creating an open framework that can be used and evolved to instantiate augmented reality (or, better, Virtual NeoReality) spaces, connecting bodies and information, implementing accessible, relational and natural interaction schemes. On the other side, to act, starting multi-author, diffused, emergent narratives.

Squatting Supermarkets combines several platforms: iSee, an iPhone application used to create information and communication systems localized on logos and symbols; Ubiquitous Publishing, a set of open technologies that can be used to create location and architecture based contents, accessible directly from the places that we walk through by using mobile phones and devices, together with simple, affordable augmented reality techniques: architettura rel:attiva, DpSdC, and OneAvatar, a series of technological platforms that connect bodies and architectures to the internet and to virtual worlds.

Because of the complexity of the project, it has been presented in different ways with different meanings in relation to the context of the various areas and reference points of use. Squatting Supermarkets is based on a trans-disciplinary research approach (applying perspectives from design, economics, art, communication, and information technology). From an artistic point of view it is a performative installation which has taken different forms in each instance it has been presented. For the community of activists / institutions / civil society organizations it is both tool and a practical method of contemporary critical consumption. For producers it is an service and communication infrastructure that enables new business models, the squatting of physical infrastructure and intangible places of consumption.

We live in a world that is filled with codes, images and symbols that power dresses in signifies, visions, expectations, desires, politics, strategies. Power owns codes, languages and practices, aiming to extend control and to provide people with packaged interpretations, boxed desires, synthetic ethics, and plastic ambitions. Turning from menace to ex-menace, digital technologies and communications are being transformed into further space for codification. Creating new public spaces, limiting private ones, defining access policies by offering services and infrastructures. And, most of all, formalizing acceptable critical practices: from call centers to twitter: “stop speaking to operator 428! From now you can speak directly to our CEO! You have 140 characters for it! Think about it, he even answers….” Critique must move on. Changing languages, places, methodologies, practices. It must go back into space, bodies, objects, inside architectures, along the paths that we walk along in our daily lives. It must disseminate codes and symbols, touching visceral, behavoural and reflexive domains. Fortunately, the world cannot just be reduced into rigid and predefined codes, and there will always be spaces, cracks, interstices between a code and the other. It has been true with architecture, in the buildings of abandoned industries. Psychologically, with the TAZ. Physically, with squats, raves, occupations. And in contents, with subvertising, detournements, surrealism, fakes. Action must take place in between the codes and create signs, words, shapes, flows.

Recontextualizing everything, superimposing meanings, interpretations and spaces to add further ones, out of control. Losing the desire to establish dialogic dynamics with power, and speaking over, beside and below it. Technology offers opportunities to generalize squatting approaches, making them accessible and diffused. To adopt squat as a methodology: identifying un-coded spaces, make them accessible, use them as a communication, action and expression platform. Reality++ We can add elements to reality. And interpret others. Mobile technologies, SPIMES, computer vision techniques allow creating connections between physical and information worlds. These techniques have been used in the past by commercial and military industries, and allow taking information directly onto bodies, objects and architectural spaces. Pattern and image recognition, augmented reality, GPS, sensors, smart tags can be used to tag things and places, creating bridges with the data and communications we want to associate to them. Through ubiquitous applications implemented on mobile phones and devices we can have experience of these connections, we can see them through these devices, creating new sensorialities, new added senses that are not sensible to light, sounds or tastes, but to information, communication, correlation. It is possible to write in space, above it, creating a new context that coexists with the ordinary world. Living outside of any control, due to its immateriality. We can write anywhere, read anywhere. We can reclaim the buildings of power. We can criticize the places of commerce. We can whisper in urban spaces, directly to the ears of the people. We can scream in places that we are not allowed to enter.

Open and accessible possibilities are available, but we are still hard put to defining or discovering their grammars, practices and strategies. Networks bring with them a series of strategies and practices that potentially allow for reconsideration of several fundamental issues. Creating information in virtuous and collaborative fashion. Producing and disseminating knowledge. Becoming aware of the progressive de-materialization of commodities and taking advantage of it creating new peer to peer production tools and infrastructures. Invading spaces that were untouchable, thanks to ubiquitous technologies, and opening to pluralized, emergent views. Creating spaces for discussion and collaboration everywhere and anytime. Synthesizing intelligence, competence, knowledge and opportunities using technologies in contemporary ways. Moving away from the languages of corporations and technocracies, and bringing back technologies and protocols to destinations that are more human, corporal, physical. Artificial intelligence is not to be found in the monstrous automatic responders that cinema and some science fiction has constantly shown us, but more in the possibility to synthesize content using networks and the possibility to participate to processes and reasoning. Robots move away from those things that try to replicate human behavior, becoming invisible presences integrated into the environment, thought for an artificially-natural use on bodies and relational domains. Interfaces themselves disappear, replaced by gestures, manipulations, traversals, gazes. Technology disappears and becomes a consolidated part of the world, a kind of Third Landscape in which information, communication, digital emotions and sensations stand side by side with spontaneous vegetation growing along the cracks of the concrete blocks, augmenting space and reality. Augmenting reality. Adding spaces for interpretation, expression, critique, using technologies. We are already doing it: on social networks, on blogs, on mobile phones on SPIMEs.

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

Despite a somewhat chaotic project description, I have enjoyed the quality of this work tremendously. Once I had invested some time to decipher the (grrr!) description, I have come to the essence of the Squatting Supermarkets project by navigating it on artisopensource.org

I find the project to have managed to attain a high conceptual level, including a technical effort that's to be underlined and celebrated (p2p technology, conversation oriented app, smart tags, mobile tech, etc). What I call the "people effort" is met 100% with the insistence on the relational discourse that is to emerge from the project.

One could even describe this project as an effort to force open data on supermarket chains. It catalyzes the participatory and crowd-sourced information about products onto a new level, by making use of the right technology. The coming together of smart technology, slick design and critical information generation are what makes this project clearly stand out. It is along those lines that Squatting Supermarkets creates genuine dialogue that questions the market, refuses to accept the top-down imposition of consumer goods.

Apart from the strong technology ingredients, Squatting Supermarkets pushes the envelope on trade and retail. It goes right to the core of capitalism and uses its most advanced tools to subvert it, to control it with the checks and balances of the public. It puts capitalism's products to the test, under the scrutiny of the public's eye.

The beautifully crafted blend of interaction, augmented reality, immersive environment and relation between users has caught my attention. Beyond being applied to a museum setting, the squatting supermarkets application can be implemented in real-life situations. It's thereby a project of great value not only for pushing augmented reality into the critical communication realm, but also by making it available in real-life settings.

The one element that puts the cherry on the sundae, so to speak, is the narrative approach. This is very different from a technology delirium or gadget experiment. The approach of Squatting Supermarkets manages, from my point of view, to give the sense-creation, the narrative, back to the consumer/citizen. It helps the user finding his words again, a voice. It doesn't wait for a corporation to interpret reality, from a marketing or advertisement perspective. It gets you to partake actively. This attention on non-commercial storytelling got me excited about Squatting Supermarkets.

Now, here are a few questions for the creators, not so much to criticize Squatting Supermarkets than to continue the conversation about the object. What have been the main anthropological implications that you have discovered about some of the products that were discussed? How can data journalists use this project to augment and contextualize their coverage even better? How could this project be made accessible to those without smart phones or little knowledge of technology? Would it be possible to squat stock markets in a similar fashion? Wouldn't that be even more subversive? Going to the heart of financial capitalism?

Congratulations on this wonderful work!

View other works commented by Frédéric Dubois  ››

Feels like eating one’s words, or, put this way, it’s very hard for me to say anything and even more hard to comment your extensive explanation on “Squatting Supermarkets”. On one hand it is fascinated on the other is frightening. It is a project which is for you a platform for a investigation and research. As you believe “that arts and social innovation go well together hand in hand in exploring new practices for a more sustainable world”, you are propose a project with bold text, showing complexity, different ways of considering and approaching to subject, with diverse meanings in relation to the context. It is very innovative, elaborate, prepared, organised, detailed, and highly structured used trans-disciplinary research approach (applying perspectives from design, economics, art, communication, and information technology) and using sophisticated new technology. Since I am in this perspective old fashioned (artists), can’t remark something in the harmony to the original.
Anyway I will note some my small observations. After Duchamp things can be changed or transformed or appropriated by naming. An artist can be the author of the definitions. Here is famous urinal. “This urinal is a work of art”. “This is art”. Readymade, it’s a language operation, very real. Signifier/signified. Baptism. A work reduced to the statement. It’s given and taken at the same time. It’s translation and transposition. “This is not a pipe” is written on the Rene Magritte’s painting. “This is not a work of art”, Marchel Broodthaers specifies that these labels illustrate an idea, art is to be thought. Word definitions can go to the absurd world.
Duchamp’s Fountain is also at once a deconstruction of sculpture and a sculpture. Francis Picabia’s The Cacodylic Eye is at once a deconstruction of painting and a painting. Picabia had large canvas placed in his salon, with some pots of paints beside it. Everyone who visited was asked to sign it or ad something; it was eventually covered with over fifty signatures, puns, dodles. One critic describing it as the “wall of public urinal” – what can be less like art than graffiti in year 1921. Picabia protested: “Art is everywhere, except with the dealers of Art, in the temples of Art, like God is everywhere except in the churches”. Rene Magritte in Words and Images shows that an object never perform the same function as its name or its image. Words are open source and the interpretation is endless.

View other works commented by Alen Ožbolt  ››

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This work has been commented by 2 curator(s):
Frédéric Dubois Alen Ožbolt go to comments ›

Entry details


Squatting Supermarkets


Buying, wearing, eating, using. Our lives are full of objects of which we know very little about.

Concept author(s)

Salvatore Iaconesi; Oriana Persico; Luca Simeone; Federico Ruberti; Cary Hendrickson

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

Squatting Supermarkets is a co-production by FakePress / Art is Open Source, the first embodying the soul of technology and production, the second the artistic and performing arts.



Competition category


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

FakePress is an international “think-tank”, founded in Italy, that investigates, develops and creates new publishing models and editorial projects presented by new scenarios in technology, productivity and contemporary culture. Models of freely disseminated knowledge, multi-author, ethnographic approaches, the availability of ubiquitous technologies and the possibilities to add layers of information to ordinary reality and create new forms of experience and relationships with places, in a continually opening process of reinvention of the present are the principal elements which inspire action and creation at FakePress. Observing the contemporary situation of current publishing models, FakePress has outlined realistic and practical/feasible scenarios for the present and near future of publishing.