Vandana Shiva's text Stolen Harvest is part of this years Memefest Food Democracy Festival outlines. Things connect more and more. Last Memefest we have researched DEBT(http://tinyurl.com/bs3k5c8). Guess what- 270 000 Indian farmers committed suicide because they were driven in to debt.
At the moment that I am writing this text, the massive social uprising in Slovenia continues and enters, with even fiercer political determination, into a new stage of political maturity. What began as an isolated sparkle in late November 2012 in Maribor, the second biggest city of Slovenia, spread to other cities and weeks later culminated in an all-Slovenian uprising composed of unprecedented masses across the country.
The images of riots, broken windows, tear gas and police repression spoke of unprecedented political violence on the streets. The social uprising also brought a fire burning the central myths of the Slovenian story of successful transition from the socialist past.
Behind the mirage of the brand new world, neoliberalism with a European face has finally shown its most real and brutal shape. The fairy tale of the free market society and of fair elections in the legal state supposed to guard young democracy, has been drowned in once tasty "Cabernet Slovignon."
In the weeks of December 2012 tens of thousands people hit the streets, occupying central squares and chanting now famous political slogans: "It is enough!" "It is over with them, they are done! [Gotov je, Gotovi so!]" "They are all crooks!" "We give the Parliament, but not the street!"
The political condemnation of the corrupt political class received material confirmation in the report of the public Committee Against Corruption, which found strong evidence implicating both major figures of the Slovenian political arena, Janez Janša (Prime Minister and president of right-wing Slovenian Democrats) and Zoran Janković (mayor of Ljubljana and president of major centre-Party Positive Slovenia) in major corruption scandals.
Instead of taking full responsibility and resigning, they and many others continue their illegitimate political mandates. The corruption report brought additional fuel to the fire, and even radicalized the demands of the social movement. The initial moral critique of the corrupt state officials shifted to a critique of the political class and the system as a whole. Protesters have recognized that something is rotten in the state of Slovenia, and the leading puppets are only the most visible symptoms of a deeper underlying and structural crisis of capitalism.
Off the Couch, into the Streets
The last three months of mass protest have brought together many different social groups and individuals of different political affiliations and generations, young and old, workers and students, queers and precarious, ecologists, anarchists and socialists. All are demanding a deeper social change. The "all-Slovenian uprising" gave birth to the new sense of solidarity. Instead of the usual complaining from the couch, people stepped into the realm of public protest.
It would be wrong to immediately relate the "people" that compose the movement to some previous ideal or truer Slovenian nation. On the contrary, the "people's" movement is complex and riven with splits and ambivalences. If the common cause is clear, namely, the overthrow of the political class, it has to be stated that the paths and goals of the new political project are less defined. This conflictual moment opens political space outside the pragmatic and established rules of the official political process. Thus, we are witness to diverse perspectives that range from moralism (the conservative liberal stance that "we need new good people and the real legal state"), to nationalism ("protest for a better Slovenia"), to an even stronger radical tendency in support of social transformation.
People are struggling under dismal social conditions in the new Slovenia, and many groups have been working to formulate socio-economic alternatives to the existing order. Aspirations that used to be unthinkable only few months ago, such as demands for direct democracy and democratic socialism, have come to the centre of mainstream public media.
The popular political agenda is no longer defined and molded by existing institutions or parties. It is now also being shaped by people on the streets, in numerous public performances, cultural events and political discussions of new popular councils, committees, and initiatives that take extremely seriously the search for the broadest possible democratic platform. These include the Committee for Direct Democracy, the Coordinating Committee for Cultural Slovenia, the General Assembly of all-Slovenian Uprising, and the Committee for Justice and Solidarity in Society. There are also other already existing cultural and political groups that have called for engagement in civil disobedience and protests against the current regime: university trade unions, the student organization Iskra, Workers-Punks University, the Federation of Anarchist Organizing, and many others.
Protests and discussions strengthen and expand the politics beyond representative democracy and its defunct policies. Many weeklies (the section Revolt in Sobotna Priloga, Dnevnik, Mladina, etc.) and also daily newspapers have started publishing more alternative contributions for the first time.
Worst Possible Austerity Measures
People in Slovenia have found the official political class guilty not only of misrepresentation, but also of attacking what remains of the welfare state , basically begging for foreign intervention. To be more precise, both the present right-wing government (Janez Janša) and the previous center-left government (current president Borut Pahor) have both participated in the imposition of the worst possible austerity programs.
These were recently even criticized by same International Monetary Fund that promotes austerity, and launched horrendous policies across the European periphery in the first place. They have included: privatization of banks (even manipulating a public referendum on setting up a "bad bank" to handle defaulted loans); imposition of special "holding"-"expert" institutions that would sell all domestic capital to the foreign investment firms ; massive layoffs and dissolution of collective bargaining agreements in all social sectors; and drastic cuts in the social budget (for example, the budget for research and universities fell from 10-20%; cuts in the field of culture are in some fields as high as 50%; endangered groups of pensioners receive merely 250 Euros or just over $300 CAD per month).
Austerity, in short, is financial discipline sanctioning unprecedented exploitation of labour. It is intended to ease the re-investment of capital in crisis. It comes as no surprise, then, that in the time of ever more severe economic crisis the heaviest burden is falls on ordinary people. Slovenia registers ever-higher unemployment (12-13% by Eurostat or higher) and has witnessed the most drastic rise of the youth unemployment in Europe, which went from 15% to 25% in last months of 2012.
For over two decades the political class of Slovenia has been congratulating itself for undertaking the most successful transition to a market economy. But the success story of the "Switzerland of the Balkans" has fallen apart like a paper-house. The mythical figures and actions of Slovenian independence have been stripped naked. Even people who"fought" for democratic transformations of the crippled Yugoslav state in late 1980s have finally seen the great robbery: the dispossession of social wealth both by local tycoons and foreign capital; gradual dismantling of the welfare state; social exclusion of underprivileged and vulnerable social groups.
Waking up from the Slovenian dream came late. However, it seems that even those living in the deep apathy of recent years have become political, organizing, discussing, meeting and creating. The movement has already had successes: the mayor of Maribor, Franc Kangler, resigned due to the pressure of public protest, and three coalition partners from the current government stepped down.
All this is happening not in a situation of abundance and free time, but on the contrary during the winter months when people struggle not only to pay their bills but also to find enough food to survive. At a time when the number of people demanding food stamps and charity is at an all-time high and evictions are common, the situation is ready to explode into clear alternatives: social disaster or social transformation, barbarism or socialism.
Strength in Conflict
Obviously, the path and the process of the future uprising cannot be anticipated. As mentioned above, there remain many conflicting strategies at play in the movement. Even if they all agree on the overthrow of political class, there are some that want a gradual reform of the system (60% of all interviewed from the established Slovenian Public Opinion) and others who see revolution as legitimate (30% of those interviewed). Some currents insist on strengthening direct democracy and popular institutions, taking lessons from Iceland. Others want to launch a project similar to Greece's Syriza, to establish a real left-wing party that would emerge from today's social movements and develop a long-term strategy. These diverse perspectives bring conflict into the core of the uprising, paradoxically making it stronger. Through constant debate and struggle the movement is experimenting with different political forms and gaining in political strength.
Also, importantly, in recent times the role of trade unions, especially in the public sector (SVIZ), has been radicalized. January 23 saw a massive general strike and 20 000 workers on the streets of 14 different cities across Slovenia. They have joined the struggles of the social uprising. What was fragmented and divided before has become more articulate and united today.
Weapons of Mass Creation
The insistent and powerful social movement that is connected with progressive political forms has become worst nightmare of the ruling class. This is why the government responded without arguments, but with repression. Out of the fear of its own decay and burial, it launched a series of repressive measures. The list is long: criminalizing the Committee Against Corruption, spreading fear among protesters by imposing fines for alleged organizers and participants of the protests, telling public servants not to join protests, criticizing media for their independent reports, manipulating the public in all the media, and massively recruiting for the security services.
The newest measure was implemented on February 8, the Day of Culture in Slovenia, when the third "all-Slovenian Uprising" took place in Ljubljana. What remained of the government, Catholic Church and their civil society organ "Assembly for Republic" decided to organize a street protest on the same day and time. The Party of Slovene Democrats headed by PM Janez Janša demanded that their members participate in a pro-government rally under threat of expulsion from the party.
However, the anti-government, anti-corruption and anti-crisis protests showed their political maturity by meeting hours later in the same day. The images from the two protests could not have been more different. The pro-government rally saw a few thousand aging "supporters" with a mass of Slovenian flags and ultra-nationalist slogans listening to Janez Janša speaking from the Brussels EU budget summit about the threat of "left fascism" in Slovenia. A few hours later, one of the most massive protests in Slovenian history took place: around 25 000 people marched through the streets with impressive cultural performances, raising the demand for "the spring to come, and Janša and the political class to leave" once and for all. Against their rulers' weapons of mass destruction and repression, the uprising responded with weapons of mass creation.
Let me conclude with the last strophes of the anthem of uprising written by Ksenija Jus, and sung by the self-managed women's choir Kombinat - "The Song of Resistance":
The battles of the brave-hearted people,/ are not forgotten stories of bygone days./ For them our poem should live on,/ For them we raise our fists to the sun.
Poem of resistance spread your voice,/ the dreams of millions are springing forth,/ Freedom is the thought as special as Karst,/ Freedom is the fire that warms our faces.
The Song of Resistance seems to have awakened another ghost of the past that was forgotten in 20th century. Shouldn't we again be allowed to dream and think of revolution? Even if still very young, the uprising seems to have survived more than one winter, and it is likely here to stay for much longer.
*For all hyperlinks see: http://www.newsocialist.org/index.php/679-a-ghost-is-haunting-slovenia-the-ghost-of-revolution
It was a highly intensive and creative process that happened from November 15th to November 25th here in Brisbane. An Event- Workshop/Research Seminar/Public Intervention on DEBT as part of the first Memefest/Qca Award for Imaginative critical intervention. The essay bellow will serve as a catalogue contextualisation of the public interventions, an overview of the research process. Part theoretical framing, part visual sociology, part edited photo essay.
DEBT was our theme for almost a year. The importance of critically researching DEBT can hardly be exaggerated. DEBT has become a major instrument of social control. Millions are victims of DEBT, and indebted life has become naturalised. DEBT has become the primary mechanism that takes power from the people and gives it on to the hands of the rich and powerful. But DEBT is rarely questioned. Its moral obligation is culturally embedded. It is shaming and therefore unspeakable. Its power lies in its violent normalcy.
First Memefest/Queensland College of Art extradisciplinary workshop/seminar/intervention, here in Brisbane, happened in late November. We invited a diverse international group to research DEBT further for ten days, to learn about it in relation to Brisbane and to intervene. The collaborators, participants, curators, mentors and conspirators were Ashlea Gleeson, Jack Loel, Darcy Mangan, Belinda Li, John Nicholson, Emma Bergman, Anna May, Charles Mayfield, Jordan McGuire, Yeuk Nam Lee, Elliot Crombie, Manfred Huber, Ben Mangan, Eleni Kalantidou, Ivan Kozenitzky, Vladimír Turner, Soeren Rosenbak, Zoe Yakimoff, Melanie Gupta, David Sargent, Jason Grant, Tony Fry, Anne-Marie Willis, Shaun Cruickshank, George Petelin and Oliver Vodeb.
Through Memefest’s process DEBT was researched in and outside of the University environments in thirty-five countries. It was the first serious investigation on DEBT from a communication perspective. The workshop/seminar/intervention was the next logical step. The face-to-face gathering, the extradisciplinary dimension that brings marginal, critical, countercultural positions in relation with established institutions promised to be an intense process. Participants came from different countries and cultural backgrounds- students, researchers, professors, professionals, activists and artists. Many of us were connected through both the Memefest and the QCA (Design Futures) network formally and/ or informally. Some of us were already friends, and some were about to become.
The context of the event tried to break down certain established relations. The student/ professor relation was changed as the context became informal and the process situated outside the regular curriculum. The relationships to our institutions were productively questioned and limitations for our work have been explored. The relationship to our disciplines needed to be rearticulated in the light of breaking out of them and connecting with the extradisciplinary- marginal, countercultural positions outside of disciplines and institutions. Above all this was an opportunity of collaboration and self organisation.
This time we have been focusing on one place- the city of Brisbane.
As Queensland’s capital and the third biggest city in Australia, Brisbane plays a major role in the region’s economy. While DEBT is a technique through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled, its image is officially related to freedom and progress. The workshop aimed to explore these contradictions and ways to expose them in the public sphere. While most interventions end up in aestheticized gesturalism, what we were interested in, is stepping out of the private self in which persons are formally enclosed and a split from the social order that imposed that particular type of position in the first place. An intimate encounter with DEBT. An intimate encounter with each other, our institutional contexts and with our selves. This, as we learned, can be very difficult.
As part of the working concept we have framed four main steps that are in our opinion necessary to achieve a change in the logic DEBT creates. First: knowledge that acquires agency. Second: interventions that create a rupture in the order of things with the goal to redefine our fields of experience and the relationship between being, doing and saying. Third: dialogue. Fourth: creating new emancipatory social institutions. Here you can read and see what we have done. The ten days have been designed as a focused semi/structured event. First there was a two day intensive theory/practice seminar. This was followed by field research, a tour around chosen DEBT related Brisbane suburbs. Four groups worked on concrete interventions that culminated in three bigger projects and several smaller once.
Participation was by invitation only; The whole process was mentored by George Petelin, Anne – Marie Wilis, Jason Grant, Tony Fry and myself- Oliver Vodeb. Three awardees: Ivan Kozenitzky, Vladimir Turner and Søren Rosenbak, recipients of the first Memefest/ Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention were invited and flown in to Brisbane. Other participants were our great QCA students, engaged members of the local Brisbane community, as well as- surveillance studies scholar Dr Mark Andrejevic from University of Queensland, visual communication lecturer/tutor from University of Ballart, Ben Mangan (who also worked with his students on DEBT) and Southbank Tafe lecturer/ tutor Manfred Huber.
The process started a while ago. Through Memefest, DEBT was approached from a communication perspective. DEBT was the theme, the problem, the concept and the 2012 festival outline. Workshop/Seminar/Intervention participants have worked on the issue of DEBT in class and in the peer reviewed Friendly competition process - many of them in relation to assignments within the QCA Visual communication program. So, we were already quite prepared.
An online preparation phase followed partly through discussion, partly through readings and documentaries. The first two days have been devoted to theoretical investigations of DEBT and presentations from awarded and curated projects submitted to Memefest. Accompanying discussions helped to frame our focus. Here you can read the whole program with lectures, presentations etc.
(Discussion- Indebted to Intervene: Tony Fry, Anne Marie Willis, Oliver Vodeb, George Petelin)
As we aimed for intervention in the public space, we needed to learn more about the city. Brisbane’s wider area has a population of more than 3 million and it covers a huge area, one of the biggest of any cities in the world. Through its strategies of urbanisation the city is channelling the regimes of capitalisation in to its centres. If we look in to the suburbs, besides the economic project, the social and political dimensions of urbanisation are highly interesting. Suburbs are being made through debt. Suburbs are being made through private debt. There is a fantastic dimension of social control involved in this. It is a fact that indebted homeowners don’t go on strike. It is also a fact that the biggest debt related profits are being made by credit card lending and subprime mortgage lending to the poorest people who don’t live in the urban centres or some of the cool suburbs. This is a technique similar to the World Bank and IMF who get 3rd world countries caught in a web of debt from which they can never escape, paying interest so high that they have little or no money left over for essential functions.
Manfred Huber planing the Brisbane trip
The strategies of urbanisation go hand in hand with the macro economical strategies and corporate business strategies. Capital needs to control urbanisation, as urbanisation is the result of class power in action. Urbanisation also includes manifestations of communication. Most of Brisbane’s suburbs are characterised by low levels of community participation, relative isolation and sprawl. The city is characterised by a lack of the urban. Most of the suburbs are lacking of a centre or squares and public places as cafes or restaurants are mainly in shopping malls. Many of the places demand the car as the mode of transport, which- accept in the commercial/shopping areas- prevents strangers to meet other strangers- one of the key characteristics of a city. It necessarily contributes to a depoliticised individualism as there are almost no nodes for free interplay and urban interaction based on common interests. Politics can barely happen. Connect this to the Australian/Queensland media situation- a hyper commercialized and monopolised media sphere- and think about the logic of the public sphere.
Memefest/QCA awardee, architect Ivan Kozenitzky described Brisbane as a non-place. The term coined by Marc Augé in his work Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995) refers to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as "places". Examples of a non-place are a motorway, or a hotel room, an airport or a supermarket. This of course can’t be applied simply to Brisbane as a whole, as the city has wonderful, living and interesting places and also critical subculture that is partly rooted in the resistance of its troubled oppressive history.
Still, (non) places like poor Capalaba and Rocklea, or the fancy tourist central Brisbane attraction Southbank- especially good in continuously erasing its own history though a mix of surveillance, imposed hyper order, discipline, spectacle and sterility- seem to be perfect in maintaining the rule of DEBT. What we also observed is a high level of electronic surveillance, a huge amount of rules/ communicated through warning signs and a somehow internalised and cultured following of rules (and at the same time - interestingly- a tendency to break small rules) among many Brisbane residents.
Besides the mentioned suburbs we investigated also Dutton Park, Moorooka, Salisbury and Manly; Moorooka with its African community seemed to be the most interesting and it worked as a public space with its main street and some informal visual communication, while Dutton Park and Salisbury did not show spatial agency. Here we have to be careful- as we are aware that a short- although- informed trip around Brisbane’s suburbs brings necessarily only partial insights. It is hard to read the space without being connected to the communities. However some things can be read. We were looking for places that are strongly affected by DEBT. Some of the places- living areas, poor places have a particular DEBT logic. Structurally, by principle people are the most affected.
Dutton Park...the team
Dutton Park- micro regulations of space
Dutton Park- new rich places (we dont know if payed through DEBT) and older workers cottage on the left. The place is close to the centre and just at the river and therefore quite attractive.
Dutton Park- look at the plant
The tour bus
Some of us thought the peeling "Cool" sign actually looked really cool
Moorooka- the golden mile- cars, cars, cars...
Memefest/QCA Awardee Vladimir Turner and his dream car
Moorooka - public announcement board
Above and bellow: Rockleigh- "cheapest Brisbane groceries". In fact a shop that sells expired food. Some of us wanted to cook a meal and give it to the bankers but we cooked a Gulash at home instead. It was good, the bankers would like it.
Anyone can shop at the expired food shop
Salisbury- real estate market
Salisbury- for most of European circumstances this would be quite luxury living- in term of the material space.
Down Under- BBQ and Tents
I dont care if it's Girly, It's delicious. For taugh boys and girls
Anne Marie explaining the logic of local production
Flea market Rockleigh
It got a bit strange
Capalaba for example has the most “Cash converters” – places where one can sell stuff to get quick – small money.
George Petelin, Emma, Ivan and John
Suburbia, in between shopping
It was a highly interesting trip. Also for many of the Brisbane locals. But it was difficult to think about interventions. (Non) Places were big. Difficult to get in touch with people outside of designated commercial areas.
Participation is key and the public has a right to participate for very pragmatic reasons. The idea that not only the affordances of physical environments are changed by development, but that human experiences are proscribed and defined in doing so is elaborated by Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey. Harvey argues that the right to the city ‘is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization’ (Harvey, 2008).
We were interested in public qualities- communicative potentials where space would get agency in the sense that an agent could affect change by empowering others through communicative action, enabling them to relate to space and their environments in new ways, in ways not previously available or not known to them. We were interested in intervening in public space, in the dynamics through which space gets negotiated, contested, constructed. Where intersections between what Anthony Giddens calls mutual knowledge and discursive consciousness could be created and then taken further in to a living spatial interface mediated by dialogic communication.
But first, intervention needs to happen, as conditions for dialogue are not given.
The three groups worked on various levels and choose different approaches that informed and designed their socially responsive communication. The creative process was guided by a specific curatorial process that worked as a "cultural context provider" as well on a level of direct selection and creative guidance.
The first group: DEBTOSCOPE
We discussed debt in detail, and all agreed that it is important to speak to the emotional side of debt in order to engage people with the topic. Therefore we tried to think of questions we could ask the public - we originally narrowed it down to: 1. Suburb you live in 2. How does debt hurt you? 3. What do I really owe? These questions aimed to explore the amount of desire felt for creating a standard of living versus the amount of anxiety the person felt.
Our first approach was to create a pyschogeographic map from these responses. After discussing these questions in more depth, we decided that people would be more likely to respond to our question on the street if we only asked them one. We then narrowed it down to asking simply, “How does debt hurt you?” Instead of simply approaching people on the street with a brochure or a clipboard, we began to brainstorm ways in which we could engage the public. This was when the idea of the Debtoscope was created.
The Debtoscope is a giant stethoscope, which plays on the metaphor of doctors healing problems. It also plays on the idea that we need to investigate the SCOPE of DEBT.
The idea was that we could approach people on the street and try to heal their problems with debt by creating discussion around the topic of how debt hurts them.
The DEBT doctors' meeting- Ashlea, Jordan, Elliot, Soren, John, David
Infront of Brisbane's Casino
Some answers we got from people:
I’m always thinking about it. I have loans and credit card debt, it’s like a cloud that always hangs over your head.
I feel so depressed seeing people at the pokies.
Debt where they chase you, that’s bad, I have that.
I have a huge debt to my parents that isn’t financial.
Right now, I have -$11 dollars in my bank account. I have never told anyone about this, even my family. I took out $24,000 in a loan and I lost it all in a scam. I don’t want to look like a fool.
I’m behind in life, simply because I have a nice car.
Being in debt and not being able to get out of it is terrible for anyone. Financially, people are struggling everywhere. I only have mortgage debt and student loan debt. We calculated that, with regular payments, we will be paying our student loans off until both our kids are at university. That kind of hurts
Concept 2#– Bandaid
We also wanted to find a way to represent these answers in a way that could potentially engage people beyond putting them on the internet. Our solution fit in with the metaphor of being a physician, and we decided that we should try to make the city bleed and cover it with the answers from the public. We thought that this also fit in well with the idea that us asking the questions, and putting up the posters is actually a bandaid solution to the problem and may have had no real affects. Although it is hard to gauge how much impact our posters would have on people.
Jack Loel and Soren Rosenbak cutting posters
We make Assholes human again group
The second group was working on several things. One was a poster and sticker campaign. Somehow inspired by the difficulties of a intervention related to surveillance and control the group was also working on a fake intervention, that could in principle generate a viral effect. And there was a number of projects done in a rather poetic manner by Vladimir Turner with a little help from his friends.
Oliver, Vladimir and Ben
Exploring debt and morality, sin, life and death this group has decided to translate this relations to the poster and sticker medium. Two posters playing with the words "Debt/Death Sentence" and "Debt/Death wish" were created. Working on the concept of participation as well, the posters invite the audience to decipher its many multilayered messages while supporting the rhetoric word- play with concise textual arguments. For some the posters, with the many letter combinations and colour relations were a bit psychedelic.. And almost like a pin ball mind game. :)
Manfred, Rachel and Emma- first poster print A4 mockups.
Emma and John
Ivan and John
And than there was this funny guy, who started all this actions while we were doing our own stuff. Banner drop form Brisbane Comonwealth bank building and Facebook campaign... We tried to get in touch with him, but he never replayed. He just kept on doing his own stuff... Jonathan Banks- but we were somehow connected.
Vladimir Turner used Brisbane as a playground for his poetic interventions. He worked with various media, from video to performance, and remixing urban material culture.
He saved 200 lives and got his nails done. He planted trees and discovered a secred parking space. And he also wants us to stop working. Bellow is the Brisneyland series that was created.
200 Lives saved
Check Guy getting nails done by illegal Vietnamese worker in Australia
No boomerang effect (performance)
Dont Work banner next to QCA
Grey street- the name of the street where QCA is. The street is a bit boring. Hence the work "Grey Street palet".
Everything is Fine
Revealing DEBT deceit
The third group played with a spectacular idea. The plan was to use the Southbank Wheel and turn it in to a pie chart graph that would show Brisbane DEBT related data- especially data in regards to missinformation presented by the current Campbell Newman Government. The plan was to hire the wheel, to light the cabins in different colours to represent different data, to make a series of good photographs and than get them to the media. The "biggest pie chart in the world" and similar titles would get this in to the media for sure.
The problem was with realisation as it turned out to be very complicated to pull off all the logistics.
So, a day before the intervention the group had to rethink and came up with a very good tactical media approach. Campbell Newman's (premier of Queensland) CASINO. A campaign in a series of cards commenting the "gambling with our future" through DEBT in Brisbane, supported by a special web site that gives more information about the problem and offers the cards for download and distribution. See the cards bellow. Access the web site here: http://campbellscasino.wordpress.com and spread the media and get involved!
As part of the event and intervention 120 copies of the Zine Consumed were produced and are being distributed in Brisbane. Consumed is the work from QCA student Ashlea Gleeson. The Zine was created in the Visual Communication Design 3 course and submitted to Memefest, where it got curated among the best submissions. The Zine deals with DEBT related mental health issues and shows original stories of young people in Brisbane.
Have a look at the submission and the curatorial feedback Ashlea received here: http://www.memefest.org/en/gallery/works2012/936/
Beautifully printed on the Risograph printer you can find it if you will want to in Brisbane. You can also download you own final and improved version here: http://www.mediafire.com/?wb08ajbjk3nja1n
Indebted to Intervene
Indeed, this is how we felt since we started to work on DEBT. We have to intervene: to learn, to reflect, to create... there is no other option. The alternative is to loose the little autonomy modern societies of control allow us as individuals- or in the language of DEBT- us as enterpreneours- of-the-selves.
The Memefest/QCA Workshop/Seminar/Intervention worked as a social medium. In the end the majority of us wanted the event to continue, wanted more of this.
It was lot's of fun. It was inspirational and beautiful ten days that reviled many things. DEBT in Brisbane was the main one but not the only one. DEBTfest was good. We were able to create many good communication works. We were able to visualise DEBT in Brisbane. We established new relations, new connections and new micro platforms for future collaboration. We established new friendships. Some of us see the institution that hosted DEBTfest and its inner relations in new light. Most of us see Brisbane in new light. We learned a lot. DEBT was an incredibly difficult topic. It is highly complex, amorphous, invisible and therefore hard to grasp, to intervene and to think about. But this results - with all of the limitations- show a beautiful, deep, strong and many times difficult process. One that will need to grow and improve for larger effects, one that started a new and exciting process and was able to imagine, investigate and intervene.
Glue and "blood" colour
George Petelin and Eleni Kalantidou
Memefest/QCA Awardees Soren Rosenbak and Ivan Kozenitzky
Ashlea, Emma, John, Shaun, Elliot and Johnny Walker
Socially responsive communication opens space for public dialogue, establishes co-operative communities, promotes active participation in social and cultural processes, and opens new communication channels. Further to this, and in order to communicate in a socially responsible manner, it stimulates critical reflection upon one's own communicative effects on society and culture. The major strength of socially responsive communication concepts is their constant tendency to operate around an optimal relation of communicative efficiency and social responsibility.
The condition of public sphere and the nature of predominant communication
practices require a thorough reconsideration of the evaluation standards of what is
widely considered good communication, as well as the development of new concepts,
which will analyze both the current state of critical communication practices as well
as anticipate their future development.
Socially responsive communication consists of different communication approaches. They operate on different social fields and are in productive conflict with each other. This concept overcomes the usual hermetic discourses of critique, while ideally not falling in the trap of cooptation.
As a communication and design theory, practice and praxis SRC creates conflict or it reveals hidden conflicts that are usually made unseen by the processes of imposed consensus, driven by marketing based advertising and design practice. Such conflicts happen mostly on the semiotic level- not always. They are necessary because conditions for dialogue are not given in the first place.
These conflicts are inherent to the theory and practice and are part of the research process, theoretical practice as well as its practical- hands on and other types of implementation. Not rarely Socially Responsive Communication provokes conflicts within the community that practices it. This is good as its aim is to change the habitus from a particular professional culture to a more critical- or better public communication culture, if I refer to public sociology (Burrawoy 2007). Its aim is to go beyond institutional boundaries. In our case first the flawed ones of the profession, second the hermetic ones of academia and work in close dialogic relation with various communities around fundamental values. Still remaining its reflexive practice that is necessary to maintain its theoretical practice driven objectivity. So, as much as Socially responsive communication is about dialogue and creating conditions for dialogue as an effect of its public engagement, as much dialogue is necessary to practice it successfully.
More about the workshops/seminar/intervention concept here: http://tinyurl.com/9a9x8qf
More about the workshop/seminar/intervention pre preparation activities here:http://tinyurl.com/as5d4vz
More about the Memefest/Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention here: http://tinyurl.com/8od38yk
First Memefest/Queensland College of Art extradisciplinary workshop/seminar/intervention, here in Brisbane, happened in late November. We invited a diverse international group to research DEBT further, to learn about it's relation to Brisbane and to intervene.
The collaborators, participants, mentors and conspirators were Ashlea Gleeson, Jack Loel, Darcy Mangan, Belinda Li, John Nicholson, Emma Bergman, Anna May, Charles Mayfield, Jordan McGuire, Yeuk Nam Lee, Elliot Crombie, Manfred Huber, Ben Mangan, Eleni Kalantidou, Ivan Kozenitzky, Vladimír Turner, Soeren Rosenbak, Zoe Yakimoff, Melanie Gupta, David Sargent, Jason Grant, Tony Fry, Anne-Marie Willis, Shaun Cruickshank, George Petelin and Oliver Vodeb.
A extensive blog post will follow here end of next week. For now a few photos from the ten days of good work and fun. It was great and very insightful. Congratulations and a big and warm thank you to everyone involved!!!
Brisbane has provided a temporary (if tempestuous) home for our community of students, professionals, artists, researchers, educators, and activists to assemble and discuss how we can combat alienation and reclaim the public sphere for dialogue on issues of debt.
A great but exhausting few days so far starting with presentations of work by the Memefest "Imaginative Critical Intervention" award winners. Rather than a parade of contextless and heroic images, these practitioners opened up their philosophies and tactics, sparking extended discussion about socially responsive practice and its relationship to debt (heroically pushing into lunch time). Their wide range of approaches rhilight the importance of creative tactics when working for 'from-below' change. Selected students curated by Memefest also provided examples of critical thinking and social engagement that are encouraging to see within contemporary design education. All of this was informed by presentations and discussion by thinkers and theorists about design/art and its relationship to debt.
After discussing debt and Brisbane in depth we have identified some general themes to frame research for intervention. These include:
- debt and alienation
- hidden debt
- the naturalisation of debt, including its system of 'morality'
- the exploitation of debt in the rhetoric of policy-makers
- debt as it relates to indigenous exploitation
- debt as it relates to lifestyle, entertainment, and status
- and more... (please feel free to use the comments to add or correct).
After framing all of these issues as they relate to us, and to the communities from which we come, we are today travelling around Brisbane to observe the psychogeography for ourselves. By visiting as many communities as possible we are hoping to explore sites of hidden debt that are whitewashed by Brisbane's clean and regulated facade.
What (who) is hidden? By whom? For what purpose? What are the possibilities for awareness, agency, and emancipation?
Dear all Memefest/QCA DEBT Workshop/Seminar participants- two more days and we start. See you soon.
DAY one 15 November 15th:
9 am- @ Queensland College of Art
Welcome and Introduction to the Workshop/Seminar (Oliver Vodeb), introduction of participants.
Presentation of Memefest/QCA Awardees:
10.00 Vladimir Turner: Wonderland series
10.40 Soren Rosenbak: Surplus Debt
11.20 Ivan Kozenitzky: Call Center Experience!
12.00 12h-12.40 Mark Andrejevic: DEBT and surveillance
13-14h Lunch Break
14h-14.40 George Petelin: Cyber-DEBT, Usury, and Political Bullying
14.40-15.40 Anne Marrie Willis & Tony Fry: Understanding DEBT in restricted and general economy
15.40-16.20 Oliver Vodeb: DEBT: The City and Interspatial counter practice
Evening: Photography Graduate exhibition at QCA
Indebted to Intervene- Discussion: George Petelin, Tony Fry, Oliver Vodeb, Anne Marie Willis, Jason Grant;
Memefest curated DEBT projects presentations
Ashlea Gleeson: Consumed
Darcy Mangan: Change your mind. Change our world.
Belinda Li: Debt Machine
Emma Bergman: Read Between the Lines
13.00- 14.00 Lunch Break
Charles Mayfield: Savers Credit Card
Luke Robertson & Aaron Gillett: Tunnel Vision
14.30-16.00 Start of Group work
Evening: Design Graduate exhibition at QCA
10.00 – 13.00 Group Work: research
14.00 – 16.00 Change of location for the afternoon- Public space in West End- to be announced.
DAY4: Discussion on Brisbane + Buss tour. Group work on the tour
DAY5 November 19h: Free. Potentially a tour to the Gold coast, but free of organised work at QCA.
10.00 Back to QCA: Conceptualisation, presentation and discussion of concepts. Production.
Evening: Meeting somewhere outside, party, getting to know each other, strategizing for the future.
DAY7: QCA 10.00 Production
DAY8: QCA 10.00 Production and implementation
DAY9: Brisbane various locations 10.00 Implementation on location. Documentation of implementation
DAY10: QCA 10.00 Presentation, evaluation, discussion; strategizing for the future. Evening: celebration
More about the workshops/seminar concept here: http://tinyurl.com/9a9x8qf
More about the workshop/seminar pre preparation activities here: http://tinyurl.com/as5d4vz
More about the Memefest/Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention here: http://tinyurl.com/8od38yk
Dear all, a bit more than two weeks and we will all meet in beautiful Brisbane!
We will have enough time to collaboratively reflect on the many issues of DEBT at the workshop. However as announced we will collaboratively investigate some sources that will be of help for our work before the actual meeting.
Here are three documentaries, necessary to watch, as they relate directly to our work and we need to establish some more common ground before we begin.
Debtocracy and Catastroika are both Greek documentaries. Debtocracy (part of which we have used in this years friendly competition outlines) shows DEBT in relation to nation states, changing societies, economic warfare and also provides examples of refusal and alternatives. Catastroika shows the underlying pattern of DEBT- the destruction of public sphere, space, and public ownership. It makes clear that we are in the process of the biggest robbery of human history fuelled by DEBT.
The third documentary titled THE NET (Das Netz) shows an alternative Cybernetic history. The ultra rationalized discourse of cybernetics has not only played a profound influence on modern science and our psyche but it is also highly entangled with avant- garde artistic culture and Utopian aspirations of the Internet.
DEBT is only partly enforced by humans. Yes, it is humans who take the billions and billions of profits and it is humans who loose everything they have along this way. But it is machines, algorithms, cybernetic systems, networked technologies that automatically push forward a system that has run out of control.
Have a look at them and make connections. Start thinking about DEBT in/and Brisbane. Have a look at the research that has been done so far here: http://www.memefest.org/en/gallery/works2012/
Your pre workshop thoughts on all this are very welcome – use the comment space of this blog post bellow.
Read more about the workshop concept here: http://tinyurl.com/9a9x8qf
Read more about the Memefest/Queensland College of Art Award for Imaginative Critical Intervention here: http://tinyurl.com/8od38yk
We are very excited to see you all soon and work with you! Workshop will take place from November 15th to November 25th. We will start on November 15th at 10am. We will be based at the Queensland College of Art. A concrete schedule of the workshop will be sent to all participants via email in the next ten days.
Let us know if there is anything else you need to know.
Hey, welcome to the official Memefest blog!
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oliver | 1 day, 12 hours ago
oliver | 3 weeks, 1 day ago
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