Day 2, Stream 1
Brogan Bunt: University of Wollongong, Australia
Glenn D’Cruz: Deakin University, Australia
Dirk de Bruyn: Deakin University, Australia
Zoe Scrogings: Australia
Dale Kongmont: Artist, APNSW – Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers & Global Network For Sex Worker Projects, Thailand
Pip Shea: Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Leah Barclay: Griffith University, Australia
Jehan Kanga: Australia
Shakthi Sivanathan: Curious Works, Australia
Amin Ansari: Flinders University, Australia
Glenn D’Cruz & Dirk de Bruyn OCCUPY This: an Interpersonal Dialogue
This performative, multi-media provocation re-reads Guy Debord’s book, The Society of the Spectacle (1967) with reference to the global Occupy movement, and the role social media and the Internet play in the facilitation and hindrance of this recent form of political activism. Debord claims that all ‘having’ — that is, all forms of accumulating capital — ‘derives its immediate prestige and its ultimate purpose from appearances’, and that individual reality, which is shaped by social forces, can ‘appear only if it is not actually real (Debord, thesis 18).’ Using the multiple functions and staggering proliferation of various image making technologies used to record and represent OCCUPY actions as a starting point, we respond to Debord’s proposition by examining the ways his analysis of the spectacle both enables and impedes a thorough critique of social media as a spectacular technology par excellence. Part reflective essay, part critical analysis, and part performance, ‘Click if You Like This’ connects various situationist strategies of ‘artistic interference’ — such as the dérive and détournement — with expanded cinema in order to generate a series of questions and provocations about the politics of place, the degradation of social space, networked images and the ubiquity of contemporary ‘spectacular’ technologies, which have colonized all forms of everyday life. This presentation questions whether contemporary forms and strategies of interference are the same as their historical precedents.
Zoe Scrogings & Dale Kongmont Sex Workers, Info-Activism and Human Rights
“Revolutionaries do not make revolutions! The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and when they can pick it up.”
― Hannah Arendt
Sex Workers, after being denied visa’s to travel to the US because of travel restrictions imposed by the US Government to attend the annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, staged an alternative conference in Kolkata, India. The five day “Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival” ensured sex workers’ a voice and their right to meaningfully participate in issues that affect their lives. This alternative event made visible the on-going exclusion of sex workers to address the need, for sex workers to be seen as partners in HIV prevention, treatment and care. Over the 5 days a highly successful campaign, that embraced info-activism and co-creative digital media, engaged local and international media. The issues and demands of sex workers became front page news and stories shared via social media. The vibrant and diverse global sex worker movement unrestricted, ready for download.
How has the changing digital media landscape affected activists and storytellers in their pursuits of positive social change? What are the impacts? And what is the future role of of the community-based artist/activist in uncovering ‘untouched’ and ‘touchy’ subjects?
Pip Shea: Resistance is Feral: Digital Culture, Community Arts, and the New Cultural Gatekeepers
The Community Arts sector in Australia has a history of resistance. It has persistently challenged cultural hegemonies through encouraging and facilitating grassroots creativity and arts production: contesting notions of artistic processes, and the role of the artist in society. This paper examines community arts’ penchant for resistance under the lens of contemporary digital culture, to establish the notion that the sector is continuing to challenge dominant forms of cultural control. It then proposes that this enthusiasm and activity, when it is situated in the realm of digital networks, lacks ethical direction. The paper describes this state of play as feral, to encompass the excitement and possibility associated with current practices, but also to highlight how a certain level of taming is needed in order to develop ethical approaches.
The paper draws on research findings that demonstrate that community artists’ Internet practices would benefit from increased awareness of the structures and dynamics of digital networks, in order to determine the emergent forms of cultural gatekeeping associated with digital culture. This idea is grounded in scholarly debates surrounding the relationship between human agency, and the agency inherent in network technology: the hardware and software facilitating network activity.
This idea that technologies are a form of cultural gatekeeper has not been sufficiently dealt with by the community arts sector. Participatory media brings with it new barriers to creative expression, but what do we know about these new manifestations of cultural control? How are they affecting the most disenfranchised members of society (the target cohort of community artists)? Are they contributing to a new form of ‘digital divide’? The paper investigates these questions to help practitioners develop more nuanced understandings of resistance in the community arts context – specifically the interplay of human and non-human agency that turns network participation in to culture.
Amin Ansari: Green Art: New Media Aesthetics in Pre- and Post-Election Events in Iran
Digital media played a very significant role in anti-government protests in Middle East in last three years (e.g. Iran, Egypt, Syria, etc.). It has changed the rules of political struggles and established new expectations and rules of confrontation for both protesters and authoritarian governments in the region. The Iranian Green Movement – a grassroots political movement – developed during the crisis period following the 2009 presidential election. As well as being an information channel and a way of organizing the protesters, digital media has had a third important function within the crisis; it has provided an artistic outlet, a means of expression for people who lack freedom of political expression.
I am currently developing an online exhibition, “Green Art”, which will comprise: a curated exhibition of digital art and other works developed during the post-election crisis period, situated alongside participants’ accounts of the role of these works in the development of the Green Movement. The exhibition will present artworks that were circulating publicly online in the period 2009-2011, including works created by digital means and those created by analogue tools and distributed digitally (e.g. paintings, cartoons, animations, video clips, poems, etc.).
“Green Art” will document one aspect of the role of new media in politics, presenting a moment in history through the combination of aesthetic works and oral history. The project will not seek to offer users an authentic sense of how it was on the streets of Iran. Instead, it aims to offer source material and a repository to which different users can respond in their own ways. Addressing both Iranian and non-Iranian audiences will further provide the chance to study the dynamics of cross-cultural responses to highly charged political experiences.
Leah Barclay, Jehan Kanga & Shakthi Sivanathan The DAM(N) Project: The validity of community engagement, social activism and digital technology in interdisciplinary art practice
The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around the common concern of global water security. The project was conceived and developed by Sydney based producer Jehan Kanga, Queensland based composer Leah Barclay and Shakthi Sivanathan, the director of Curious Works in Sydney. The first stage of the project involved working directly with remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dams securing hydropower for Indian cities. The construction of large dams on the River Narmada and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India. In the initial phase the team collaborated with Attakalari, India’s leading contemporary dance company who selected dancers to participate in the field research and create site-specific choreography. The project team collected a rich diversity of audio-visual material, interviewed the key activists involved in the Narmada Protests and facilitated workshops in digital technology and dance for the local community. The DAM(N) project uses the many viewpoints and the living culture in the affected areas as building blocks for the creative process.
Water scarcity is a significant issue for both Australia and India and the issue of controlling and managing hydrological systems is extremely politicised in both countries due to the cultural and economic significance of these systems. We wish to contrast the strikingly similar experiences in Australia and India around water management and showcase the value of digital technology and creative collaborations as a framework to inspire change, activism and ultimately a future where these communities will have a voice. The artistic outcomes range from immersive installations to dance productions all underpinned by the idea that innovative art is both a tool for community empowerment and cultural change.