Tags, Ties and Affective Spies - Athens - 18 March- 31 August 2009

Exploring the landscape of web 2.0, 'Tags, Ties and Affective Spies' brings together a collection of works which investigate this qualitative space and presents 'a critical approach on the social media of our times' [1]. Curated by Daphne Dragona, at the National Museum for Contemporary Art in Athens, this is an international perspective and sometimes a rich one, in terms of the quality of works and their presentation.

Malcolm Le Grice has written about what makes computing unique as a medium, and one of the aspects he identified was the fact that any informational address is 'equidistant' [2] to another, due to random access memory. 'Tagging' is one of the applications of this quality, and essentially it is sorting and linking information, or qualitative aspects of data.

The interface, to this online exhibition, has been carefully designed, with an information cloud of terms relating to web 2.0, 'the social web', like: 'share'; 'facebook'; 'affection'; 'statistic' and 'product placement'. As Alessandro Ludovico puts it in his text for the exhibition, "We feel our identity not anymore as an indivisable whole, but as composed of different pieces that are deeply and reciprocally influenced by our online experience." [3]

In ' Winning Information', Jodi, Netherlands based Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, challenge the user with their 'subvertion' of the site. Their bookmarks include super 8mm film footage on Youtube, search results from Google, Bar Code art, The Ten Most Hated Words on the Internet, Death by 1000 Papercuts and other sites. They use the site to create a detournement for the user, which is a classic technique of net art style. There are 474 bookmarked links, which are more than enough to immerse the user in Jodi's view of the net.

Personal Cinema and The Erasers, based in Greece, have developed an online, multiuser game called 'Folded In', which is all about the Youtube 'video war', where people have been found to bring their prejudices and anti-social views to the internet, where they compete for attention on Youtube. Like 'A Tag's Life', a project from the Netherlands which historically documents Flickr, the online photography platform, 'Folded In' requires some downloading of software and plug-ins.

'IOU.s', by Wayne Clements in the UK, also utilizes the website, in terms of continuously receiving 'user notes' into the program. These appear and fade on the screen, and it is hypnotic, much like 'We Feel Fine', by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar in the USA. This program harvests 'human feelings from a large number of weblogs' [4]. These are fascinating works, giving a sense of dynamic connectivity to the net.

Grégory Chatonsky's 'L'attente - the waiting', France, is 'the story of the internet machine that feeds on our lives daily' [5]. Using sentences from web users, random words taken from these sentences and pre-recorded video of passengers waiting in a train station, Chatonsky's work combines moving image with information flow and program. The video footage segments are looped and mixed with text, sound, and images from Flickr. You never see the work the same way twice. Unlike IOU.s and We Feel Fine, it does more with the data to create what feels like a more authored aesthetic experience. This is soft cinema, and perhaps part of a revolution to affect the moving image. The underlying technique is to program the database of footage and other visual and auditory material to generate endless possibilities by extensively 'tagging' the material, programming the code to sort and link the data.

L'attente addresses a lack of narrative in an abstract sense, in the possible soft cinematic age, while 'The Big Plot' looks at the generation of narrative online in recombinant fictional terms. The Big Plot is a concept by Paolo Cirio, Italy, 'a romantic spy story played on the info-sphere' [6], looking at the political use of social networks. There are four characters played by actual actors. They appear in a 'performative matrix' across the net, on social network platforms: Youtube; Flickr ; Twitter; Facebook; Livejournal, etc. In this way a recombinant fictional reality is convincingly generated which simultaneously maps the social network spaces of the net.

There is also work by Subvertr, Italy, with their 'Les Liens Invisible', which provides a true antidote to social media, and Christophe Bruno, France, contributes the Dadameter, which is a 'global index of the decay of the aura of language' [7]. Ramsay Stirling, USA, critiques the economic and cultural power of the net with 'Internet Delivers People'.

As Juan Martin Prada writes in the accompanying text, Forms of Resistance, "The management of sociability and personal interactions is one of the main drivers of the bio-political production inherent to the business model of 'social media'..." [8] People be warned!

Sarah Thompson


[1] Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,

[2] Malcolm Le Grice, Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age, p 315

[3] Alessandro Ludovico, Identity as a Multilayered Self in Web 2.0 Environments,

[4] Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,

[5] Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,

[6] Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,

[7] Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,

[8] Juan Martin Prada, Forms of Resistance, Tags, Ties and Affective Spies,