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Esse, Nosse, Posse - Common Wealth for Common People - National Museum of Contemporary Art - Athens - May 2010 -

"We have seen that economic rationality is applicable to the activities which meet four criteria [(a) create use value; (b) for exchange as commodities; (c) in the public sphere; (d) in a measurable amount of time, at as high a level of productivity as possible. [1]] and that the activities of the private sphere and those autonomous activities which are themselves their own end are by essence resistant to economicization. It is only by denying them their original meaning and by violating the internal logic of economic rationality itself that this can be extended to cover them." [2]

Esse, Nosse, Posse, an online exhibition curated by Daphne Dragona, looks at the 'common wealth' of the internet and its evolving peculiarites, where attention is drawn both to the rights of users and to the effects of connectivity generating a new kind of wealth. This exploration of how artists, internationally, are perceiving and developing this common ground and common wealth, is in theoretical opposition to the capitalist mega-machine reaping the extensive rewards of user's content which is the resounding characteristic of web 2.0.

Similarly to her last online show: Tags, Ties and Affective Spies, Dragona includes works which explore the political implications of accessing data flows and databases, and in doing so in artworks, making visible these possibilities of connection by allowing information flows to influence what we see on the screen in real time.

In Samuel Bianchini's All Over (2009, France), with software engineered by Oussama Mubarak, still images are affected by real time financial data. This is fed into the images' component elements, altering what is seen: the display.

Nicholas Knouf's MAICgregator (2009, USA) is a software extension which "aggregates information about colleges and universities embedded in the military-academic-industrial complex." [3] Watching the video of the MAICgregator reveals the application in the process of being used as it generates a radical reinterpretation of academic websites, collaging information drawn from various sources: government funding databases; private news sources; private press releases, etc. This exposure of 'power relationships and structures' demonstrates part of the emergence of a new style of political activism, one which addresses the question of how economic rationality is being transposed to the internet, in the form of data-mining, "the very process through which capital is formed today." [4]

What brings this to the fore is the exploitation of user content, which blurs the boundaries between private and public; autonomous activities which are an end in themselves and the heteronomous spaces of the capitalist system. Burak Arikan and Engin Erdogan's User Labor (2007, Turkey/USA) proposes the use of their code 'User Labor Markup Language'. They feel that the user should be paid for their content generation, "We propose an open data structure ... to outline the metrics of user participation in social web services." [5]

This is the realization that the social web services are heteronomous in their methods and purposes, which they disguise in terms of enabling the user to participate online, and to make something popularly useful out of the internet, and connectivity. They simply give away the illusion of autonomy for the user, to encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, for example. The private sphere is therefore now being exploited in the public sphere in a duplicitous way.

Carlos Katastrovsky's Internet Art for Poor People (2006, Austria), is a welcome relief in this regard. It looks like a piece of antiquated, conceptual in its roots, and simple and direct. We go from a '404 - Not Found' page to a link to a page which gives statistics about the global use of the internet. And this is where it becomes really challenging - realizing just how extensive it is, the different politics of all the international cultures involved; their differing uses and cultural vetos.

For the present we have to get used to the decline of a sovereign mass media. As Geert Lovink states: "... as the IT sector takes over the media industry, the cult of "free" and "open" is nothing but ironic revenge on the e-commerce madness." [6]

Michael Bielicky and Kamila B. Richter's Falling Times (2007-2009, Czech Republic/Germany), is included in this show. Their News Translation Machine, which transposes news headlines into iconic representations which tumble down the screen, is all a part of this Media/ Art identity crisis. As a comment on the changing face of the mass media this piece is a clear indicator of long term change.


Sarah Thompson 14.05.10

[1] André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, Verso, 1989,p139

[2] ibid, p173

[3] Esse, Nosse, Posse,, last accessed 13.05.10

[4] ibid

[5]Burak Arikan & Engin Erdogan,, last accessed 13.05.10

[6] Geert Lovink, I-Brain, Esse, Nosse, Posse,, last accessed 13.05.10