Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud
“…” an archeology of silence in the digital age
30 August–29 September 2017
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
In the framework of State Machines
“I have not tried to write the history of that language (A/N the language of psychiatry) but, rather, the archeology of that silence.”M. Foucault, Madness and Civilization, 1961
In an era when connectivity is taken as a given, communication is often thought of as free and boundless. As network infrastructures increasingly disappear into the environment, to always be in touch has come to be felt as natural. Posts, chats, comments and multiple instant reactions shape an image of a space where communication is immediate, vivid and often noisy. But how accessible, inclusive and democratic is this space at the same time? Overwhelmed by the busyness and speed of today’s environments, seldom do we get to reflect upon recurring forms of exclusion and absence: What about voices that cannot be heard on “feeds” and streams of information? Who gets to speak? Who listens in and who remains silent?
Artists Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud have been paying special attention to the different forms of silence that prevail on the Internet. With their work, they aim to undermine power structures while also developing tools and systems of communication for those in need. They uncover network mechanisms, expose cases of censorship and surveillance, and embrace infrastructural literacy as a response to the dominance of today’s network infrastructures. Minorities deprived of the possibility to connect, people fleeing in fear of being tracked, citizens suffering violent Internet black-outs, as well as users wishing to react to the constant capturing of their data are the ones the artists have been turning their attention to. In areas such as the suburbs of Paris, the island of Lesvos, the cities of the Arab Spring, even the very center of Berlin, they have worked alongside communities and activists to develop independent zones of communication that users themselves can control and sustain. Bringing back to the foreground what the 90s community network pioneers once called the “freedom to connect,” Wachter and Jud formulate possibilities for communication, opposing silence and exclusion.For the exhibition “…” an archeology of silence for the digital age, the artists have built a communication network similar to the ones they set up in the open space. Two network terminals and one mobile network unit, functioning independenty of the Internet are hosted in the show. Their distinctive tin-powered antennas held by minimal wooden structures allow the signal to reach great distances of connectivity. The mobile network unit – called “Gezi Park Edition” – offers citizens and users the possibility to set up a local communication network anywhere and at any time. The visibility, materiality and tangibility of these infrastructures invite us to experience the aesthetic, technological and social elements that they involve. Viewing, accessing and trying out these counter-infrastructures, we get to join different zones of connectivity that remind us of the power asymmetries as well as of our very role and silence in the connected world.
“What does the war in Syria have to do with the privacy debate in Europe? What does NSA mass surveillance have to do with a Chinese Internet café? On the one hand, we have our own specific views. On the other hand, the forms of expression are subject to a collective political, cultural, governmental and linguistic regime. In order to overcome the forms of attribution, exclusion and paternalism in our own views and expressions, we specifically address the social and cultural mechanisms of exclusion in our art projects. Our projects, such as picidae (since 2007), New Nations (since 2009) and qaul.net (since 2012), have gained worldwide interest by revolutionizing communication conditions. As open-source projects these works uncover forms of censorship of the Internet, undermine the concentration of political power and even resolve the dependency on infrastructure. The tools we provide are used by communities and activists in the USA, Europe, Australia and in countries such as Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, India, China and Thailand. Even North Korean activists participate.
This talk is a tour d’horizont to the isolated and hidden depths. Particularly in the digital age we usually forget about the exclusion and the gaps because they don’t appear in our worldview. By looking into our communication conditions, we can realize new strategies and ways to reach out to eachother.” – Christoph Wachter in Mathias Jud
Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud were both born in Zurich and live and work in Berlin. They have participated in numerous international exhibitions and have been awarded many international prizes. In particular, the projects picidae (since 2007), New Nations (since 2009) and qaul.net (since 2012) have gained worldwide interest. As open-source projects these works uncover forms of censorship of the Internet, undermine the concentration of political power and even resolve the dependency on infrastructure. The tools provided by the artists are used by communities in the USA, Europe, Australia and in countries such as Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, India, China and Thailand. Even activists from North Korea participate. In 2012 their project Hotel Gelem was awarded a prize by the Council of Europe. But not everyone is fond of these projects. China has denied Wachter and Jud entry to the country since 2013.
Daphne Dragona, born in Athens, lives and works in Berlin. She is the conference curator of transmediale festival and has been part of the team since 2015. She has collaborated with a number of institutions for exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other events. Among her curated or co-curated projects are Tomorrows: Urban Fictions for Possible Futures (Onassis Cultural Center, 2017), New Babylon Revisited (Goethe Institut Athen, 2014), Home/s (Goethe Institut Athen & Benaki Museum, 2013), Afresh: A New Generation of Greek Artists (ΕΜSΤ, 2013), Mapping the Commons, Athens (EMST, 2010) and Homo Ludens Ludens (Laboral, 2008). While exploring various fields of interest, her interest always lies in emerging or recurring artistic practices and methodologies that challenge contemporary forms of power. Her articles have been published in various books, journals, magazines and exhibition catalogs. She holds a PhD from the Faculty of Communication & Media Studies of the University of Athens.
Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud
Tools for the Next Revolution
FRI, 25 August 2017, 5 pm– 8 pm
Aksioma | Project Space, Ljubljana
The workshop is a journey into the possibilities of expression in the communication society and uncovers the narratives and power structures behind it. Participants will create their own Internet independent Wifi communication network, learn how to use it and how to extend the range of Wifi-networks with self-built antennas. MORE
In the framework of the Mladi levi festival
Authors: Christoph Wachter & Mathias Jud
Curator: Daphne Dragona
Production of the exhibition:
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2017
Production of the workshop:
Aksioma Institute and Festival Mladi levi / Zavod Bunker, Ljubljana, 2017
“…” an archeology of silence in the digital age and Tools for the Next Revolution are events realised in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.