Tactics & Practice #5:
Proper and Improper Names
Identity in the Information Society
Talks | Performance | Screening | Publication
17–18 October 2017
Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, Ljubljana
What aesthetic and political strategies may counter the quest for collecting data and measuring and predicting human behaviour, characteristic of informational capitalism?
This conference addresses this question by bringing together theorists, artists, writers, and performers who have forged concepts, aesthetic codes, and authoring strategies that tend to escape measurement and attribution.
Continuing Aksioma’s long-running investigation into the problems of identity and authorship in the age of networks, Proper and Improper Names explores modes of intervention that cannot be reduced to individual or collective identities. Rather, in shuttling between the I and the We, as well as the multiple dimensions of the self, these experiments exceed state and market attempts at measuring and producing the subject as a stable political, biological, and epistemological unit.
Improper Names, Con-Dividual Subjectivities
The conference is inspired by Marco Deseriis’ book Improper Names: Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous. Deseriis will introduce the conference by offering a genealogy of the “improper name,” which he defines as the adoption of the same pseudonym by organized collectives, affinity groups, and individual authors. Examples of collective pseudonyms include Ned Ludd, the fictional leader of the English Luddites; Alan Smithee, a shared signature used by Hollywood film directors to disown movies that have been re-cut against their will; Luther Blissett, a fictional media prankster, collective author, and anti-copyright activist; and the hacktivist group Anonymous. Deseriis’s central argument is that an improper name is a form of symbolic power that destabilizes the boundaries between the We and the I as the original creators of the alias lose control of its intended function to unforeseen uses. To express this tension between practices that are neither collective nor individual, Deseriis uses the notion of “condividuality”, a form of association that does not presuppose a community or a common intentionality, but only a concatenation of parts.
Every Beginning Is Dividual
The concept of condividuality is also central to the recent work of Austrian philosopher Gerald Raunig, author of Dividuum. Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution (2016). According to Raunig, a “dividual” is a singularity that is divisible and governed by the principle of similarity. As compared to the individual, which is governed by the principle of dissimilarity and distinction, a dividual can be easily combined with other dividuals that share some properties with it. Raunig argues that the “condividual assemblages” that emerge from the concatenation of multiple dividuals can be found everywhere in the online world, from the large data sets known as Big Data to financial transactions to networks of infected computers that share their processing power unbeknownst to their users. A conversation between Deseriis and Raunig will introduce a debate on how the notions of the improper and the condividual can help us rethink identity and collective action at a time in which many forms of association are automated, involuntary, and governed by algorithms.
Collaborative Authorship and Condividuality in the Wu Ming Foundation
Wu Ming 1, a member of the Italian “band of novelists” Wu Ming, will explore the question of authorship from an unconventional angle. Wu Ming is the main offshoot of Luther Blissett—a collective pseudonym used by dozens of artists and activists in the 1990s—and a literary workshop that experiments with hybrid narrative genres such as the historic novel and non-fiction written with literary techniques. Wu Ming (“No Name” in Mandarin) has developed a model of authorship that is both collective and individual, as it is linked to collectively authored novels as well as works authored under five individual pseudonyms (Wu Ming 1, Wu Ming 2, and so forth). Rather than seeing individual and collective authorship as alternative to one another, Wu Ming 1 will explain how in-group and networked collaborations with other authors, friends, and readers across multiple media channels have allowed them to develop a condividual and transmedia mode of storytelling.
Prospective Collectives: Animating the Shared Self
Natalie Bookchin’s presentation will explore the notion of condividuality through an aesthetic analysis of the current status of the networked image. In recent years, Bookchin’s work has focused on the creation of online and offline video installations that combine hundreds of YouTube video clips in which ordinary people present themselves before an audience. From teenage girls who dance alone in their rooms to minority groups who reflect upon racial segregation and poverty, these individuals are simultaneously isolated from each other and connected to each other. Yet it is only when Bookchin aligns these personal video diaries in a matrix that emphasizes the recurrence of bodily and linguistic expressions that their connectedness comes to the fore. In this respect, Bookchin’s presentation will allow participants to discuss condividuality as a form of connection and concatenation that proceeds from individual to individual without necessarily passing through a shared narrative or communitarian mythology.
Kristin Sue Lucas
A New York-based artist, Lucas became the most current version of herself in October 2007, when she succeeded in legally changing her name from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas in a Superior Court of California courtroom. On the name change petition that she submitted, she wrote “Refresh” as the reason for the change, to evoke the refreshing of a web page. Since then, the artist has created the Refresh Archive (2013 – ongoing), a collection of newspaper clippings, courtroom drawings, official documents, performance documentation, and portraits of the artist before and after the refresh, and used the transcript of the courtroom sessions to develop an ongoing series of performances, the Refresh Cold Reads (2007 – ongoing), where guest readers are cast into the roles of Kristin and the Judge based on their personal backgrounds. In Ljubljana, the re-enactment will be exceptionally done by Kristin Sue Lucas in the role of Kristin Sue Lucas and by actor Dražen Dragojević in the role of the Judge. Dražen Dragojević has been, among other things, the main character and the narrative voice in the documentary film My Name is Janez Janša (2012).
I-Be Area (2007)
All the characters in the movie are live manifestations of the different online personas of one single individual, offering a sharp visualization of the impact of social networking on individual and collective identity. As the artist explains it, “the basic idea of the film is that what identifies people is not necessarily their bodies anymore; it’s all the relationships they maintain with others. You are your area, rather than you are yourself. If someone describes you, that description becomes a part of your area, whether you like it or not.”
Marco Deseriis is Marie Curie Fellow at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, and Assistant Professor in Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. He is the author of Improper Names: Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous (2015), a book that examines the contentious politics and the struggles for control of a shared alias from the early nineteenth century to the age of networks. Funded by a research grant of the European Commission, his current research project examines the rise of Internet-based forms of participatory democracy in Europe. In 2008, Deseriis co-authored Net.Art: L’arte della Connessione, the first Italian book about Internet art. His writings can be accessed at https://neu.academia.edu/MarcoDeseriis.
Gerald Raunig is a philosopher and art theorist. He works at the Zürich University of the Arts, and the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp), Vienna. He is a co-editor of the multilingual publishing platform Transversal Texts and the Austrian journal Kamion. He is the author of Dividuum: Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution, Vol. 1., (2016), Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity (2014), A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as Social Movement (2010) and Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century (2009), all published by Semiotext(e)/MIT Press. He has also co-edited Critique of Creativity (2011) and Art and Contemporary Critical Practice (2009), both published by mayflybooks. His books have been translated into Serbian, Spanish, Slovenian, Russian, Italian, Dutch and Turkish. Many of his writings can be accessed at http://transversal.at.
Wu Ming is the pseudonym of a group of Italian authors, launched in 2000 from an offshoot of the Luther Blissett project. Unlike the multiple-use name Luther Blissett, Wu Ming stands for a defined but variable group of authors (ranging from three to five, depending on the period), active in various fields of literature and cultural activism. Since 2000, the members of Wu Ming have authored several best-selling novels, such as Q (signed as Luther Blissett), 54, Manituana, Altai, and The Army of Sleepwalkers, which have been translated into several languages. The most recent work of Wu Ming 1, No Promise This Trip Will Be Short,is an extensive investigation of the No Tav anti-high speed rail movement in Val di Susa, Italy. Wu Ming’s writings can be accessed at http://wumingfoundation.tumblr.com.
Natalie Bookchin is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York, and a Professor of Media and Associate Chair of the Visual Arts Department at the Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts. Her work is exhibited widely, including at MoMA, LACMA, PS1, Mass MOCA, the Walker Art Center, the Pompidou Centre, MOCA Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum, the Tate, and Creative Time. She has received numerous grants and awards, including from Creative Capital, the California Arts Council, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Durfee Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Daniel Langlois Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. Her most recent work Now he’s out in public and everyone can see premiered at Cinema du Reel at the Pompidou in Paris in March 2017. Her previous work, Long Story Short, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and won the Grand Prize at Cinema du Reel in Paris in 2016.
Kristin Lucas is an artist working in the realms of digital art, video, performance, intervention, sculpture, and installation. Her work has been exhibited in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, New York, and in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Artists Space, San Jose Museum of Art, ZKM and at festivals in Amsterdam, Berlin, Mexico City, Montreal, Toronto, New York and San Francisco. She has had solo exhibitions at the Postmasters Gallery, the Or Gallery, JEMA, Windows, the O.K Center for Contemporary Art, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technologies, [Plug in] Basel, and the Institute for Contemporary Art Philadelphia. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Colbert Foundation Award for Media Arts, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant for Video and Performance, and the Urban Visionaries Award for Emerging Talent. Her single channel videos are distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix, New York. Lucas lives in Oakland and New York.
Ryan Trecartin was born in 1981 in Webster, Texas, and raised in rural Ohio, where he designed costumes and sets for theatre productions in high school. He is known for videos such as A Family Finds Entertainment (2004), I-Be Area (2007),and Sibling Topics (Section A) (2009), and has been collaborating with artist Lizzie Firtch since 2000. Trecartin has received numerous awards and his work has been exhibited at theSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts Philadelphia, ZKM, the Whitney Biennial and several other venues. Some of Trecartin’s films and videos can be accessed at http://www.ubu.com/film/trecartin.html.
Curated by Marco Deseriis
Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2017
CUK Kino Šiška
The conference is realized in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), the Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).
the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana, Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Slovenia.
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.
Media sponsors: Radio Študent, TAM-TAM
Janez Janša, Janez Janša, Janez Janša
Curated by Domenico Quaranta
18 October 2017–18 February 2018
+MSUM – Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana