[iDC] Vision

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sat Dec 10 13:18:11 EST 2005

My initial post searched for a personal answer to the question of what
activism means for me. How can I live with as few compromises as possible?
This question has to be revitalized, refreshed over and over. I live many
contradictions. Who does not? We kiss-goodbye the traditional art world and
then write lengthy articles about museum's stuff. Rather than coming up with
large programmatic ideas (as important as they are) - I'm most curious about
direct implementations of our high ideals and agendas. Life in the developed
world is marked by the networked condition. It would be an ambitious, hard
project to hide from this.  There is the always-on mode, and the sustained
reference to the net-work. Brian's essay of the flexible personality
describes the dark side of that condition. He effectively critiques the hell
of the networked lifestyle with all its entrepreneurial opportunism and
utopian holodeck projections. But it falls short of acknowledging the
undeniable promise, in part delivered, of cooperation-enhancing
technologies. Maybe that can't be all done in one essay but I'm weary of the

The extreme sharing networks that I mentioned earlier are but a few examples
of this potential. In loose social networks such as this one I see what I
call a ³politics of inspiration.²

Radical activism for me means to acknowledge that I AM the flexible
personality, to some extent, at times. It means that I admit to complicity.
It means indeed that I recognize the other in me. This erases the
finger-pointing conceit that I often notice in revolutionary or activist
rhetoric. To acknowledge my involvement makes the handy grouping of camps
harder if not impossible.

To an extent, I wonder, how much our own biographies mess with our
generalized political visions. If you have a hammer the world looks like a
nail. It is easier to claim snow-white innocence if you are "outside" the
institution, the university, the art world. But even there the lines blur a
great deal. The institutions' most rigorous critics resided often in the
academy. Many of the university-hating critics live of gigs at such surely
corporate institutions. I really do wonder how directly our biographies
shape our views. How planned is our life if we look at it honestly? Can it
really be defined in periods in which we dealt with issue (a) to then move
on to topic (b) four years later? I aspire to such concentration but I am
not there yet.     

There can't be a uniform answer to the question of what to resist. There are
many sites of resistance and we need to look hard to not cancel them out. If
we are too confident about our vision it may be harder to see that of the
other (and to relate to it). Personally, I locate hope in extreme sharing
networks, in discursive gatherings such as this one, in art production and
distribution, in direct human encounters with others, in the production of
texts ...  This is where I see my commitment right now. Resistance I define
for myself in defining a vision. I agree that work needs to be meaningful
and useful to others. It's hard to figure in advance what will be useful or
consequential though.


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