Issue 23 : Fall 2012

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Globalistas Crack the Firewalls and Flat Screens

by Podrescu and the XLterrestrials

12 Sep 2012




The vague feeling that there has been a rapid invasion which has forced people to lead their lives in an entirely different way is now widespread; but this is experienced rather like some inexplicable change in the climate, or in some other natural equilibrium... Many see it as a civilizing invasion, as something inevitable, and even want to collaborate.

—Comments on Society of the Spectacle, Debord, 1988

We come from the first virtual colony. We have come to tell you that the ship has long-since crashed, and the newsfeed that fills your screen is just the ectoplasmic spam of the corporate Host.

—XLterrestrial psychomedia analyst, 2013


. . .


There are many who now claim that the Internet is broken, and that we must repair it! Elsewhere, on some still-bookish island, there is a tribe of punk-parental critical theorists who claim that due to the neuroplasticity of our brains (think: habitual grooves that deepen with use), the Net Generation is in danger of being swallowed alive by postmodern plantation owners, and wonder if it’s only a matter of time before we lose the ability to stay focused long enough to read a book. And no less complex and controversial, the tech-empowered communist revival has been storming the cubicle culture to announce that peer-to-peer share technologies will re-route us from the lemming-capitalist leap into the abyss.

All of these channels are sounding necessary alarms in the precarious technosphere! And yet, it feels as though there is rarely a consistent or steady patch of TANGIBLE LAND beneath their feet...

So the XLterrestrials, an arts and praxis lab currently in Berlinopolis—where the rocket fuel is still relatively cheap—decided to travel a little further out for safer refuge, and to analyze these “entirely new ways” of Society of the Spectacle 2.0 from whatever wider perspectives we could manage.

...there is a tribe of punk-parental critical theorists who claim that due to the neuroplasticity of our brains (think: habitual grooves that deepen with use), the Net Generation is in danger of being swallowed alive by postmodern plantation owners, and wonder if it’s only a matter of time before we lose the ability to stay focused long enough to read a book.

Mind you, our funding comes from the dangled arts + culture carrots, survivalist fumes, and a few loopy patrons with Yeti-sized hearts. Many of our crew, fearing for their lives, immediately defected to real jobs, or remote off-the grid communes where they could grow their own food. Others in fact never made it beyond the trending orbits, devoured by the Social Net and their myriad gadgets + apps. Occasionally they can still be seen drifting away via status updates, posting adorable cat clips on YouTube, and tripping over all the tear gas canisters or homeless people while GPS-ing their hotel coordinates.

Those of us who have survived intact are currently operating a shady project called CiTiZEN KiNO, an old camouflaged junker ship pretending to be a retrospex mobile cinema. Often re-fueling at hacklabs, dubious arts + technology festivals, decaying universities, low-trafficked community centers, and collectivized bunkers on the city outskirts.

. . .





The Trail of Technotopian Tears

Flashback to 1997...


Tomas Zoyja was just returning from his unusual summer vacate-nation, the dusty and debauched desert playa of the Burning Man Festival, and was quickly tossed into a maelstrom of detailed earthly dislikes. An old friend of his was in the hospital dying, and as quickly as he could shake off the dust, unpack and reboot his brain, he went to visit before the end was written. It just so happened to be within earshot of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the year of the Cassini Mission launch, a NASA probe aimed for Saturn’s orbit. You know, to take pictures of those trippy rings and post ‘em on the Web.

Only they weren’t planning to tell Floridians, that the 72 POUNDS of plutonium aboard was just a wee bit dangerous. Nor did they tell any other humans on the planet the gargantuan risks, and they would not be mentioning the Chilean coast incident, where Russian Space Forces had lost Mars 96, a smaller radioactive payload once before. Instead they said “No Worries Earthlings! This is Big Science! Stand Back, you are mere XTRAS in this epic film!”

But some crazed and determined whistleblower leaked that there actually existed some roughly sketched evacuation plans for about 1/3 of an entire STATE, where about 19 MILLION people lived. Tomas went to an afternoon rally to meet Michio Kaku and Karl Grossman, who were pretty much the only two luminaries who took up this career-risking news.

This was in the days before Wikileaks, and they were easily tossed overboard by the mainstream press as pesky activist types with shoddy facts, who wanted to obstruct all progress and man’s ultimate destiny...um, to be a Space Probe?!

The XLterrestrials... Was it a zine? A comic book series? A band? A media outfit? Or a traveling info-circus? This, afterall was the widescreen ‘90s, and the DIY-sky was the limit.

Prior to launch, Tomas posted the news around on that emboldening new web of wonders, i.e., to a Burner mailing list of thousands. Immediately his jarring tale was flamed by a male mob of TV-scale Cali-topians, who no doubt still believe they will, in their lifetime, be wearing Capt. Kirk-like V-neck pajama uniforms, and getting laid in distant galaxies by both fair and dark-skinned aliens with interstellar accents. And no one’s gonna stand in their way.

Before this, he had honestly never really considered a toxic apocalypse future ruled by geek libertarian fascists.

Brushing off the cyberfairy dust which in fact felt heavier than a lead undersea helmet out of a Jules Verne adventure, he and a few melancholic friends, who had just swallowed this not entirely new low-brow horror show, gathered at their temporary thinktank HQ—a surf-side Cuban joint with happy hour, and black beans ‘n’ rice. An idea was spawned that could possibly enlighten a few neighborhoods, if not the world—The XLterrestrials.

Was it a zine? A comic book series? A band? A media outfit? Or a traveling info-circus? This, afterall was the widescreen ‘90s, and the DIY-sky was the limit.

That week Tomas attended the funeral. Cassini was hurdling successfully towards Saturn not to return to the news for another several years, while NASA’s long-term contract with the Dept. of Energy was out of sight and golden. The earth felt small, unstable, carny-like, a fa├žade, a repeat Irwin Allen genre without conclusion.


. . .


Fwd to 2005...





. . .


Ridley Scott, Dante Ferretti, and some car-designer guy from Volkswagen are on a panel called “Designing the Future at the Berlinale Film Festival” and its emerging-artist program called Talent Campus. Ridley and his daughter Jordan screen a slick and dismally dull 10-MINUTE COMMERCIAL for Prada (from the family’s RSA propaganda guns-for-hire corporation), which should somehow serve to preface this extraordinary, educational topic.

One of the XLterrestrials in attendance soon intervenes, and begins explaining that media is akin to cultural software which is downloaded by its viewers. And asks, “IF the makers of Hollywood are working for the military-industrial complex, the entertainment complex and a consumer complex, constantly downloading this ridiculous virus with its vampiric, warmongering and profiteering agendas, will we, as a human species, have ANY FUTURE LEFT TO DESIGN?” The audience cheers!

The moderator muffles that he doesn’t understand the question, and passes the mic to Ridley...who actually seems to get it, but begins, without direct prompting, to defend his most recent blocksucker BLACKHAWK DOWN—a Jerry Bruckheimer propaganda production and Pentagon-approved script—as an anti-war film! He then states, as if in a dim-bulbed voice-over Hollywood studio filled with cigar smoke, “We must make good movies!” The audience cheers again. Oh F$%K! These celebrity-entranced chumps are such lost souls!

“Future Designing” the following day features freshly indoctrinated Campus artists led by guest director Walter Salles, each submitting a new score for VW commercials to win an all-expense paid trip into the ranks of high-art prostitution.


. . .


Fwd to 2009...





. . .


XLterrestrials participate at a tactical media workshop organized by Claudio F., who comes from a backround of pirate media in Berlusconi-land, and is one of the contributors of the Globale, Berlin’s pioneering doc fest—grassroots, collectively-run, anti-globalization focused, serious and uncompromising!

The theme is “Becoming Media” (part 2, a follow-up from the festival panel). It’s a lot of old school Indymedia contributors and various media makers, like the members of AK Kraak (one of Berlin’s longest running video activist collectives), all grappling with the new media environments.

We suggest taking a cue from the new language of the climate change activists mixed with that of the rising hacker culture, that is essentially the new tactical media: it’s time to change the operating system!

For our 10-minute slot, we screen a sharp agitprop trailer for the Climate Summit coming up in Copenhagen called PUT THE FUN BETWEEN YOUR LEGS, juxtaposed with a trailer for the TRANSFORMERS (2?) the latest Spielberg-Michael Bay-Bruckheimer “war porn” blocksucker for kids. The first clip has just over 2,000 hits on YouTube; the latter, 23 MILLION.

A conversation ensues about the popular slogan of those Indymedia.org heydays often attributed to Jello Biafra, “Don’t hate the media, become the media!” And yet, we debate whether now becoming media is “at the root of a mass ‘virtual migration’ that is resulting in a precarious dis-embodiment of information and the absorption of social construction into a climate of cybernetic controls and corporate manipulation.”

We suggest taking a cue from the new language of the climate change activists mixed with that of the rising hacker culture, that is essentially the new tactical media: it’s time to change the operating system!

But alas, the Spectacle upgrades can get far more complicated from there...


. . .


Fwd to 2011...





. . .


We were now developing the CiTiZEN KiNO format as a Media Self-defense Program—a live presentation of media bits to go beyond the mere downloading of the usual hypnotic malware, and to go outside the mainframes + flatscreens of cinematics to a multi-dimensional, interactive platform, creating a friction-full setting for embodied debates, tactical response, and community engagement.

As the 30th anniversary of the cult classic BLADE RUNNER was arriving, talks in Hollywood were getting closer on the making of a sequel. Sir Ridley will be further plundering pure literary genius for his cheap brand of futurist marketeering, perhaps due for release in 2013.

Philip K. Dick is for us such rich material, we could base scores of C-KiNOs on the topics that his prolific legacy puts on our current social-fiction plate. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is just one classic that nails a number of key revelations in the de-humanizing trajectory (and nuclear wasteland) of the Technotopian dream.

Herein lies a prime opportunity to restore the complexities of the original master and his work and also reveal the mechanisms of the Hollywood malignancy and the absorption that feeds the consumer multiplex.

Philip K. Dick is for us such rich material, we could base scores of CiTiZEN KiNOs on the topics that his prolific legacy puts on our current social-fiction plate.

We presented our controversial version of a BLADE RUNNER deconstruction/analysis show currently titled Electric Sheep Revisited (at the time Replicant Memories) for the Dismalware event, a sarcasm-laden B-Side event at the notorious C-base hacklab to preface the A-list Transmediale Festival, with special guests from Telekommunisten, Monochrom, XLt and Mark Surman, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.

In a quick summary, this was the ABCs of Hack (keyboards not required), where the more radical participants bring a counterpoint to the usual missionary arts + tech PSAs that read: Always brush your web teeth boys and girls, so that the economic w├╝nderkind—the Net—will remain a happy, healthy, efficient tool (for the corporate sector and the ever-yummy surveillance state??).

One memorable moment for us was being heckled during our presentation in regard to Dick’s later obsessions with spiritual + existential themes (i.e., Valis and The Exegesis), topics which detached tech devotees can’t usually compute. It will later become an important ingredient in our work to draw the stark diametrics between the MIT-school cybernetics and singularity cult of post-humans vs. indigenous resistance.


. . .


Fwd to June 2012...





. . .


XLterrestrials present CiTiZEN KiNO #16 in the program of Connecting People Apart, an event series put together by some deep-thinking cats at the Post-Media Lab (Leuphana University, Luneburg) and Mute magazine.

In less than two decades, digital networks have moved from providing a macro-backround environment to pervading and augmenting our lives at an increasingly micrological level. As our world is plugged into an ever growing media matrix, we know from direct experience that the pace of change is feverish, the scope infinite and the effects in need of constant reckoning. The Post-Media Lab takes up the concept of post-media—originated by Felix Guattari—as an inherently critical notion adequate to the media strategies of scenes, movements and collectives—rather than the individualities and normativities produced by commercial media. Post-media operators are those who use media to construct and intensify social agencies, help develop new forms of relation and generate counter-meanings.

Our new show Technotopia/Dystopia is centered primarily around the analysis of another trailer, this time for a conference called Planet Under Pressure in London. For us it’s a flawed contextualization, a clip called WELCOME TO THE ANTHROPOCENE. Failing to out the hyper-capitalist industrialization of madmen as the root cause of our mesmerizing predicaments. We essentially propose a counter tact, that we are literally drowning in the excess of the anthropocene, and its exploitation of the natural world. And thus advocating a more land-based intelligence and a balancing act through a “Garden-i-fication” praxis. And we begin to utilize the symbol of the seed (literal and metaphorical) as a potentially more evolved technology than the microchip, with its massively dis-orienting simulacrum gambits.

And we premiere the latest animation from the ingenious Peruvian artist Jossie Malis, BENDITO MACHINE IV, a series which precisely highlights these absurd and calamity-ridden technological immersions and the native inhabitants who are inevitably scrambling for a back door.


. . .


FlashBack/Fwd 2013:





. . .


The XLt move to an even remoter island where they develop an online/offline project called Digital Dogme, with a nod to those alien-brethren Danish directors who produced a radical test map—Dogme 95—to steer around that great carny-celluloid shipwreck of the late 20th century.

Surely we won’t exit this contaminated big picture by technological means alone. We consider the scenarios that we are in desperate need of a perceptual, behavioural, neurological or psychomedia hack, no less potent and ambush-ready than the psychonautic and situational interventions of the ‘60s.

Coming soon to crack the theater firewalls surrounding you!


. . .



Note: As we embarked upon our research for this piece, Tony Scott, brother and business partner of Ridley, killed himself by jumping off a bridge in the port district of Los Angeles. And if there’s one good thing about the so-called “S.o.S.”—Debord’s consistently resonating and poetic analysis of mass media’s role in the alienation and atrocities of an all-consuming corporate-capitalist operating system—it is that few of the (media-)opiated masses will have the attention span to dote over the supposed genius of an advertising whore for more than a day or two.



Podrescu is a community organism, writer, vj/dj/xj, media activist and co-founder of the XLterrestrials, an arts + praxis laboratory. With a background in theater and media arts he has created work in collaboration with Transmediale, Documenta, Piranha Events, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kulturbrauerei, Arena, Globale Festival, Chaos Congress, Giraff Graff Co., Ars Electronica, etc. Currently developing CITIZEN KINO, a touring film, net and theater hybrid to encourage a new form of literacy, i.e., Media Self-defense!



Images

1. from C-KiNO #17: Society Of The Psy-pOp-tacle
2. from C-KiNO #16: Technotopia/Dystopia
3. from BLADE RUNNER (1982)
4. image modified for XLt article on Chaos Communications Congress (2009)
5. from C-KiNO #14: Electric Sheep Revisited
6. from Post-Media Lab (2012)
7. from BENDITO MACHINE IV (2012)


Clips

PUT THE FUN BETWEEN YOUR LEGS (2009) by e: D.I.T Productions
WELCOME TO THE ANTHROPOCENE (2012) by Owen Gaffney and Felix Pharand Deschenes
BENDITO MACHINE IV (2012) by Jossie Malis
I, PET GOAT II (2012) by Heliofant IV


Resources

postmedialab.org
notbored.org
xlterrestrials.org/plog
globale-filmfestival.org
akkraak.squat.net
telekommunisten.net
c-base.org
events.ccc.de
totaldickhead.blogspot.de
benditomachine.com
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95