Disclosures I

Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 March 2008
Co-curated by Anna Colin and Mia Jankowicz

Toynbee Hall, London
Middlesex Street Estate, London
Gasworks, London

agency, Saul Albert, Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran (CAMP), Petra Bauer, llze Black, Critical Practice, Emily Druiff, Mai Abu ElDahab and Francis McKee, Electronest, Matthew Fuller and Usman Haque, Goldin+Senneby, Adnan Hadzi, Tsila Hassine, Tim Jones, Marysia Lewandowska, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre and Kelly Foster, Marcel Mars, Armin Medosch, Micropolitics Research Group, Rodrigo Nunes, Tony Nwachukwu and Gavin Alexander ( Burntprogress), Toni Prug, Oliver Ressler, Simon Sheikh, Eileen Simpson and Ben White (Open Music Archive), The People Speak, Marina Vishmidt

Produced by Gasworks.

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Resources and Documentation
· For recordings from Disclosures Day 1, see archive.org. Unfortunately, there are no recordings available for Day 2.
· For documentation of specific contributions to Disclosures, please click the links in the sidebar.
· For material and resources informing the research process of Disclosures, see Pipeline.

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Disclosures scrutinises the notion of openness across fields of cultural production at large. A first reading of openness refers to situations in which the viewer, reader, listener or internet user becomes emancipated through egalitarian participation, collaborative authorship, or the breaking down of hierarchical and social boundaries. Such aims have recurred in the writing and practice of numerous avant-gardists throughout the 20th Century whose legacy, perhaps more so now than ever before, largely informs contemporary practitioners: from Bertolt Brecht’s early claims over media as a two-way communication apparatus (1932) (1), to Walter Benjamin’s The Author as Producer (1934); from Roland Barthes’ The Death of The Author (1967), to the Italian Autonomists’ use of the airwaves as a space for self-organisation and vehicle for popular participation; or from Peter Watkins’ participatory film-documentary La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) to the televised re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave orchestrated by Jeremy Deller (2001), to cite but a few.

If the production of non-hierarchical social, working, and distributive models, is neither new nor uncommon, and is observable from one cultural field to another, it has to be noted that it matches certain systems and economies (internet-based or media practices) better than others (the artworld or the film and music industries). Issues around Intellectual Property and copyright – and the question of whether or not diffuse authorship and unrestrictive distribution are financially viable – come immediately to mind. Likewise, the notions of innovation and authorship – two concepts resolutely attached to old art forms – also crop up when the possibility of openness is raised. Meanwhile, media art more frequently takes its cues from discussions that re-cast modes of borrowing, inheriting, influence and archiving as more accurate descriptors for the history of cultural production. These factors have contributed to the separation between media art and visual art.

From a generalist point of view, visual art practice is often perceived as a predominantly bourgeois activity while media art practice has a contrasting association with real life applications, an economy of means, and self-sufficiency as its dominant economic model. Within the broad areas of media art and visual art, the practices that are of specific interest to Disclosures are those working critically, thus acting in response to – or securing a place outside of – the market economy and the main socio-cultural circuits.

Despite often sharing similar drives, critical media practice and socially-collaborative work in the visual art field remain divided by their divergent history, literature, discourses, circuits of production, diffusion and representation; they also seek separate sources of funding and have disconnected curricula. The consistent ignorance and lack of acknowledgment of each other’s aspirations, achievements and debates is evidenced in the recent publication Art & Social Change (2), which includes little reference to critical media practice; and the 2008 announcement by Ekow Eshun, Director of the ICA, London, that this previous leader of media arts practice is to close its Live and Media Arts Department.

The mutual suspicion already described in 2003 by writer, artist and curator Armin Medosch (3) lingers: “Media artists are ‘considered to have no awareness of their relation to art history or theory – they are perceived as being concerned only with the ‘newness’ of technology.’ (4) In turn, the art world is accused of being technologically ignorant and of clinging to archaic notions of individualism, originality and authorship.”

Phase 1 – Common Language: The View from Here

Taking up from discussions developed in such initiatives as NODE.London (2006) and Open Congress (2005), the first phase of Disclosures endeavours to investigate and compare the approaches, methodologies and ends of these two interrelated areas of practice. Attempts are made to find, in retrospect, references and strategies that have been common to the two fields since Media Art was recognised as a genre in the 1960s. Contributions addressed the implications ensuing from the choice of working within visual art circuits, increasingly dependent on the market economy and corporate structures, and less able – some will say less willing – to be self-organised. Another topic approached in the discussion was the position and function of the curator when working with network-based initiatives governed by open contribution and consensual decision-making.

Phase 2 – Captain Pouch (5): History and Disclosure
Alternative Histories | Participatory History Making and Documenting

After openness as an organisational principle, a second reading of openness revolves around the idea of transparency and of availability of information. Of relevance here are practices which address censorship and are committed to releasing public information and resources that have been out of civic reach for political, economic or bureaucratic reasons. For instance, the re-unification and expansion of Europe, globalisation and the Internet have played a significant role in the de-centralisation of research and in the shifting of foci onto production that was, until very recently, ignored and neglected by Western history. The participants to this part of the seminar addressed histories and genealogies that inscribe themselves outside of the rigid scheme of ‘monopolistic’ versus ‘alternative’ social and cultural activity.

Phase 3 – Blue Skies, Grey Skies

The third phase is, on the one hand, concerned with the socio-economic, political and cultural conditions for the technological underpinning of openness – Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) – to exist and become widespread. FLOSS was considered here for its engagement with the gift economy and for its support of peer-based collaborations. The facet of FLOSS we were further interested with concerns its commitment to developing sustainable modes of cooperation and exchange outside of the dominant state-corporate model of capitalism.

Blue Skies, Grey Skies aims to address the limitations of FLOSS as a tool and model. There is arguably a mismatch between the universalizing and egalitarian ideals prevalent in the advocation of FLOSS, and the highly uneven global contexts in which they are played out. In fact, going back to the sources, electricity and money are the prerequisite for open source technologies to be at all implemented in the first place. Besides, money and one’s forced adherence to capitalist modes of consumption – in other words the quasi-impossibility of reconciling free culture and action within capitalist economic survival, are topics that remain largely under-addressed. On a specialist level, knowledge and languages (6) are laborious to obtain and distribution of content and media with mass potential can remain limited to a small circle of privileged enthusiasts.

The ideologies that inform more radicalised new media circuits (e.g. anarchism, anti-statism, anti-regulation, anti-IP) would imply a relation with other social fields of discourse such as feminism, race and class issues, particularly those which tend towards the left. While global class issues are a regular part of new media discourse, directly active and discursive links to such ‘isms’ appear limited beyond organisations confronting more tertiary issues of access. This section aimed to identify mutual inheritances between such areas of interest.

Phase 4 – From Pierre Menard to The Sluts

The final chapter looks at experiments with the blurring of authorship and with cross-referencing in the field of literature. By referring to Jorge Luis Borges’ Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote (1939), the opportunity arose to take a look at the state of Intellectual Property laws in the early part of the 20th century and to compare it with the current licensing system. Some of the contributions to this concluding part of Disclosures also examined instances of horizontal collaborations through which the relationship between the fan, the author and the author’s creations are reconfigured.


(1) “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication”, 1932.
(2) Co-published by Afterall and Tate Publishing in 2007.
(3) In “LONDON.ZIP, Digital Media Art In London mapped and compressed by Armin Medosch”, 2003.
(4) Simon Pope, email to the author, 06/10/03.
(5) “17th century English rebel John Reynolds, who led one of the most successful revolts against the enclosure movement and one of the last physical conflicts between the peasantry and the gentry in England. He was nick-named Captain Pouch, “because of a great leather pouch which he wore by his side, in which purse he affirmed to his company there was sufficient matter to defend them against all comers, but afterwards when he was apprehended, his Pouch was searched, and therein was only a peece of greene cheese”. http://www.bilderberg.org/land/tenure.htm
(6) Before considering programming languages, the issue of English language is also at stake. See Eric S. Raymond’s “How To Become A Hacker”, 2001 which unapologetically emphasises the necessity of English fluency in hacker culture. http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html
(7) “Written between 1994 and 2002, The Sluts is a black sheep cousin to Dennis Cooper’s internationally acclaimed George Miles Cycle. Set largely on the pages of a website where gay male escorts are reviewed by their clients, and told through the postings, emails, and conversations of several dozen unreliable narrators, The Sluts chronicles the evolution of one young escort’s date with a satisfied client into a metafiction of pornography, lies, half-truths, and myth.” (www.denniscooper.net)

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Mother/333, 333 Old Street, London

20:00-21:30 · Oliver Ressler introduced two recent films: What Would it Mean to Win? (2008, duration 40 min) and The Fittest Survive (2006, duration 23 min). Followed by a Q&A.

22:00-01:00 · Eileen Simpson and Ben White (Open Music Archive) presented Declose.

For Declose the artists created a 12″ vinyl scratch tool from out-of-copyright archive material featuring: archive breaks and samples, percussive noises and vocal snippets, alongside brand new copyleft beats created by invited music producers and made entirely by sampling and processing sounds from the early jazz, blues and folk recordings in the Open Music Archive. The event was a live experiment featuring special guest DJs and producers. More info and free download at: www.openmusicarchive.org/declose
Project supported by CDR and the burntprogress community.

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Toynbee Hall, Lecture Hall, 28 Commercial Street, London

11:00-11:30 · Anna Colin and Mia Jankowicz, curators of Disclosures, introduced the seminar, its themes and participants, and the commissions to Electronest, Goldin+Senneby and Open Music Archive.


11:30-13:00 · Discussion with: Critical Practice, organisers of Open Congress (2005); llze Black, Tim Jones and Saul Albert, three of the organisers of NODE.London 06; and Goldin+Senneby, co-initators of Who Makes and Owns Your Work? (2007). Moderated by Marina Vishmidt.

The speakers introduced the basis of their projects, the cues from which their projects react, and their own position within it. Led by Marina Vishmidt, the discussion that followed outlined questions that were yet unresolved at the end of the projects, with particular scrutiny on the involvement of contemporary art institutions and methodologies.

13:00-13:30 · Discussion.

13:30-14:30 · Lunch.

Alternative Histories | Participatory History Making and Documenting

14:30-15:15 · The Micropolitics Research Group reflected on their recent extradisciplinary ‘drift’ through sites of cultural production in London with Brian Holmes and genealogies of militant research, participatory action and institutional analysis that inform their work.

15:15-16:00 · Oliver Ressler presentedAlternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003-ongoing).

16:00-16:30 · Marcel Mars presented the series of events Nothing will happen and G33koskop (the scope of geek) for which personal accounts of history of technical culture in socialism and/or period of transition have been collected.

16:30-17:00 · Discussion time and break.

17:00-17:30 · On Accessibility and Fragmentation. By Simon Sheikh. A major problem for the production of contemporary art is the mode of presentation and potentialities of participation: How can a work interact in a fragmented public sphere and within de-centred subjectivities and multiple agencies, when the illusion of total accessibility to information and aesthetics still drives politico-aesthetic desires?

17:30-18:00 · Artist Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre in conversation with Kelly Foster (Black Cultural Archives) about the origins of the project Do You Remember Olive Morris?.

18:00-18:45 · Retroactive. Artist Marysia Lewandowska set up a roundtable discussion by re-visiting some of the contributors to her Women’s Audio Archive project 1984-1990.

18:45-19:30 · Discussion.

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Common Room, Middlesex Street Estate, Middlesex Street, London.


11:00-11:30 · Hacking Ideologies: The spectre of free information is haunting capitalism, but what’s in it for us? By Toni Prug. If the Open Source movement was created to attract and include capitalists, what can be said of Free Software? Is there anything in it for those who dream of new egalitarian social orders? Sharing is great. Yet, IBM agrees. The spectre of free information is haunting capitalism, says Eben Moglen. What if that spectre wins, capitalists fail to assert control over it, and all that can be copied digitally becomes shared? Would that enable, or assist us in any way to establish an entirely different set of egalitarian social relations, based on new modes of production and consumption, coordinated by a different set of political institutions and organisational forms?

11:30-12:15 · Ashok Sukumaran and Shaina Anand presented Notes on the State of Practice: a summary of their project at Gasworks, as well as CAMP: their new arts initiative in Mumbai, India.

12:15-12:30 · Coffee break.

12:30-13:30 · Openness / Participatory Practice / Community TV Making: a round table discussion. This session featured presentations by Adnan Hadzi (Deptford TV), Shaina Anand (ChitraKarKhana), and The People Speak (Peckham TV) followed by a discussion chaired by Emily Druiff, Director Public Programme, Camberwell College of Arts, University of Arts London. The discussion looked at organisational principles of openness in contemporary cultural production, more specifically in the public sphere, taking participation and community TV making its starting point.

13:30-14:00 · Eileen Simpson and Ben White (Open Music Archive) in conversation with Tony Nwachukwu and Gavin Alexander (Burntprogress) about CDR; their collaboration on Declose; future possibilities of music distribution and open processes in music production.

14:00-15:00 · Lunch.

15:00-15:30 · Matthew Fuller and Usman Haque presented Urban Versioning System 1.0,on the problems of developing a license for spatial, social, and architectural projects that reflects some of the advances made in FLOSS.

15:30-15:45 · Tsila Hassine presented screencast movies of online works Shmoogle and Image Tracer.

15:45-16:00 · Discussion.

Running parallel throughout the afternoon, from 12:45-16:00 · Critical Practice convened a ResourceCamp for Disclosures. The ResourceCamp explored the ‘elephant in the room’ of open organisations and art institutions – the management of money and more generally the administration of resources. Through presentations, discussions and dissent Critical Practice drafted ‘open’ budget guidelines for all.


16:00-16:45 · John Barlow Gone Offshore, a staged inquiry into the undisclosable. By Goldin+Senneby, in Middlesex Street. This street marks the shift from Tower Hamlets to the City of London. Sometimes called the “Wall of Fire”, the street represents a stark border between two economic realities. From this point, a tour guide’s narrative initiated a movement towards fictitious space, narrating the legal construction of offshore jurisdictions and the linkages back to East London’s history.

16:45-17:30 · Specimen 0743 (One Minute Of Silence). By agency.
In the summer of 2002, British composer Mike Batt put One minute of silence on the album Classical Graffiti by his band The Planets. According to the John Cage estate, for One minute of silence Mike Batt used Cage’s 1952 music piece 4’33 agency presented this narrative as one of many ‘specimens’ in his catalogue of cultural material existing in authorial and IP margins.

17:30-18:00 · Reading and discussion of Philip, a science fiction novel co-authored in a collective writing workshop at Project Arts Center (Dublin) in December 2006. Mai Abu ElDahab and Francis McKee’s presentation discussed the issues – pragmatic, personal, and logistic – involved in the intensive production of a novel.

18:00-18:15 · Break.

18:15-18:45 · Quijote in Babel: the Library to the Power of N. By Rodrigo Nunes. A walk through a labyrinthine library that connects Borges, Cervantes, Foucault, Eco, Joyce, medieval copyists and contemporary filesharers, in a discussion on how attitudes to creation and culture have changed over time, and may be due another change soon. In 1939, Jorge Luis Borges wrote of a certain Pierre Menard, a minor 20th century poet who had decided to recreate Cervantes’ Don Quijote word by word. The result, he argued, was far superior to the original, considering how much richer the world in which the second text existed had become since the early 17th century. But the Quijote itself was already a book about other books, and in this capacity appeared in Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, itself inspired by another story by Borges…

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Thursday 10 April ·
· Deleted Swedish Stories. By Petra Bauer, at Gasworks. A performative lecture through which the artist examined and argued for the fact that societies are to a wide extent constructed on information that has been consciously hidden, forgotten or overlooked by history. Such discussion can be applied to any society, but the focus of this lecture mainly draws on examples from the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden, in which it has become obvious that information has been taken away, concealed or twisted. One instance deals with the film The Battle of Algiers, which was imported to Sweden in 1967. In the Swedish film print, a scene – the only one in the film that gives an ideological reason to why the FNL used violence during the war in Algiers – has been eradicated. Since the film was never censored, the logical conclusion is that it is the company which imported the film that took the scene out. In the lecture the artist discusses how this act can be read and analysed, and how it can be related to other tendencies in Swedish society of that time. In her opinion every action, which in these specific examples aim at deleting, suppressing or marginalising events, can be connected to prevailing ideological convictions in both present and past Swedish society.

Friday 11 April ·
19:00-21:30 ·
Screening of Lavorare con Lentezza – Radio Alice 100.6 MHz (2004) at Gasworks. Followed by a discussion with artist Petra Bauer and philosopher Rodrigo Nunes. Lavorare con Lentezza (2004), dir. Guido Chiesa, scriptwriters Guido Chiesa and Wu Ming (duration 111 min), is a retrospective account of Radio Alice, a renowned – and short-lived – free radio station set up during the Autonomia movement in 1970s Italy. Approaching the film according to their respective interests and expertise, the speakers analysed the scriptwriters’ choices as far as the representation of the ideals and of the protagonists behind Radio Alice is concerned. They also discussed the legacy of Radio Alice in relation to today’s tactical media and socially-engaged practices.

Monday 21 April ·
11:00-16:00 ·
Taxi to Praxi (and back again): the nextlayer research day, a collaboration between Armin Medosch and Adnan Hadzi. At Ben Pimlott Building, Seminar Room, Digital Studios, Goldsmiths University of London. This one-day workshop uncovered and examined some of the challenges and opportunities faced when creative artistic practice is undertaking research. The challenge is to find ways of re-embedding useful aspects of free and open source methodologies in academic practice-based arts and technology research. How do we incorporate and negotiate research in those areas of work which are strongly inter- and trans-disciplinary? The workshop addressed and discussed some of the generic, rather than discipline-specific, challenges of undertaking practice-based research within academia. It drew on open and collaborative (FLOSS) methodologies by proposing and discussing a diverse range of taxonomies and practices.

Sunday 18 May ·
12:00-20:00 ·
Screening of La Commune (1999) dir. Peter Watkins (duration 345 min) at Gasworks.</span