Curated by Kurator
“Today the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It’s called Democracy.” (Badiou)
As protests against authoritarian regimes unfold across the near east (in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere), the hypocrisy of Western style democracy also demands attention. Indeed the spread of Western style democracy is considered by many to be simply the homogenizing forces of neoliberalism expanding to new markets. In her book Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (2009), Jodi Dean unpacks the collective fantasies around the free market, and considers democracy to be an empty cipher invoked by both right and left political positions. Whether expressed in the views of Colonel Gadaffi or US foreign secretary Hilary Clinton, those that invoke democracy define it in their own narrow terms. They use it to justify various tyrannies and hence it becomes ever more discredited in the process.
If largely discredited, one deeply ironic response is [V]ote Auction by Ubermorgen.Com, in which consumers were able to directly participate in the U.S. electoral process by trading votes – thus demonstrating how consumer capitalism and democracy are interchangeable in representational democracies. The convergence is materialised in the use of participatory technologies that encourage the feeling that our involvement in politics is meaningful. This is further emphasised by use of social media and the various claims made for online services that offer effective participation in the political process (the so-called Facebook or Twitter revolutions). So we also need to ask what kinds of agency are produced through these technologies? Participation remains a fantasy in Dean’s terms, exemplified in clicking a button on an online petition for instance. This is something that Repetitionr.com by Les Liens Invisibles takes to an extreme by auto-generating fake signatures in support of a chosen campaign.
The projects reflect the desire for new institutional forms that challenge existing systems of representation and political organisation. The provocation is that we need to rethink these structures, and continue to ask, as Oliver Ressler’s project does What is Democracy? Paraphrasing Dean once more, democracy is clearly not the answer to our political problems but a symptom of the times.
Geoff Cox, “Democracy 2.0”, in Geoff Cox, Nav Haq & Tom Trevor, eds., Art, Activism and Recuperation: Concept Store #3, Bristol: Arnolfini 2010,
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communinicative Capitalism and Left Politics, Durham: Duke University Press 2009
2010, Online petition platform
In the post-idealist era the success of a campaign is increasingly reliant on instantaneous statistical surveys promoted to shift opinion towards defined positions. Repetitionr.com is the ultimate social petition platform that grants the success of every campaign proposed, offering the most advanced internet technologies to make participatory democracy a truely user-centred experience. Just a click and Repetitionr will fill you petitions with millions of self-generated fake signatures indistinguishable from the real ones. Repetitionr needs just a few clicks to demonstrate its magic: just create your petition by writing down the title and statement, choose the number of signatures your want and from which countries they come from, then simply sit down and enjoy the power of data hallucination working on your behalf. Dont' be afraid to exaggerate: Repetitionr will produce up to 1,000,000 signatures! You are no longer alone in your opinions. Make a Re-Petition and announce to the world that thousands and thousands of people can't be wrong!
Repetitionr was commissioned by Arnolfini.
More information at http://www.repetitionr.com/about.php
Les Liens Invisibles is an imaginary art-group from Italy, comprised of media artists Clemente Pestelli and Gionatan Quintini.
2009, single channel video (118 min), run off DVD, alson available online
"What is democracy?" is in fact a double question. On the one hand, the question relates to the current condition of the parliamentary representative democracies that are critically scrutinized by this project. On the other hand, the question traces different approaches to what a more democratic system might look like and which organizational forms it may require.
The project addressed numerous activists and political analysts in 18 cities around the world - Amsterdam, Berkeley, Berlin, Bern, Budapest, Copenhagen, London, Melbourne, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rostock, San Francisco, Sydney, Taipai, Tel Aviv, Thessaloniki and Warsaw - one question: "What is democracy?"
The video interviews have been recorded since January 2007.
Even though all subjects were asked the same questions, the result was a multiplicity of different perspectives and viewpoints of people living in states that are usually labelled as “democracies”. This pool of interviews builds the starting point for eight videos, which are presented in an 8-channel video installation. The installation (re)presents a kind of global analysis of the deep political crises of the Western democratic model.
Detailed description at http://www.ressler.at/what_is_democracy_film/
Oliver Ressler is an artist who lives and works in Vienna, and carries out projects on various socio-political themes.
2000-2006, Action and Website
[V]ote-auction was a website which offered US citizens the opportunity to sell their presidential vote to the highest bidder during the Presidential Elections 2000, Al Gore vs. G.W Bush.
The website was conceived by the student James Baumgartner and then sold to the Austrian business-artists Hans Bernhard (founder of etoy) and Lizvlx from UBERMORGEN.COM in Austria and (V)ote-auction Inc. in Sofia/Bulgaria (a subsidiary of the UBERMORGEN.COM group) for an undisclosed sum. Voteauction was UBERMORGEN.COM's feature Media Hacking performance in the year 2000. Several US States (Missouri, Wisconsin, Chicago, Arizona, Nevada, California, Massachusetts, New York) issued temporary restraining orders or injunctions for alleged illegal vote trading. This led to the shutdown of 2 domains (voteauction.com and vote-auction.com). Federal Attorney Janet Reno, the FBI and the NSA were investigating the case to ensure the integrity of the voting process on November 7th 2000.
Over 2500 global and national News features in online media, print, television and radio have been reported (including a 27 min. CNN exclusive "Burden of Proof").
V)ote-Auction is one of the most risky and paradoxically successful projects by UBERMORGEN.COM: it is "the only platform in the world that provides the final consumer an effective role in the American election industry". A true interchange system that finally "brings capitalism and democracy closer together".
UBERMORGEN.COM received an Award of Distinction from Prix Ars Electronica 2005 for the project.