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System Disruption

24 September 2004 - 09 January 2005
Cooperation with: Oldenburg Eins Lokalsender
Opening: 24 September 2004, 20:00
Fitting the world into an ordered system is a part of human nature, whether it be developing a theory on the solar system and our place within it or creating a system of gods and deities. Yet in recent history, the world has been increasingly influenced by technological systems, systems based on percentages and profits where the human being is more like a number than a living, breathing individual.
Today there is great awareness of how one's lebenswelt is determined by systems: technological, political, social, data, economic or power systems are just a few examples. The question is how to positions oneself. The desire to slip beneath their radars, subvert, transfer or shed light on their sometimes shadowy structures is the basis of the artistic work in this exhibition.
The goal of System Disruption is not the total destruction of such systems, but to find windows of opportunity within them. It is more about staging the disruption as a statement and an attitude. Systems, inherently surrounded by an aura of cool authority, are not untouchable. There is hope for the individual to find a place for him or herself within the system and take action.

Silke Wagner's neon light in the form of the copyleft symbol radiates the idea that intellectual property should be free for everyone. An individual who has written a text or developed software, for example, can use this symbol to deter others from putting their copyright on it. The copyleft movement is highly controversial since many live from their intellectual property alone. On the other hand, industry has gone so far in gathering the rights to everything from images to new genetically engineered life forms, that the idea of copylefting in order to keep common property common is enticing.

Making systems transparent is the focus of the research done by Mark Lombardi for his drawings. They reveal power structures, solid links between politicians, weighty business deals and international or domestic policy in exacting diagrams. An echo of Lombardi's spirit can also be found in Josh On's net art piece They Rule. But instead of the warmth that Lombardi's graphite on paper conveys, Josh On uses the Internet's flood of information. Through a series of graphic designs, the user can easily see who is pulling the strings of politics and industry. They Rule also lets the user go deep into the Internet and link to other sites in order to find out just how far the major players' reach stretches.

This kind of transparency and the gathering of data is also related to Unlimited Edition of Xerox Copies made by Hans Haacke in 1973. Here, the survey poll is analyzed and depicted in graphs that give form to the data he collected on visitors at the John Weber Gallery. Haacke framed members of the artworld not as connoisseurs, but as a quantified focus group that, by implication, can be regarded or disregarded and marketed to. In System Disruption, this information is again being publicy handed out to visitors.

Thirty years and many generations of data mining later, Franz Alken developed the net art workMachines Will Eat Itself, which gives users the possibility to disrupt the way the Internet has come to invade their privacy. Alken has set a trap for the data mining industry by educating the user on how their consumer and private data is gathered and also enabling the user to create a bot, a decoy who travels through the Internet feeding the machines with false personal information.

The point being made by the group 0100101110101101.ORG is more drastic. Their virus snakes its way through computer networks, but it is actually harmless. Yet its existence alone wakes a dramatic fear of the computer's power and society's dependence upon it. In another work, David Still offers us a more subtle computer disruption by giving away his identity over the Internet, enabling one to send messages in his name in the completey privacy of the pseudonym.

In 1986 Andrea Fraser directly addressed the system of the artworld with her work AMUSE(UM) and she has now re-recorded a German version that has been tailored to the audience in Oldenburg. The banal mottos and sayings associated with the marketing of culture are taken from the periphery of the museum experience and brought to the fore by confronting visitors with them when they both enter and leave the building. Each time the door to the gallery is either opened or closed the visitor hears all the little notices that are often disregarded in written material. Fraser inverts the normal relationship between institutional and artistic information to disrupt the museum experience.

The human relationship to urban architecture and its metaphor as a burden is touched on in Calin Dan's Sample City. In Eastern Europe, architectural and social systems are an ever-present topic. With this video, one feels how the structure and destruction of a city, in this case Bucharest, sets the tone for the life of its inhabitants.

The imperative of system disruption is a strong theme in art from Latin America. One artist who leads this artistic position is the Brazilian Cildo Meireles who conceived an unlimited edition of Zero Dollars in 1978. Over the years he has flood the (art) market with this wry commentary on the global economy and called economic value into question.

Minerva Cuevas goes even further by creating student identity cards for a Mexican extension university. This is direct, guerilla tactics for making possible for every museum visitor to attain less expensive theater tickets, flights and much more. It is art as social action and protest in one. 
Above it all there is the sound of Santiago Sierra's recording of a cacerolada protest against the Argentinian banking system from the year 2002. Sierra offered free CDs of the sound of thousands banging on pots and pans to be played in protest of this economic disaster. Yet it is has come to mean much more than that. When the Argentinians took to the streets, they were loud, adamant and articulate. Their actions were a success against a world economic system that seemed much larger than the people. But now banging on metal pots and pans both sounds a warning and a reminder that a disruption really can influence a system.

Funded by

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art, Katharinenstraße 23, D-26121 Oldenburg, Tel.: +49(0)441/235-3208, Fax.: +49(0)441/235-2161
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Friday 14:00 -18:00, Saturday - Sunday 11:00 - 18:00, Monday closed
Ein Ausstellungshaus der
Stadt Oldenburg