[Following is the lecture I gave at the expo "Geography - and the 
Politics of Mobility" in Vienna. It revists the gift economy debates, 
via Karl Polanyi, with some new ideas thanks to the talks at the 
WorldInfoCon, all in the hope of understanding networked 
mobilizations. Plenty of things for nettimers to disagree with 
anyway! - BH.]

The Revenge of the Concept:
Artistic Exchanges and Networked Resistance

Since June 18, 1999, I have been involved in a networked resistance 
to the globalization of capital. This resistance has been 
inextricably connected to art. It has taken me from London to Prague, 
from Quebec City to Genoa and Florence. It has given me an interest 
in experimental uses of advanced technology, like the Makrolab 
project. It has pushed me to explore new organizational forms, like 
the research network developed by Multiplicity. It has encouraged me 
to support cross-border solidarity movements, like Kein Mensch ist 
illegal. And it has resulted in collaborations with Bureau d'études, 
in their attempts to map out the objective structures of contemporary 
capitalism. But the experience of the movement of movements has also 
led me to ask a subjective question. What are the sources of this 
networked resistance? And what exactly is being resisted? Is 
revolution really the only option? Or are we not becoming what we 
believe we are resisting? Are the "multitudes" the very essence and 
driving force of capitalist globalization, as some theorists believe?

To look deeper into this question, consider the work of Anthony 
Davies and Simon Ford, who observed how artistic practice was being 
integrated to the finance economy of London during the late 1990s. 
These critics pointed to the establishment of convergence zones, 
"culture clubs" sponsored by private enterprise and the state. In 
these clubs, so-called "culturepreneurs" could seek new forms of 
sponsorship for their ideas, while businessmen sought clues on how to 
restructure their hierarchical organizations into cooperative teams 
of creative, autonomous individuals. Basing themselves on the new 
culture clubs, Davies and Ford claimed that "we are witnessing the 
birth of an alliance culture that collapses the distinctions between 
companies, nation states, governments, private individuals - even the 
protest movement." For unlike most commentators from the mainstream 
artworld, these two critics had immediately identified a relation 
between the activism of the late 1990s and contemporary forms of 
artistic practice. But what they saw in this new activism was the 
expression of a conflict between the "old" and the "new" economy:

"Demonstrations such as J18 represent new types of conflict and 
contestation. On the one hand you have a networked coalition of 
semi-autonomous groups and on the other, the hierarchical command and 
control structure of the City of London police force. Informal 
networks are also replacing older political groups based on formal 
rules and fixed organisational structures and chains of command. The 
emergence of a decentralised transnational network-based protest 
movement represents a significant threat to those sectors that are 
slow in shifting from local and centralised hierarchical 
bureaucracies to flat, networked organisations."

The alliance theory of Davies and Ford combines the notion of a 
network paradigm, promoted by people like Manuel Castells, with an 
anthropological description of the culturalization of the economy, as 
in British cultural studies. But what they portray is more like an 
"economization of culture." In fact their network theory draws no 
significant distinction between contemporary protest groups and the 
most advanced forms of capitalist organization. As they conclude: "In 
a networked culture, the topographical metaphor of 'inside' and 
'outside' has become increasingly untenable. As all sectors loosen 
their physical structures, flatten out, form alliances and dispense 
with tangible centres, the oppositionality that has characterised 
previous forms of protest and resistance is finished as a useful 

These kinds of remarks, which came from many quarters, were already 
quite confusing for the movement. But they took on an even more 
troubling light when the Al Quaeda network literally exploded into 
world consciousness. On the one hand, the unprecedented effectiveness 
of the S11 action seemed to prove the superiority of the networked 
paradigm over the command hierarchies associated with the Pentagon 
and the Twin Towers. But at the same time, if any position could now 
be called "oppositional," it was that of the Islamic fundamentalists. 
Their successful attack appeared to validate both the theory of a 
decisive transformation in organizational structures, and Samuel 
Huntington's culturalist theory of the "clash of civilizations." 
Suddenly the protest movement could identify neither with the 
revolutionary form of the network, nor with the oppositional refusal 
of the capitalist system. Loud voices from the right immediately 
seized the opportunity to assimilate the movement to terrorism. And 
to make matters worse, the financial collapse the movement had 
predicted effectively happened, from the summer of 2000 onwards, 
casting suspicion over everything associated with the dot-com bubble 
and making it easier for society at large to accept the policing of 
electronic communication, whose formerly inflated prestige 
drastically plummeted. The difficulty of situating a networked 
resistance to capitalism within a broader spectrum of social forces 
became enormous - as it still is today.

Now, this difficulty has not stopped the mobilizations. What has come 
to a halt, or rather, splintered into a state of extreme dispersal, 
are the theoretical attempts to explain them in a way that can 
contribute something to their capacities of self-organization. What I 
want to do here is to make a fresh try at this kind of explanation, 
from the viewpoint of an economic anthropology that specifically 
distinguishes between the market and what we call "culture." From 
this viewpoint I will try to show why a resistance to capitalism has 
arisen, how this resistance operates in a networked society, and 
where art fits into it. Now, if you are specifically interested in 
the field of art, the gain you may expect at the end of this 
reflection is an understanding of the way that conceptual practice 
has come to have its full effect - or to take its revenge - in the 
context of a networked society. But I hope this understanding will 
also help you to realize that the promise of contemporary art can 
only be fulfilled outside the institutional frame that specifies it, 
and claims to separate it from its cultural context. I think it would 
be interesting, in a show about "geography" and "mobility," to ask 
about the most productive relations that could be maintained between 
a museum and artistic practices whose destination lies outside.

Let's begin with some considerations of the subjective reasons why a 
networked resistance to globalization has arisen in the Western 
societies. It is well known that we are increasingly coming beneath 
the gaze of an intensifying surveillance regime. The most obvious 
example is DARPA - the American military entity that created the 
Internet. They are now interested in things like "bio surveillance," 
"human ID at a distance," "translingual information detection," 
"evidence extraction and link discovery," "future mapping" (for which 
they want to use "market techniques"), and the so-called "Genoa 
program,"  which aims at a better fit between human beings and 
machines, providing "the means to rapidly and seamlessly cut across - 
and complement - existing stove-piped hierarchical organizational 
structures by creating dynamic, adaptable, peer-to-peer collaborative 
networks." Here, at the cutting edge of military surveillance, you 
have a program for a networked repression, integrating humans into a 
machinic web.

These innovations in military technology have been extensively 
covered by exhibitions like World Information. There has also been a 
large mobilization by No Border against at least one police database, 
the Schengen Information System in Strasbourg; and a very interesting 
map on the subject was done by Bureau d'études, under the title 
Refuse the Biopolice. What is not so well understood is the fact that 
many of these surveillance systems have been implemented for years, 
particularly in the workplace, with the omnipresence of CCTV cameras, 
radio tracking badges, workstation monitors, telephone service 
observation, remote vehicle monitoring, etc. And even less apparent 
is the way this coercive surveillance is mirrored, as it were, by 
data gathering techniques which have adapted military technology to 
the job of building profiles on one's individual desire, so as to 
inform product design, targeted advertising, consumer architecture, 
etc. So-called "one-segment" marketing companies such as 
KnowledgeBase sell detailed lists of individuals with specifically 
catagorized "consumer attitudes." They also offer "Digital 
Neighborhood" lists, where, as they say, "we combined online 
intelligence gleaned from click stream data with demographic, 
lifestyle and transaction data from our AmeriLINK® national consumer 
database to segment consumers into clusters that describe their 
digital behavior - not just what they are doing online but why they 
are using this channel." This behavior-specific information is 
supposed to guide retailers to "the best ways to develop an 
e-relationship (or not!) with each segment." As the authors of The 
Harvard Guide to Shopping explains, "the aim is no longer to control 
the consumer, but to follow his every whim with perfect flexibility."

"Flexibility" is the key word. Elsewhere I have theorized the 
development of the "flexible personality," whereby the quest for 
personal development and unique experience, carried out by 
individuals employed within loosely networked structures, serves to 
mask the intensified exploitation of a so-called "flexible" labor 
force. With this concept, I wanted to show the ways that creatives in 
the semiotic economy - including the so-called "culturepreneurs" - 
actually participate in the new regime of domination. In effect, 
labor patterns, managerial techniques and consumer desire are all 
being mobilized under increasingly tight regimes of monitoring and 
control, guided from a distance by the imperatives of transnational 
financial speculation. What we are seeing in this process of 
mobilization is an economization of subjectivity - ushering human 
existence into the accelerating circuits of networked capitalism, and 
over-coding every form of behavior with a monetary calculus. Now, I 
don't want to reiterate all the details of that argument, but rather 
to suggest that there are limits to the flexible personality. Perhaps 
our first consciousness of them in the affluent societies comes 
through the intensification of the surveillance regime; but 
ultimately they are anthropological, they have to do with humanity's 
very capacity for survival, for self-reproduction. To understand them 
we shall have to take a detour through the work of Karl Polanyi, an 
economic anthropologist who in 1944 published a book called The Great 

Polanyi's concern was to explain the collapse of the free-market 
economy in the early twentieth century. He begins by establishing the 
coordinating role that international financiers, or so-called haute 
finance, had played in ensuring the century of relative peace that 
lasted up to 1914. "Independent of single governments, even of the 
most powerful, [haute finance] was in touch with all; independent of 
the central banks, even of the Bank of England, it was closely 
connected with them," he explains. The paradigmatic example is the 
international banking firm constituted in the late eighteenth century 
by Nathan Rothschild and his four sons: "The Rothschilds were subject 
to no one government; as a family they embodied the abstract 
principle of internationalism; their loyalty was to a firm, the 
credit of which had become the only supranational link between 
political government and industrial effort in a swiftly growing world 
economy. In the last resort, their independence sprang from the needs 
of the time, which demanded a sovereign agent commanding the 
confidence of national statesmen and of the international investor 
alike." The system of haute finance, coordinating national values 
through the universal equivalent of gold, allowed for the functioning 
of a world economy whose benefits, in turn, were a powerful argument 
for peace - or at least, a powerful argument against any conflict on 
a scale large enough to disrupt international trade. The gradual 
abandonment of the system, culminating in 1933 when the United States 
went off the gold standard, then led to the organization of purely 
national economies characterized by large, integrated industrial 
conglomerates, which could find a positive interest in the unleashing 
of war.

It is dizzying to consider the contemporary role of the American 
dollar, or more precisely, of the negotiated balance between the yen, 
the euro and the dollar, as the guarantor of peace and prosperity in 
what Rem Koolhaas calls "the world of YES." The yen, euro and dollar 
signs form the symbolic language of exchange under globalization, 
which has abandoned the stability of gold for the fluctuating 
balances of a computer-linked value-system. But I would like to 
confront the flexible world of YES with Polanyi's basic thesis as to 
reasons for collapse of the entire laissez-faire system in the 1930s. 
For his argument is that the basis of this system - the notion of a 
self-regulating market, the "magic of the marketplace" that dazzled 
the world again in the 1980s - was actually a fiction. In reality, 
the exchanges of the self-regulating market depended on social 
institutions foreign to it, institutions which its operations would 
ultimately tear apart. The Great Transformation retraces the gradual 
destruction the cultural institutions of exchange into which the 
natural environment, human production, and the various national 
monetary systems themselves were embedded. Land, labor and money - 
the symbolic language of exchange - were reduced to the status of 
commodities, to be bought and sold on markets regulated by short-term 
profit. The result of market-governed exchange was to wreck the 
patterns of reciprocity that had made it possible for society to 
reproduce itself over time. The fascism of the 1930s, in Polanyi's 
explanation, was a failed and disastrous effort to restore these 
institutional balances.

Now,  the point I want to make will become obvious when you consider 
that in the late 1990s, the desperate attempt to maintain the 
exchange value of the Argentine peso against the international 
standard represented by the US dollar and the currencies of ¥¤$ led 
to the exclusion of increasing numbers of Argentineans from access to 
work, to food and basic services, and then even to their own money, 
when limits were placed on the possibility of bank withdrawals. The 
reproduction of society became impossible in neoliberal Argentina. 
This ultimately resulted in an insurrection which has paralyzed the 
Argentine state. Of course, Argentina is the most extreme case so far 
of the social disaster wrought by the dominance of the 
self-regulating market. But to return to the question of the flexible 
personality, I think the artistic insurrections against neoliberalism 
in Europe and North America can be understood as advance reactions 
against the imposition of a market-based regulation upon subjectivity 
itself. This is why the notions of freedom, gratuity and of the gift 
economy are so prominent in the movement, to the point where they 
seem to form its specific culture. To give things away at the 
demonstrations is a way to publicly reinstate other patterns of 
exchange, while opposing the dominance of money. And these kinds of 
give-aways, like potlatch itself, are not only extraordinarily 
playful. For example, a scathing satire of the language of YES was 
carried out by the group known precisely as the Yes Men, when they 
posed as the WTO to offer a neoliberal solution to world famine. They 
suggested that the poorest countries could commercialize hamburgers, 
which indeed were being given away to the audience as they spoke; the 
meat, they said, could be recycled as many as ten times through the 
use of a cheap, charitable defecation filter, a so-called "Personal 
Dietary Assistant" (PDA)... Finally they intimated that the modern 
food business could even learn something from the Aztecs, who had 
found an ingenious way to supplement the lack of protein in their 
diet - by sacrificing their neighbors! Could there be a more precise 
analogy for the life-destructive nature of the neoliberal economy?

Rarely have the protests attained such extremes of black humor. But 
the networked resistance continually theatricalizes Polanyi's basic 
insight, that economic exchange is embedded within cultural patterns 
of reciprocity. And this theater, the entire carnavalesque dimension 
that is so characteristic, is clearly a way of reaching back or 
forward to a culture that cannot be identified with capitalism. The 
idea would seem to be confirmed by the important place that 
indigenous cultures hold in the mythology of the counterglobalization 
movement, such as the Mayans of Chiapas or the Ogoni tribes facing up 
to the transnational oil companies in Nigeria. What then should we 
make of Manuel Castells' opposition of the Net and the Self, of 
progressive mobility and regressive identity as two contradictory 
figures of the contemporary world? Or again, what then should one 
make of Toni Negri's notion of the real subsumption of labor by 
capital - that means, the penetration of all the aspects of life by 
the processes of extraction, circulation and accumulation of abstract 
value - whereby market-based exchanges effectively bring all other 
social relationships beneath their transformatory empire? What I 
think is that the real subsumption of traditional culture by 
capitalist relations of production almost immediately creates an 
imperious need to invent new forms of non-monetary exchange, so as to 
escape from the constrictive and sterile realm of pure commodity 
relations. Therefore the Net is always accompanied by figures of the 
Self, and a progressive, mobile subjectivity seeking to reinvent 
patterns of exchange always feels a kinship with the bearers of 
ancient cultures, who in the case of the Zapatistas at least, and 
probably in very many cases, do not cultivate the regressive identity 
that Castells suggests, but instead try actively to transform their 
traditional heritage into something emancipatory in the present.

All of which is not to say, of course, that regressive mentalities do 
not exist in the contemporary world. The stock market crash of the 
year 2000, and the continuing menace of deflation that haunts the 
world's leaders and financial elite today, combines with the 
manipulated resurgence of archaic social forms to paint an 
increasingly ugly and depressing picture which no one can ignore. My 
own belief is that the continuing imposition of networked capitalism, 
backed up increasingly by military force as the symbolic language of 
money loses its ability to integrate the world system, is going to 
bring up waves of violent resistance whose nature we cannot really 
understand from out positions here in the Western world. But although 
these realities clearly exist, what I want to do right now is not to 
talk extensively about them, but rather to look first at the 
technological, and then at the specifically artistic conditions of 
exchanges that do not depend on the universal equivalency of 
globalization's floating currencies.

It is clear that "the oppositionality that has characterised previous 
forms of protest and resistance" is in no way "finished as a useful 
model." On the other hand, the oppositional energies I have been 
pointing to are very much entangled in networks, and even 
specifically electronic ones. Now I will discuss the way that these 
networks operate outside capitalist forms of exchange.

It is well known that the Linux operating-system kernel, and free 
software generally, is made cooperatively without any money changing 
hands. This is something that quickly caught the attention of artists 
and culture critics, with the result that in the early days of 
Nettime, for instance, there were a lot of discussions about the 
"high-tech gift economy," to use Richard Barbrook's phrase, or about 
"Cooking-Pot Markets," to quote Rishab Aiyer Ghosh. Behind these 
discussions one occasionally catches a glimpse of an anthropologist, 
not Polanyi, but a figure of even greater importance: Marcel Mauss, 
author of the famous essay on The Gift. As Barbrook points out, Mauss 
was a living presence, his ideas having inspired the Situationists, 
who passed them on to the do-it-yourself media ethic of the Punk 
movement. But mostly what fueled the discussion of the Internet gift 
economy was the actual practice of adding information to the net. As 
Ghosh writes, "the economy of the Net begins to look like a vast 
tribal cooking-pot, surging with production to match consumption, 
simply because everyone understands - instinctively, perhaps - that 
trade need not occur in single transactions of barter, and that one 
product can be exchanged for millions at a time. The cooking-pot 
keeps boiling because people keep putting in things as they 
themselves, and others, take things out."

Today, with the popular explosion of Napster, Gnutella, and other 
peer-to-peer file-sharing systems, these debates over the high-tech 
gift economy are quite well-known indeed. Less well-known, because of 
a denial which is characteristic of economic liberalism, is the fact 
that non-monetary models of exchange have been operating on a very 
large scale for as long as one can remember, for instance in the 
realm of academic publishing, where information is shared not for 
monetary value but for the recognition it brings - which itself is at 
least partially dependent on the feeling of contributing something to 
humanity or truth. Recently, an author named Yochai Benkler has taken 
the twin examples of free software and academic publishing as a 
foundation on which to build a general theory of what he calls 
"commons-based peer production," by which he means non-proprietary 
informational or cultural production, based on materials which are 
extremely low cost or inherently free. This ownerless, voluntary form 
of production depends, in his words, "on very large aggregations of 
individuals independently scouring their information environment in 
search of opportunities to be creative in small or large increments. 
These individuals then self-identify for tasks and perform them for 
complex motivational reasons." Benkler's problem, however, unlike 
Polanyi's or Mauss's, is not so much describing the reasons for 
motivation, as the organizational and technological conditions that 
make this self-motivated scouring of the informational environment 

Benkler identifies four attributes of the networked information 
economy that favor commons-based peer production. First, the fact 
that information serves as an inexhaustible or indestructible raw 
material for products which share the same characteristics. Second, 
the cost of production equipment, high in the era of the printing 
press, has become low in the age of the personal computer. Third, 
creative inspiration, the main input to information production, is 
notoriously hard to identify by anyone except the individual who 
experiences it. Fourth, distribution of the results has become 
extremely cheap. Under these conditions, quite complex tasks can be 
imagined, divided into small modules, and thrown out into the public 
realm where individuals will self-identify their competency to meet 
any given challenge. The only remaining requirement for large scale 
production is to be able to perform quality checks and integrate all 
the individual modules with relatively low effort into a completed 
whole - but these tasks, it often turns out, can also be done on a 
distributed basis. The fact that all of this is possible, and 
actually happening today, allows Benkler to contradict Ronald Coase's 
classic theory, and make the claim that commons-based peer production 
has joined the market and the firm as one of the viable ways for 
organizing and coordinating human production. And this is a very 
large claim, because it means that there is a productive economy 
outside the two major organizing devices of capitalism as we know it.

Now, the examples Benkler uses to prove the existence of voluntarily 
organized large-scale cultural production are nethead favorites like 
the Wikipedia encyclopedia project, the slashdot technews site, the 
Kuro5hin text-editing site, and so on - basically situations where 
publicly available text plus creativity produces publicly available 
text. But perhaps it is more existentially, socially and even 
visually impressive to consider the peer-production of recent 
networked demonstrations, where publicly available text and 
perception about the increasingly deplorable state of our shared 
world, plus human conviction, solidarity, creativity and courage are 
able to touch off huge collective performances, media irruptions, 
social and political crises, and of course, more publicly available 
texts, as well as reverberating memories of shared experience.

So - if you're willing to concede that something like the networked 
demonstrations against the IMF and the World Bank in Prague in 
September of the year 2000 are perhaps not more noble, but anyway 
more socially and visually impressive than Wikipedia, then I shall 
have to ask you to imagine about 15 thousand people from all around 
the Western world self-selecting and self-motivating themselves for 
the volunteer tasks of informing each other in advance, of traveling 
across Europe to meet at specific dates, and then upon arrival, 
preparing a convergence center, a counter-summit, a festival of 
resistance, a networked media unit, and above all, a massive and 
successful direct-action demo, which itself was self-organized into 
three different sections, namely: the blue line, which went to tangle 
with the cops; the yellow line, which went to block an important 
bridge with a very peculiar kind of theater;  and the pink line, 
which went to blow people's minds and basically show them that 
anything is possible, including getting into the conference center 
and stopping the meeting. I think if you have the chance to look at 
the different kinds of actions undertaken by the different lines, 
you'll realize two things: first of all, that making the right 
decisions about what kind of module you're up to working on is quite 
important, and second, that the sheer fact of redundancy - I mean, 
lots of people working on the same module - does in fact help get 
over the problem of those little mistakes some people make about what 
they really can accomplish.

Now, if it's still possible to be serious about such kooky events, 
then there's just one more thing I'd like to say, in terms of 
Benkler's thesis about peer production being a new possibility for 
human organization. That one thing is that the Global Days of Action 
in which I have been involved, far from being the random, violent 
mass events that are portrayed in the media, are in fact among the 
most complex, intelligent and creative social productions that I 
know, precisely because of their self-organization. The research of 
the Multiplicity group, in particular, has gone a long way towards 
showing how complex and innovative these kinds of self-organization 
can be, and how far they escape previously known categories. I would 
only add that situations like these demonstrations, where conflict is 
expected over very high stakes, seem to take self-organization to yet 
higher levels of complexity, creativity and effective realization. 
This is a politics of mobility, which has begun to operate at a world 
scale. And the kinds of exchanges that take place during these events 
- of ideas, images, gestures, cultures and solidarities - are very 
intriguing indeed, for those who believe that cultural innovation 
must now take place outside the established institutions.

Finally I will try to use some of the familiar terms of the art world 
to talk about the relationship between concept and performance, as a 
cultural exchange within the networked resistance to capitalism. It 
is well known that conceptual art was a failure. The "escape 
strategies" that Lucy Lippard talks about, in her famous book on The 
Dematerialization of the Object of Art, were intended to free artists 
from dependency on the gallery-magazine-museum circuit as their sole 
means of distribution. But the escape led at best from 
market-oriented New York to the museums of Europe. And even that was 
only a detour. In 1973, Seth Siegelaub said in an interview: 
"Conceptual art, more than all previous types of art, questions the 
fundamental nature of art. Unhappily, the question is strictly 
limited to the exclusive domain of the fine arts. There is still the 
potential of it authorizing an examination of all that surrounds art, 
but in reality, conceptual artists are dedicated only to exploring 
avant-garde aesthetic problems.... Unhappily, the economic pattern 
associated with conceptual art is remarkably similar to that of other 
artistic movements: to purchase a work cheap and resell it at a high 
price. In short, speculation." Lucy Lippard, for her part, wrote in 
1973 that the "ghetto mentality predominant in the narrow and 
incestuous art world... with its reliance on a very small group of 
dealers, curators, editors and collectors who are all too frequently 
and often unknowingly bound by invisible apron strings to the 'real 
world's' power structures... make[s] it unlikely that conceptual art 
will be any better equipped to affect the world any differently than, 
or even as much as, its less ephemeral counterparts."

These admissions of defeat are well known. But it is also very 
intriguing that quite recently, another history of conceptual art has 
been coming back to light. It is a history that unfolds in Latin 
America, and particularly in Argentina, in the cities of Buenos Aires 
and Rosario. It would seem that here, in the context of an 
authoritarian government and under the pressure of American cultural 
imperialism, conceptual art could only be received, or indeed, 
invented, as an invitation to act antagonistically within the 
mass-media sphere, which had already been thematized as an artistic 
medium by Argentine pop. The most characteristic project in this 
respect was no doubt Tucumán Arde, or "Tucumán is Burning," realized 
in 1968. A group of some 30 Rosario artists researched the social 
conditions in the province of Tucumán, carrying out an analysis of 
all the mass-media coverage of the region that was currently 
available, and going out themselves to gather first-hand information 
and to document the situation using photography and film. They then 
staged a traveling exhibition that was explicitly designed to feed 
their work back into the national media, so as to counter the 
propaganda of the government which had shut down the entire 
sugar-cane industry in the province, and was now trying to paint an 
idyllic picture of a region which in reality was wracked by poverty 
and intense labor struggles. In this way, the artists sought to work 
oppositionally within the media sphere, insofar as that sphere 
directly affects social reality.

Now, to understand the differences from today, you must realize that 
Tucumán Arde was done with the support of the Argentine CGT, that is, 
a labor union, and that the exhibition was shown in union halls. In 
other words, to obtain the funding and distribution of work that 
would not be supported by the market, the Rosario group had to 
collaborate with a bureaucratic structure, which despite being 
"workerist" is essentially an outgrowth of the capitalist firm. This 
is where Benkler's central remark, about the possibility of peer 
production emerging only when the relevant equipment is widely 
dispersed and densely interconnected, takes on its full significance 
for a contemporary practice of conceptual art. The communications and 
transportation network of today is the precondition for the revenge 
of the concept. But the Rosario group's relation to the CGT prompts 
another remark, which is that after the anti-bureaucratic revolt of 
the New Left in the Northern countries, from 1968 onward, it has 
become practically impossible social movements, let alone artists, to 
collaborate with bureaucratic structures, such as parties, unions, 
etc. This is why the revolution must now be a do-it-yourself affair, 
and why the concepts that work are those that can be freely 
actualized, by each participant, as a political performance. To roll 
it up in a phrase: "the revenge of the concept = do-it-yourself 

This is about to bring us full circle, back to June 18th, 1999. First 
I'd like tell you that an important share of the preparation for the 
London performance of this global street party and carnival against 
capitalism was done by artists. They were apparently the ones who 
pointed to the LIFFE building, the London International Financial 
Futures Exchange, as a perfect instance and symbol of globalized 
finance capitalism. Because they had read extensively about 
Situationism and been part of its prolongations in England, they were 
sure that a spontaneous mass action could succeed in a district where 
large, sophisticated modern buildings were laid out on a medieval 
street plan. Because they were Joseph Beuys freaks, they were very 
curious about the fact that a natural river still flowed beneath all 
the steel and stone of the street where the LIFFE building is 
located. And because they were contemporary artists, they knew that 
what they had to do was to throw out ideas and metaphors and images, 
amid a group of many more people doing the same, and then work 
further with the ones that would start coming back to them, 
transformed. To exemplify that, it seems that the idea of a global 
street party rapidly went around the world, passing from person to 
person through various networks, and was eventually sent back to 
people at London Reclaim the Streets by someone in Buenos Aires, 
saying this is a great idea, you should really work on this!

To see how well the frozen vocabularies of conceptual and performance 
art in the museum applies to this outdoor art of concept and 
performance, just look at this [or imagine the images!]:

- ATTITUDE: "Our resistance is as transnational as capital"
- FORM: Global street party
- AUTHOR: Crowd of protestors at the tube station
- INFORMATION: Text on the mask, describing carnival possibilities
- THEATRICALIZATION OF PUBLIC SPACE: People dancing in the street
- RELATIONAL ART: Couple kissing under the spouting fire hydrant
- SOCIAL CRITIQUE: A rear guard of protestors fighting the police
- MEDIA INFILTRATION: FT headline: Anti-Capitalists Lay Seige to London
- TRACES: Smoke over St. Paul's catherdral
- DOCUMENTATION: RTS webpage showing global map of J18 actions

(It's important that this documentation, rather than just being some 
kind of contemplative archive, actually helped inspire people to do 
what they did in Seattle about six months later...).

In conclusion, I'd like to both agree and disagree with Eric 
Kluitenberg, who, by drawing on Manuel Castells, has written a 
suggestive essay on what he calls "the negative dialectics of the 
net." In phrases which seem like a contemporary echo of the ideas of 
the Argentinean pop and conceptual artists of the sixties, he 

"The logic of the digital network now informs all dominant aspects of 
society. This fact on the one hand marks the end of the virtual, a 
sphere that has become completely intertwined with the real world. At 
the same time, however, every significant social interaction can only 
become meaningful by virtue of how it is mapped in the digital 

What this means is that if artistic resistance is now entangled in 
the networks, it is because the networks are thoroughly entangled in 
the real, just as television has been since its massive deployment in 
the 1950s, or radio since the 1930s. Yet whereas television, like 
radio, could only be very imperfectly made into a medium for art, the 
real virtuality of computer networks has been far more open to 
autonomous uses, which are in fact able to defy the systemic aspects 
of the channels they invest. Thus Kluitenberg writes: "In this 
paradoxical environment, dominant discourses of social, political and 
economic power can be challenged at the level of the representational 
systems they employ. The classical avant-gardes provide a repository 
of ideas, tactics and strategies that are now played out in a 
radically enlarged context; no longer the context of art itself, but 
that of the network society."

I see it pretty much that way. The interest of a cartography of 
contemporary capitalism, for instance, is to break the frame, not of 
art, but of domination as it is exercised over society. But I have to 
add something: if the strategies of vanguard art can function in this 
"paradoxical environment," it is precisely because they have given up 
vanguard privilege, or perhaps more exactly, extended it in a kind of 
potlatch that destroys it. It is the capacity to actualize the 
virtual - what I have so far called "performance" - that destroys the 
privilege of any vanguard. And this capacity springs from an 
anthropological level of resistance to domination about which there 
is still everything to be learned.

For it is clear that "round one" of the revenge of the concept is now 
over. For three reasons. On is that the initial form of media 
penetration no longer works: it has succeeded in publicly identifying 
the illegitimacy of the transnational institutions - a major victory. 
But what we have seen since Genoa is nonetheless a containment 
strategy that successfully minimizes and distorts the media coverage. 
Second, and more importantly no doubt, the operative limits of the 
initial discovery of self-organization in transnational space have 
also been reached; and the "multitudes" must learn deeper forms of 
coordination, without giving into the representative fallacy that 
looks to create a new political party, ripe for absorption and 
neutralization. But finally there is the question of enlarging the 
struggle, and learning from those who bear the brunt of capitalist 
exploitation today, in a moment of impending Imperial war and 
devastation. All of the people touched by the emergence of new 
capacities for self-organization, for cultural production outside the 
frameworks of the market and the firm, will have to decide, in a 
thousand different and very diffuse ways, whether they want to go 
further, whether they want to actualize an understanding of what life 
is like, and of what resistance means - outside the spheres of 
privilege which are insured by contemporary capitalism.

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