STUDIO 1 - BERLINO (Germania)/trasmesso in streaming online

How can art and activism be combined to tackle burning social issues, surveillance, unethical corporations and corrupt governments?

From June 23-25, 2023, ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power analyses how art and activism can be combined to shift media attention onto important social issues, targeting unethical corporations and corrupt governments working against the public good. The programme presents distributed techniques and methods of provoking social and political justice using digital technologies for social awareness and political criticism. Invited speakers range from artists, political activists and developers to human rights advocates and truth-tellers. 

Artivism, a practice that combines art and activism, is configured through the actions of artists and collectives, to generate social and political disruption (Bazzichelli 2006; 2013). Throughout June 2023, Disruption Network Lab celebrates its 30th conference anniversary with a programme of meetups, workshops, keynotes, panel discussions and artistic productions, which focuses on the importance of building networks of trust to expose systems of power and injustice. The scope of the events is to reflect on the impact of technology and media on the broader society by connecting projects of art and networking that investigate power asymmetries and civil rights violations.

Since the time of the Avant-Gardes art has been a means of understanding our society. The history of Artivism in relation to digital culture dates to the early 1990s, connecting projects of hacktivism and network culture. However, the point of inception of this concept can be identified in the 1980s, when artists experimented with different art forms, from performance, media art, video art, street art and culture jamming, to denounce power abuses and criticise consumerism.

The history of this approach is long and involves a variety of practices (the list is partial): from Avant-Gardes artistic projects to the Fluxus movement; grassroots art subcultures in the 1980s-1990s from mail art, The Church of the SubGenius, Neoism and Luther Blissett to 1990s net art projects; hacktivist interventions from the early cypherpunk and cyberfeminism (i.e. VNS Matrix, Old Boys Network, Cornelia Sollfrank) to today; the first adbusting, culture jamming and subvertising actions by the Billboard Liberation Front, the Guerrilla Girls and The Yes Men; the Virtual Sit-in and other interventions by the Electronic Disturbance Theater (Ricardo Dominguez, 1997); the Netstrikes, telestreets, Indymedia, Candida Tv, and other media activism projects and grassroots collectives in Italy and internationally in the early 2000s; the AHA: Activism-Hacking-Artivism project (mailing list and exhibition events on media activism) by Tatiana Bazzichelli (2002) and her book Networking: The Art as Artwork (2006); the analysis by Matteo Pasquinelli in the book Media Activism (2002); the monographic essay on Artivism in the field of performing art by the Slovenian scholar Aldo Milohnić (2005); the autobiographical monograph by Italian artist Giacomo Verde Artivismo tecnologico (2007); a decade of critical interventions on the Internet and in social media before and after the middle of 2000s (see: Tatiana Bazzichelli, Networked Disruption, 2013); distributed interventions of Anonymous and LulzSec (Gabriella Coleman, 2014; Marco Deseriis, 2015); the recent debate on whistleblowing, privacy and data surveillance after the Snowden disclosures.

The conference ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power analyses the political impact of today’s forms of art and activism (artivism) in the field of social networking, hacking, whistleblowing and leaking, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The aim is to provide a lively platform of debate and exchange analysing the current transformation in political and technological criticism, as well as reflecting on the need of artistic practices today to reveal inner structures and logics of political, economic and technological systems. Do we still need artivism, and what does it mean today to combine art and activism?

The curatorial approach is developed comparing projects that deal with different forms of artivism and their political impact on our society. By inviting experts from different areas to analyse the invisible side of technology in shaping our lives, the aim is to create an interdisciplinary atmosphere of sharing and understanding, as well as to address the group of actors active in this field in Berlin and internationally.

This programme is following a series of publications and events held in Italy after the death of artivist Giacomo Verde, whose work is remembered during the conference with a homage screening of his last 2019 performance “Il piccolo diario dei malanni” (The Little Diary of Ailments).