Lacplesis Technology is a group of three projects that explore the balance between two paragraphs of the article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

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Lacplesis Technology was created by Andris Vetra and Artis Kupriss (in collaboration with programmer Viesturs Kavacs) with the aim of looking for evil in copyright issues.

The project bears the name of Lāčplēsis, a hero in Latvian mythology. A very interesting hero! Of course he did the usual: fighting against a giant and then against monsters with various numbers of heads, rising a castle into the air, but i liked the fact that the Latvians are celebrating him because he battled anyone plotting to replace Latvian old gods with Christianity.

The Lacplesis Technology project comprises 3 prototypes. The first one is LT-ML002, a pirated music legislation software that detects all the .mp3 files stored in your portable USB media device, cuts the songs into tiny pieces and rearranges them randomly into a new unique composition.

LT-GR002 is an alternative media player which can be used in public spaces for both noncommercial and commercial purpose without any fee. A mechanical clapper regulates the tempo and volume and creates different soundscapes. The device can be used with headphones or speakers.

Finally, E1-FLAX investigates how pirated music affects living organisms. Scientists from University of California even succeeded to affect work of plants stomata (which are responsible for evaporation of water from plants) with help of high frequency sounds.

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LT-GR002

I discovered Lacplesis Technology during the final day of the Renewable Futures Conference organised at Liepaja University's Art Research Lab. Young graduates were presenting their work and i thought that this one really stood out. Andris talked to me about the project:

Hi Andris! How small do the snippets of files made by LT-ML002 have to be for the work to be 'legal'?

To find that out we called Latvian authors' society AKKA / LAA. Technically it is illegal to take and/or make changes with anything at all without the authors' permission. If something is recorded and put under copyright no one can use it without permission. So our legalization software does that illegally and the actual result is not really legal but the idea is to make the result hard to recognize for responsible institutions. But snippets taken by LT-ML002 are approximately 10 to 100 milliseconds long. After the legalization process, most of them are changed in time scale as well (made faster or slower) so the length of the new composition is different.

Have you ever received any feedback from musicians whose work had been rearranged by your software?

Unfortunately, we have not received any feedback from musicians. But reasons for that are quite clear. This work has been exhibited only once for wider public and not too many people carry flash drives with music in them so those new compositions have not spread widely yet. But fortunately we are working on online version which will be available in beginning of this autumn hopefully.

Is there any way we can get the software?

We are not sure about download version but as I said there will be online version available for all who can access internet connection.

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LT-GR002

Could you explain was LT-GR002 is made of? Is it just an Mp3 player dismantled and put inside a transparent box?

LT-GR002 is completely analog media player. It produces sound out of mechanical mechanism. Spring rotates and hits metal bars, contact microphone attached to mechanism receives the sound and sends it to mini jack output through amplifier. See picture 1 attached.


LT-GR002 can be used in public space even for commercial purpose. What is the content it plays then? Where does it come from?

LT-GR002 plays analog dance music.

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LT E1-FLAX

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LT E1-FLAX

I am also very curious about LT E1-FLAX. Could you explain the experiment, the conditions and process, the observations and results?

There are quite a lot of research that proves that music can affect growth of plants and other organisms. In the experiment LT E1-FLAX, we researched how pirated music affects plant growth compared to non pirated/legal music. In this experiment we made two identical containers with the same soil, the same seeds of flax (10 in each container), identical speakers and provided them with the same amount of water and light. The only difference was the content played through the speakers. For the experiment we used old song of composer Raimonds Pauls called "Zilie lini (Blue Flax)" in one container we played the legal version bought in an online store but in the second one, we played a copy of it that technically is pirated file. Results were quite similar though in the container with pirated music the plants grew little bit taller.


Lacplesis Technology is exploring balance between section 1 and section 2 of article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Do you know of successful music models that achieve this sort of balance?

Yes, there are positive examples around the world. A good example is Pay What You Want pricing strategy. The loudest example of this was Radio Head's album In Rainbows released under this pricing strategy. Also I liked this Techno Brega music industry in Brazil where music releases are used more as advertisement for live performances. The last one is documented in a good documentary related to those questions called "Good Copy Bad Copy".


Good Copy Bad Copy, 2007

I was wondering how you (as someone who grew up among debates about copyrights in music) saw where the discussions are leading to. Do you have much hope that things will change? have you, for example, observed that younger musicians are more likely to fight for a debate around copyrights than older generations for example?

We would not say that we have grown up among debates about this. This is more recent topic of our interest as young artists. This project of course is based on idealistic hope that some day it will be possible to deal with those problems. And that is the reason we chose this mythological hero Lacplesis to represent our project as he embody this romantic hope of victory of good over bad forces and golden age coming afterwards.

Thanks Andris!

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

On his return from Africa in 46 BC, Julius Caesar organised a naumachia, a staged sea battle on a water-filled basin by the river Tiber. For this water extravaganza, ships of two to four banks of oars representing historical fleets were set afloat. On board were thousands of combatants and rowers, prisoners of war or condemned to death who had to fight and reenact famous battles. All for the joy of the Roman people. Caesar's naumachia was the first documented one. Other, even more grandiose ones would be later organised by emperors in amphitheatres.

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A naumachia held at the Colosseum. Illustration by G. Nispi-Landi, 1913 (image)

In his Battleship photo series, Vincent Debanne transposed this kind of flamboyant spectacle to our days of growing wealth inequality.

The artist sets the scene in well-known playgrounds for luxury yachts: the bays of Antibes and of St-Tropez in France. Using image manipulation, Debanne turns these recreational vessels into formidable warships. The photo series also provides a surprisingly realistic commentary on some of our world's current economic, social and political issues.

I discovered the work of Vincent Debanne at the festival PhotoIreland in Dublin a few weeks ago and i recently contacted him to know more about his work. The artist answered me in french. I translated his text into english but if you scroll down, you'll find his answers in the original language as well:

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

Hi Vincent! I think what i found most remarkable about the photos (apart from the fact that they are stunning) is that they are completely credible. It took me a while to realize that they were not documenting any actual sea battle. These namachiae look completely logical, that's what the super rich would do to have fun between two parties, i imagine. But as far as i can understand, all your photo series are based on real social or political concerns. So what did you want to communicate with the series?

With the Battleship series, I want to evoke the display of power performed by the super rich in the exclusive centers of world yachting. The Bay of Saint-Tropez remains an important destination for this activity. I think that this display of luxury is made for two audiences: for the poor, as a show, a triumph, as they would have called it in Rome, but mostly for the rich themselves, the game is one that will require the biggest yacht, the longest length to affirm your status, communicate your high rank to other rich people.

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

What does the use of photomontage allow you to express that could not be conveyed through pure documentation or scene setting?

I show this gathering of yachts as a naval battle, because that's what it is, a balance of power, a fight. Photomontage gives me the opportunity to reveal, to exaggerate this underlying violence, the violence of economic war. These boats, with their aggressive design, their evocative names (unless they have female names), each of them bearing the flag of offshore havens, are already very impressive, but the photomontage makes their warrior appearance even more obvious, and emphasizes their kinship with the military. Furthermore, the world's largest yacht builder, which is German, also manufactures warships. Some of these yachts are armed with defense systems to fight against piracy. Photomontage makes it all visible!

What was the creative process for Battleship? What did you start with? just a few yacht meeting on the surface of the sea and then you add some explosion effect? How do you construct the photos from there?

The series is done in three stages. First, the shots of yachts on the water and then the photographs of the rear of the yachts moored in the port of Saint-Tropez and Antibes, in order to collect warriors names (a very short type), an image of the port of Antibes (a fortified harbor that shelters the largest yachts in the world), and finally the post-production, special effects, additions of explosions, smoke, etc.

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

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Vincent Debanne, Battleship

The scenes in many of your photo series appear uncannily real, but have there's something about them that makes us question reality itself. Is this something you are conscious of? And how do you manage that?

Yes, my photo series always play with realism: the documentary side of my images is essential. It has to be plausible at first sight. That's because my work is not fanciful but seeks to interrogate reality, often in a sociological and political perspective. It engages in a dialectical relationship with reality.

Some of your photos series are inspired by paintings. this seems to be the case with Battleship as well. Is it painting in general that inspired you or were you trying to evoke the style of a particular painter or genre?

I like to rely on painting. Rather than a painter in particular, it's the genre that interests me, with the archetypes it comprehends. These archetypal images help me show archaisms that are still very active nowadays. I proceed by exaggeration and the pastiche is one of its components. It is true that the marine is a theme that is seldom approached in photography, the major example of it remains Gustave Le Gray.

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Battleship Journal. Design by Lucie Lecomte and Vincent Debanne

Why did you chose to edit the photos in a journal? instead of a book for example?

I chose the form of a self-published newspaper, remembering how newspapers from the XIXth century used printmaking to relate naval battles. With designer Lucie Lecomte, we chose to leave more room for the image, with double-pages and the journal format that opens up flat. The newspaper remains an effective and inexpensive political medium. It can be distributed!

Thanks Vincent!

French version of Vincent Debanne's answers:

I think what i found most remarkable about the photos (apart from the fact that they are stunning) is that they are completely credible. It took me a while to realize that they were not documenting any actual sea battle. These namachiae look completely logical, that's what the super rich would do to have fun between two parties, i imagine. But as far as i can understand, all your photo series are based on real social or political concerns. So what did you want to communicate with the series?

Avec la série Battleship, je veux évoquer la démonstration de force donnée par les très riches dans les lieux privilégiés du yachting mondial. La baie de Saint-Tropez reste une destination importante pour cette activité. Pour moi cet étalage de luxe est effectué pour deux publics : pour les pauvres, comme un spectacle, un triomphe, on aurait dit à Rome, mais surtout pour les riches eux-mêmes, le jeu est à celui qui s'imposera par le plus gros yacht, le plus long métrage, pour affirmer son statut, communiquer son rang aux autres riches.

What does the use of photomontage allow you to express that could not be conveyed through pure documentation or scene setting?

Je montre ce rassemblement de yachts comme une bataille navale, car c'est ce qu'il est, un rapport de forces, un combat. Le photomontage me donne la possibilité de révéler, d'exagérer cette violence sous-jacente, celle de la guerre économique. Ces bateaux, avec leur design agressif, leurs noms si évocateurs (quand il ne s'agit pas de noms de femmes), tous sous des pavillons de paradis Offshore, sont déjà très impressionnants, mais le photomontage rend leur aspect guerrier plus évident, et souligne leur parenté avec le militaire. D'ailleurs le plus grand constructeur mondial de yacht, qui est allemand, fabrique également des navires de guerre. Et certains de ces yachts sont armés de systèmes de défense, pour lutter contre la piraterie. Le photomontage fait que tout cela devient visible !

What was the creative process for Battleship? What did you start with? just a few yacht meeting on the surface of the sea and then you add some explosion effect? How do you construct the photos from there?

La série est réalisée en trois temps, d'abord les prises de vues des yachts sur la mer, puis des photographies de l'arrière des yachts amarrés au port de Saint-Tropez et d'Antibes, pour collecter des noms guerriers (une très courte typologie), une image du port d'Antibes (port fortifié abritant les plus grands yachts du monde), et enfin la post-production, les effets spéciaux, additions d'explosions, fumées etc.

The scenes in many of your photo series appear uncannily real, but have there's something about them that makes us question reality itself. Is this something you are conscious of? And how do you manage that?

Oui, il y a toujours un jeu dans mes séries photographiques avec le réalisme : la part documentaire de mes images est essentielle. Il faut que cela soit plausible au premier abord. Car mon travail n'est pas fantaisiste mais cherche à questionner la réalité, souvent sous un angle sociologique et politique. Il engage un rapport dialectique avec le réel.

Some of your photos series are inspired by paintings. this seems to be the case with Battleship as well. Is it painting in general that inspired you or were you trying to evoke the style of a particular painter or genre?

J'aime m'appuyer sur la peinture : plus qu'un peintre en particulier, c'est effectivement le genre qui m'intéresse avec les archétypes qu'il comporte. Ces images archétypales me sont utiles pour montrer les archaïsmes encore très actifs dans notre époque contemporaine. Je procède par exagération et le pastiche en est une des composantes. Il est vrai que les marines sont un thème peu traité en photographie, l'exemple majeur restant Gustave Le Gray.

Why did you chose to edit the photos in a journal? instead of a book for example?

J'ai choisi la forme du journal, autoédité, en me rappelant les journaux du XIX eme siècle qui relataient les batailles navales en gravure. Avec la graphiste Lucie Lecomte, nous avons choisi de laisser la plus grande place à l'image, sur des doubles pages et le format du journal permet d'ouvrir bien à plat. Le journal reste un médium politique efficace et peu cher. Il peut être distribué !!!

Merci Vincent!

Also at the festival Photo Ireland: Anecdotal radiations, the stories surrounding nuclear armament and testing programs.

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Coral Stoakes, I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies, 2011. Photo Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Installation Image, Disobedient Objects, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has recently opened an exhibition that "examines the powerful role of objects in movements for social change." It is called Disobedient Objects. That's the kind of title that chic and cheerful designers would use to describe how their work is 'subversive' but, thankfully, this is probably the most un-designy show the V&A has ever organised (except for the whole communication and setting which was orchestrated by the studio of Jonathan Barnbrook.) Disobedient Objects is not one of those fashionable activist art exhibitions either. This is a show about activism with a capital A, a show inhabited by artefacts that had never graced the venerable rooms of a museum or art gallery until now.

Many of the items exhibited are often mundane objects that were either given a new purpose or modified in haste in answer to an emergency situation. As modest as they might seem, these artifacts show the resourcefulness and ingenuity of people. They testify of their courage as well. Confronted with the sophisticated (except maybe in London where our good Mayor favours cut-price water cannons that are being phased out in Germany amid concerns about their safety) and potentially harmful equipment used by security forces, these artefacts look almost pitiful. But that doesn't make them less efficient.

Disobedient Objects focuses on the period from the late 1970s to now, a time that has brought new technologies and political challenges. The items displayed range from the very rudimentary to the sophisticated, from a slingshot made from a Palestinian child's shoe to mobile phone-powered drones for filming demonstrations or the police, from textiles sewn by women to communicate the atrocities they have experienced under the Pinochet regime in Chile, in particular the 'disappearance of their children to a robot that spray paint slogans on the pavement.

I entered the show ready to sneer at V&A's grand attempts to glamourize popular protests and turn evidences of genuine and at times violent dissent into food for cool hunters. My fighting mood quickly vanished. Disobedient Objects is a show that invites visitors to get out and raise their heads, to be inspired and fight for their rights. And that's what matters to me.

As the curators wrote: "Peaceful disobedience only works when protesters have cultural visibility and the government acknowledges their right to protest. Without this, struggles for freedom can sometimes take other forms."

Here's a very small overview of the stories you can discover in this ridiculously crammed with visitors but invigorating exhibition:

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TAF!, Enmedio and Plataforma de Artefactos por la Hipoteca, We Are Not Numbers

As usual, I bow (me saco el sombrero?) to Spanish wittiness. No one does protests as eloquently and astutely as they do these days. TAF! and Enmedio worked with Plataforma de Artefactos por la Hipoteca (a platform for mortgage debt victims) against dehumanizing media representations of people affected by Spain's mortgage crisis. The group pasted portraits of evicted homeowners on the facades of banks responsible, showing evicted people, not statistics.

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Inflatable cobblestone, action of Eclectic Electric Collective in cooperation with Enmedio collective during the General Strike in Barcelona 2012. © Oriana Eliçabe/Enmedio.info

The inflatable cobblestones were rolled across the streets in Berlin and Barcelona to confuse police and generate sympathetic media attention.

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Electronic Disturbance Theatre 1.0, FloodNet, 1998

When many people run the program FloodNet (1998) together, they can target and overload websites. The Java applet was created in response to the massacre of 45 peaceful supporters of the Zapatistas in Mexico. Ten thousand protestors disturbed the website of the Mexican presidency and the Pentagon. FloodNet has since been adopted by many groups and movements.

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Bike Bloc Graphic Poster. Anonymous. Photo Victoria and Albert Musem, London

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Installation Image, Disobedient Objects, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The first Bike Bloc was part of the mass civil disobedience organised during the 2009 Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Moving in swarms, bikes helped protesters breach the summit's security cordon and hold an alternative People's Assembly. The leading bike carried a sound system and pirate radio antennae. It broadcasted via other bikes around it with independent speakers, each on a separate channel. The sound could jump between bikes inside the crowd, and change in tone to respond to different situations.


Sound Swarm (of the Bike Bloc) @ the Climate Summit. Shot and edited by Leah Temper

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Occupy London Stock Exchange, Capitalism is Crisis banner. Used 2009-12. Credit: Immo Klink

The banner was made for the 2009 Climate Camp at Blackheath, London. It identified capitalism as the source of climate chaos and as an ongoing crisis of inequality and injustice.

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Ed Hall, Banner for UNITE the union at the march in support of the NHS in Manchester, 29th September 2013. Courtesy of Ed Hall

One of the banners hanging over the exhibition space was designed and hand-stitched by Ed Hall (whose name appears in almost every single post i've written about Jeremy Deller's work.) Hall has been making banners used by union groups for over 30 years. This one was used in a protest march in support of the NHS in Manchester in 2013. It features the Thatcher quote 'Still the enemy within', which is surrounded by iconography referencing the miners' strike, poll tax rebellion and welfare cuts.

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Andy Dao and Ivan Cash, Occupy George overprinted dollar bill, 2011. Courtesy of Andy Dao and Ivan Cash

Andy Dao and Ivan Cash circulated dollar bills stamped with fact-based infographics that communicate the widening economic disparity in the U.S.A. The designs were also released on the Internet enabling anyone to participate.

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Occupy Liz, defaced currency for the Occupy movement. Photograph: Ivan Cash and Andy Dao

The artists/advertising experts were commissioned by the museum to design stamps about the UK's wealth disparity on the £5 note: in 2011, 1% of the UK population earned £922,433 while 90% earned £12,933. Any visitor can use the stamp to make their money a bit more riotous.

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Middle Burmese 1 kyat "democracy note," 1989-90, private collection

There is a long, long tradition of bank notes used for protest. The show also reminded that in 1990, a Burmese currency designer very subtly painted the face of Aung San Suu Kyi onto a new note after she had been democratically elected then placed under house arrest by the military junta. The designer softened the features of Gen. Aung San (the father of Aung San Suu Kyi) so that his face resembles the one of his daughter. People could thus hold up their bank notes to the light and see a hidden portrait of the opposition leader.

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Faced with police tear-gas, protesters in Turkey made their own gas masks

In 2013, the Turkish government used record amounts of tear gas against people protesting against the redevelopment of the Gezi Park in Istanbul. Protesters devised their own makeshift gas mask using plastic bottle, surgical face mask, foam and rubber bands.

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Greek protester Katerina Patrikarakou covers her face in a Maalox mixture to counter the effects of tear gas. Photo Peter Hapak for Time

Greek protesters adopted an equally cunning strategy. People resisting government austerity discovered that a solution of antacid and water sprayed onto the face offered relief from the burn of tear gas. However, it left a white residue that market protesters out.

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Book Bloc activists in Rome in 2010. Photograph: Vittorio Giannitelli/SonarProject

The protest shields painted to look like books were first made in Italy, in November 2010. Students were protesting against the drastic cuts to the public university system. The oversize books were held up at the front of demonstrations so that when the police hit the students with sticks, it looked as if they were attacking literature.

Students in London produced their own book shields after they saw videos of the actions online. The tactic quickly spread to other parts of the world.

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Institute for Applied Autonomy, Graffiti Writer (Robot for writing street graffiti), 1998. Courtesy of Institute for Applied Autonomy

A couple of artworks did sneak into the exhibition. I guess that the Graffiti Writer doesn't need any introduction....

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Molleindustria, Phone Story, 2011

The gallery also featured Molleindustria's Phone Story, a free game app that players win by forcing children to mine coltan in the Congo, preventing worker protest-suicide in China, managing rabid consumers in the West and disposing of electronic waste unsafely in Pakistan. The game was banned from Apple's iTunes store four days after its release.

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Guerrilla Girls. Image George Lange

The Guerrilla Girls was formed in 1985 to protest against the ridiculously low number of works by female artists in the most prestigious galleries and museums of New York. Their fight is as relevant as ever today (and not just in NYc obviously.)

More images from the show:

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L J Roberts, Gaybashers, Come and Get It, USA, 2011. Courtesy of Blanca Garcia

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Dolls of the Zapatista Revolution, The Zapatista, Mexico. PhotoVictoria and Albert Musem, London

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Installation Image, Disobedient Objects, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Installation Image, Disobedient Objects, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Carrie Reichardt and the Treatment Rooms Collective, Ceramic Intervention on the V&A Façade, 2014

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Bone china with transfers printed in green, bearing the emblem of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Photo: Victoria and Albert Musem, London

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Chilean Arpilleras wall hanging: Donde estan nuestros hijos, Chile Roberta Bacic's collection. Photo Martin Melaugh

The museum has PDF guides to DIY some of the objects exhibited.

Disobedient Objects was curated by Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood. The show is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, until 1 February 2015.

100 Ideas that Changed the Web, by Jim Boulton, curator of Digital Archaeology, an organisation that seeks to document the formative years of digital culture and raise the profile of digital preservation.

Available on Amazon UK and USA

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Publisher Laurence King writes: This innovative title looks at the history of the Web from its early roots in the research projects of the US government to the interactive online world we know and use today.

Fully illustrated with images of early computing equipment and the inside story of the online world's movers and shakers, the book explains the origins of the Web's key technologies, such as hypertext and mark-up language, the social ideas that underlie its networks, such as open source, and creative commons, and key moments in its development, such as the movement to broadband and the Dotcom Crash. Later ideas look at the origins of social networking and the latest developments on the Web, such as The Cloud and the Semantic Web.

Following the design of the previous titles in the series, this book will be in a new, smaller format. It provides an informed and fascinating illustrated history of our most used and fastest-developing technology.

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The book had me at page 8, the one that says "The idea of the internet was born in Belgium.' I was born there too! How thrilling! That idea, thus, was born at the Mundaneum, an institution which Slates calls a 'Proto-Internet made of index cards' and Speigel defines 'an analog version of Google'. Created in 1910, the Mundaneum had the ambition of collecting all human knowledge and classify it according to a system that Belgian lawyer Paul Otlet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri LaFontaine called 'Universal Decimal Classification'. While this networked world relied on index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the hyperlinked structure of today's Web.

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The answers had to be searched for by hand, and that could take weeks. The index card system was developed in 1903 by Otlet, seen here in the same year (via)

100 Ideas that Changed the Web is a thick, compact book that charts the key moments that made and make the Web. The author presents one idea over two pages. One of them being the short essay, the other is the image that illustrates the concept. The book follows a logical and chronological order. The 20 first ideas are about the vanguard that paved the way for the creation of the Web. Ideas 21 to 53 are about the early days of the Web. These were times of experiments and wild dreams. The following 20-ish ideas deal with the pre-social era of the Web, full of ups (PayPal) and downs (that dot-com bubble). Ideas 74 to 98 brings us into the right here, right now of the web. The last two ideas look into the future.

The book is very upbeat and celebratory. It makes me love the fact that i lived from dial-up modems (don't miss understand me: i'd never ever want to go back there) to the era of Big Data. It also reminded me of the importance of ideas i either take for granted nowadays (eBay!! or real-time reporting) or had almost forgotten (The Blair Witch Project, a film that accumulated a series of 'first time ever', one of them being that its promotion relied heavily on a website.)

I think it's a book anyone might enjoy. It sums up efficiently important concepts and allows readers to take a step back and look at how much their lives have changed in a relatively short period of time.

With that said, i feel that the book is glossing over the unpleasant aspects of the web: the trolls, the spam, the scams, the mass-surveillance, the revenge porn, the platforms that are closing themselves, etc. All are corollaries of those magnificent 100 ideas that changed the web.

More views inside the book:

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In our collective unconscious the atom bomb is synonymous with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But since 1945 it has been documented that more than 2079 nuclear bombs have been detonated on Earth. Since the end of the Second World War, nuclear power countries have methodically bombed their own lands. Self mutilation in the name of self defense.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

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Copa Room showgirl Lee Merlin poses in a cotton mushroom cloud swimsuit as she is crowned "Miss Atomic Bomb 1957." Photo Credit: Don English/ Las Vegas News Bureau/Las Vegas Sun

Anecdotal Radiations is a series that uncovers the unknown, forgotten and often very strange stories surrounding nuclear armament and testing programs. A couple of the anecdotes are well-known such as the Miss Atomic Bomb pageant or the story of the bikini. Others are downright baffling: the chicken vaporized when a nuclear bomb is dropped by mistake, the taste of a beer after a nuclear explosion, the ultra secret activation code on all American nuclear weapons set to "00000000", etc.

David Fathi has collected archive photos, satellite imagery, packshots and road-trip photos. By adding his own images to the archive documents, the photographer orchestrates a series of baffling, yet true, stories that illustrate the discrepancies that exist between the world we have created and the world we believe we live in.

I discovered the series last month at the festival Photo Ireland and the more i read about these anecdotes on Fathi's website, the more i thought i should get in touch with him and interview him:

Hi David! What inspired you to have a look at some of the 'unfamiliar stories and anecdotes' about nuclear bombing and experiments?

I believe my fascination started a couple of years back with one image.

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Nuclear explosion photographed less than one millisecond after detonation. From the Tumbler-Snapper test series in Nevada, 1952, showing fireball and "rope trick" effects. The fireball is about 20 meters in diameter in this shot

This is the photo of a nuclear explosion, just a couple of milliseconds after its detonation. At the time, nothing could capture such images, and scientists had to design an entirely new high-speed camera. I was mesmerized by this photo, as it is a scientific document of something terrifying but seems so abstract and beautiful.

We normally have this very clear image of the atomic bomb as a mushroom cloud, and here we have a photo that completely changes our perception of it, by showing its origin.
I wanted to find a way to talk about this image in a project some day, but hadn't found the right approach yet.

Last year I finally started researching nuclear testing, and it was like going down the rabbit hole. I knew, just like everybody else, that nuclear testing happened during the cold war. But I had never really stopped to think about what that meant. When I thought about the bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki is what came to mind, even though since then, more than two thousand bombs have detonated on earth.

The more I researched, the weirder it got. When trying to deal with the gap between weapons of unfathomable power and the human stories of the men who try to master them it becomes absurd, terrifying and darkly funny.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

The series mixes archival photos, satellite imagery, packshots and road-trip photos. How do you combine them? do you start with archive material and then add your own images to fill some gaps, for example?

I start with an anecdote. After enough research, I find this small story that is totally true, but seems unreal. It becomes one of the building blocks around which I start gathering photos.

Then I list the typologies of photos I want to use (satellite imagery, archives, packshots, roadtrip) and try to find how I can illustrate in a literal fashion the story. Once I have gathered enough material, it seems very factual and straightforward. That's when I try to break it up, and find images that are more metaphorical and only tangentially related to the story.

The aim is to create a documentary based on facts, but the result seems like fiction. So it's all about finding a balance between precise documentation and playful deconstruction.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

Some of the experiments you selected for the series seem to have been conceived by brazen, unconscious minds. There are also accidental releases of nuclear bombs too. Do you you think the military is more cautious nowadays or are there still some dangerous experiments taking place? How much do you think is still hidden from us?

I'm close to finishing my project, and I'm trying to find a couple of stories that are more recent, so that people remember that nuclear weapons are not just a thing of the past and more probably something we will have to continue dealing with for centuries to come.
So here are a couple of things that we learned recently about the United States nuclear program:

- In August 2007, six nuclear warheads were loaded by mistake on a military plane. When it landed, nobody knew the devices were on board. The plane was left unguarded on the tarmac for 36 hours before people realized what was happening.

- In September 2013, the n°2 officer in charge of Nuclear Command was fired for gambling with counterfeit poker chips.

- In December 2013, one of the top generals in command of nuclear armament was fired for an incident in Moscow where he was seen with Russian escort girls drunkenly boasting about what he was in charge of.

- In March 2014, 82 nuclear launch officers were implicated in a cheating scandal on their security exams.

These are just stories uncovered by the press in the USA, as Russian, Chinese, French, British, Israeli, etc. Nuclear programs are very tightly kept under wraps. It's nearly impossible to get relevant data about those.

With all of this in mind, I find it hard to understand how nuclear armament is not more prominent in the news.

Could you pick up some of the images you selected from archives or made yourself and comment what they are about? Explaining why you chose them from archives or why and how you made them? (i started selecting the photos that intrigued me the most but i ended up with so many of them i decided i'd let you chose instead)

This photo is an actual press archive of Spanish minister for information and tourism Manuel Fraga Iribarne and US ambassador Angier Biddle Duke swimming near Palomares, Spain, after the crash of a B-52 bomber and the loss of four nuclear warheads. All to assure the local population that everything is safe and under control.
The manipulation on top of Fraga is a superposition of the satellite image of a nuclear crater.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

Speaking of satellite imagery, I printed out photos of nuclear impacts. I then created these sculptures for two reasons. Firstly they seem like rocks & minerals, alluding to the melted rocks you can actually find on sites where nuclear bombs were tested. And secondly to give these images a 3D existence. All these "scars" are visible just by going on Google Earth, but we still don't really know they exist, so maybe by giving them this three-dimensional quality they can appear as more "real".

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

This photo was taken on the road between Nevada and California. There have been some lawsuits around these regions by communities who claim having been exposed "downwind" from the Nevada Test Site. I took quite a few photos along this path, looking for semi-fictional traces of these stories.

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

This is a screenshot from the documentary Atomic Café, a great source of information that everybody should watch. The movie has an incredible wealth of obscure archival films of the cold war era. This particular clip is still amazing to me, as I have found no clue to where it came from. It's part of a long list of absurdities you stumble upon when doing research on the subject (like Nuclear War card games, Miss Atom Bomb beauty pageants, etc)

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David Farhi, Anecdotal radiations

What were your objectives in publishing this series of photos. Was it purely informative and anecdotical or is there a more socially engaged or political motivation behind the series?

My interest in this subject is mainly psychological. The politics of nuclear armament seem pretty easy. Even people in charge of such programs do not see nuclear bombs as a good thing. So how do we deal intellectually with their continuing existence?

There is a huge dissonance between the world we imagine we live in and the one we actually live in. The over-the-top consequences of nuclear bombs are so immense that we naturally shut it out of our minds. My objective is not to say nuclear bombs are bad (that is quite a boring statement and everybody agrees), but more to force people to question everything, entities of power as much as their own selves.

Governments and media have of course their role in keeping out of reach the implications of nuclear weapons, but we as individuals have as much a responsibility in comprehending history, science and human knowledge. In telling these small anecdotes, I try and use humor, terror, and a general playfulness to try to suck in the viewer, and get him or her to question what they think they know.

I hope this series is more about confronting our own way of perceiving the world, and how to think critically of the consequences of our decisions.

In fact the best thing for me would be if people would even call into question my own photos and stories. I'm telling you all this is true, but you'd be better off by doubting and starting your own investigation.

Thanks David!

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