The Influencers. Internet doesn’t exist

The Influencers 2015 (teaser)

Final post and attempt to wrap up The Influencers, an art & activism festival curated by researcher and producer Bani Brusadin and by artists Eva & Franco Mattes a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG.

The 11th edition of this festival of unconventional and radical art was anchored into the most banal manifestations of our networked society, one that is made of surveillance, social bullying, communication guerrilla and disintegration of the space of free speech and ideas that internet was meant to be.

As i mentioned the other day, the videos of the talks are on vimeo but i thought i should whip up a post that would present the festival a bit more thoroughly.

Poster by Fabio Paris from LINK Center for The Influencers 2015

First, the poster! The Influencers are good at posters. The one for this edition of the festival has an interesting story. It was made by Fabio Paris from LINK Center for the Arts of the Information Age who used a font that produces images unreadable by machines. Called ZXX, the font was created by designer and former South Korean secret service employee Sang Mun. You can download the font over here.

Now off to some random notes taken during the festival conference:

Excellences & Perfections: Amalia Ulman at The Influencers 2015


Amalia Ulman gave a BRILLIANT performative lecture. I wasn’t prepared to like it as much as i did. Somehow, her work Excellences & Perfections seemed a bit like ‘enfoncer des portes ouvertes’ (a French expression to means ‘stating the obvious’) to me. But the conclusions she drew from it are very smart and entertaining. Excellences & Perfections played with the idea of online deception and was entirely performed on instagram. Ulman played the role of a girl who’s cute like Korean girls are when they do kawaii overload, all pink ribbons, soft light and innocence. Next, the girl’s quest for perfection goes out of control. She gets fillers, a nose job, breast implants – all documented in selfies and rigorously fake. Then, in August 2014, she has a meltdown, goes to rehab, apologizes to her followers.

Piling on the clichés, the latte, the namasté and the fake surgery bandage, Ulman showed how easy it is to manipulate an audience.

The second part of the artist’s presentation was about ‘The Future Ahead’, a video – essay about Justin Bieber’s growth from cherubic prepubescent boy to hetero-normative white male (the text and videos are online.)

Dragan Espenschied at The Influencers 2015

Dragan Espenschied gets the award for funniest talk and best evar tshirt. Espenschied is a media artist, home computer folk musician and digital culture researcher and conservator who heads of the Digital Art Conservation Program at Rhizome. His talk looked at the species that disappear from our online life. Like scroll bars (a loss he deplores) and surfing the web! We don’t do that anymore. We use google, facebook and other systems that track our online moves and monetize them.

If you need proof of that, try and participate to one of the Trail Blazers sessions Espenschied hosts together with Olia Lialina and Theo Seemann.

Trail Blazers is a ‘live web surfing event’, where you have to go from one webpage to another (such as from the twitter account of Snowden to the NSA homepage) by clicking from link to link and without ever using the keyboard. Easier said than done. They had a session in Barcelona as part of The Influencers programme. Photos:




Metahaven, from the video Home they made for Holly Herndon

Daniel van der Velden, one of the founders of Metahaven, gave an outstanding presentation as well (hopefully the video of his talk will soon materialize on vimeo.) Packed with witty observations and food for thought. He talked about planes that disappear in an age of ubiquitous surveillance, the geopolitical game of Russia regarding transparency (surely it’s not a coincidence if they are protecting Edward Snowden and broadcasted Julian Assange TV show), and how everyone has the power to turn pieces of visual culture into a political weapon.

Metahaven is a Dutch design studio with an impressive portfolio. I’m not going to list all their exploits. I’ll just quickly point you to a couple of them: in 2010, they researched and designed a new image for WikiLeaks, while investigating the politics and aesthetics of transparency. One of the outcome of their researches is Black Transparency. The Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance, a book that examines transparency’s intersections with design, architecture, and pop culture, as well as its ability to unravel the circuitry of modern power.

Metahaven was also behind Holly Herndon’s music video HOME, the one in which she speaks to the NSA agent watching her while branding logos of the surveillance agency rain over her.

Franco Bifo Berardi on “futurability” at The Influencers 2015. Part 1, part 2 is over here

The absolute, most amazing talk of the festival was Franco “Bifo” Berardi‘s. The cultural agitator, media activist and philosopher talked about the concept of futurability, the multiplicity of futures, breaking the wall of power and changing the course of history, power as a structure imposed on the present and limiting the possibilities of the future, our impotence (and the one of Obama), our reduction of time to work, enslavement of the human mind, robotization, etc. It’s a hell of a ride but do me a favour and check out the 2 videos of his talk.

The Influencers also screened documentaries. Citizenfour which doesn’t need any introduction. And The Yes Men Are Revolting. That one probably doesn’t need any intro either but whether or not you have seen their last documentary, you could watch the video of Andy Bichlbaum’s talk. It’s a good one, perfect as a consolation prize for anyone who couldn’t make it to Barcelona in October and attend The Influencers.

The Yes Men at The Influencers 2015 (part 1. Part 2 is here)

The Influencers is part of Masters and Servers, a European adventure focused on a new generation of digital interventionism that is behind some of the most interesting publications, festivals and exhibitions of the moment. Think Aksioma, AND festival, Link Art Center, The Pirate Book, Networked Disruption, etc.

Previously: The Influencers: Former MI5 spy Annie Machon on why we live in a dystopia that even Orwell couldn’t have envisioned and !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s talk at The Influencers festival.