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CALL FOR IDEAS:

Forum on European Culture invites you to contribute to:

Eurolab – New ideas to communicate the EU

In the run-up to the European elections in May 2019 artists, writers and creatives who feel passionate about the European project come together during the Forum on European Culture in Amsterdam from May 31- June 3. During the 4-day Eurolab, they examine what has gone wrong in the communication of, and about the EU and how to make a new and powerful beginning.

In an increasingly interconnected world voices that create division between people and peoples, have gathered momentum and try to unravel the achievements of cooperation and solidarity. Europeans in particular are challenged by nationalist and divisive language from outside and from within the EU.

Eurolab is a fact-finding mission of what went well and what went wrong in the last 25 years of communicating Europe. In workshops and interview sessions we aim to compile a comprehensive toolbox of arguments, strategies, and ideas that can be applied to campaigns across different demographics and used by different professional groups (e.g. ‘Teachers for Europe’ ‘Scientists for Europe’ ‘Farmers for Europe’). Eurolab wants to collect ideas about how cooperation and solidarity can be spoken for in a fresh and compelling way to large audiences. How can the European Union be valued by its citizens and be recognized as a force for good, rather than as a faceless bureaucracy?

We understand that the EU is not perfect and that some of its problems are of its own making. However we are convinced that today’s Europe is the best there ever was, and that the European Project should be protected in these unstable times.

The brief for this open-call is to send us proposals for communicating the advantages of cooperation and friendship amongst people and nations. Please send drafts, designs, photos, poems, words and short film scripts that can be developed and contribute to a clear yet multi-faceted campaign. Across all media. We need messages, how the Union works and how life would be without it; – how it was without it. And we need ideas how to challenge the organisation itself, how to make it better. Alert us of the failings of the EU. Alert us of the successes of the EU. Also welcome are ideas that are not focused on the EU itself, but on its values, and how they play out amongst people in everyday life in non-political ways.

Each entry will be considered by a panel chaired by Rem Koolhaas and Wolfgang Tillmans, and will contribute to the pool of ideas to re-brand Europe. Eurolab operates on an open source model and we are not looking for one ‘winning’ idea. We don’t want to ‘sell’ anything. We believe the idea of the EU is good, and want to present it clear and open. Eurolab aims at building a network across the EU member nations from South to North, from East to West. We will stay in touch with you should your ideas be taken further.

We look forward to inviting a selected number of contributors to Amsterdam in June to investigate Europe’s potential and to find new language and visuals for it. The ambition of the workshop in Amsterdam is to further develop the proposals together with communication and media experts, and turn them into a real and effective campaign.

We are looking forward to receiving your contributions in our mailbox info@cultureforum.eu as soon as possible and no later than April 18. Please send files as PDF, maximum 15mB, with files named as ‘Surname_Name_Eurolab2018’. For more information on the Forum on European Culture, click here.

Eurolab respects the intellectual property rights on the contents of the submissions of the participants. You will retain the rights to it, however you agree that they will become part of larger body of work and broader community and not exclusively yours. At any stage you will be given opportunity to ensure you are correctly represented in the larger framework of the project.

About the Forum on European Culture:
After a successful edition in 2016, De Balie and DutchCulture organize the second edition of the Forum on European Culture from May 31st until the 3rd of June 2018. During this 4-day festival, leading international artists and philosophers will come together at various locations in Amsterdam to share their ideas about the future of Europe. The second edition of the Forum is titled ‘Act for Democracy!’ More info on www.cultureforum.eu. Follow us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

tyrell

Hail, Hydra! Immortal Hydra! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place! We serve none but the Master—as the world shall soon serve us! Hail Hydra! (The Hydra Oath)

Our daily lives are dominated by organizations. This was not always the case. For example, the European system of estates only included a few organization-like entities. Our contemporary age, in contrast, is characterized by a profusion of this type of social system.

The new dominance of organizations is also reflected in our shared social fictions, in which they increasingly assume the role of protagonist. It is almost possible to speak of an ‘organization narrative’, which is particularly prevalent in science fiction films. Here, organizations have assumed the role of the villain, who is no longer an individual. Even if they are embodied, by necessity, in their individual representatives, organizations like the Tyrell Corporation (Blade Runner), the Mirando Corporation (Okja), Abstergo Industries (Assassin’s Creed) or the Data Recovery Foundation (Biomega) have become the adversary of the hero figure. The future anxieties associated with ‘being organized’ are also more evident in the scifi genre than elsewhere, in which the imminent global domination of organizations – or in the worst case, that of one particular organization – is presented as something to be feared.

Because organizations are usually presented as economic enterprises, they are not particularly interested in the good of humanity but solely in that of the organization; and ‘good’ is defined in this instance as financial gain (‘profit’). They act more ruthlessly in their pursuit than any super-rogue whose self-conception is still rooted in an – however monstrous – ‘ideology’. In the film Deepwater Horizon (USA 2016), the consequences of this profit-driven thinking lead to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the greatest environmental disaster of this kind in our time. The remarkable career of ‚CSR’, the idea of an organization’s institutionally implemented ethical self-regulation, has been quickly adopted by the scriptwriters, appearing in the movies and novels as a way to both distract the public and guarantee returns in the form of reputation.

The preoccupation with the new power of the organization can even be found in comedy, where it is also imagined as evil:

“In modern day America, the corporations run our lives. But one man is prepared to take our country back.” Pootie Tang trailer (USA 2002)

The Catholic church, particularly as it existed during the Reformation when it was forced to assert its monopoly over other religious organizations (or to put it more simply: during the period of the witch trials), appears to provide a model for many of the later sinister fictions about organizations. Hence, it is simply consistent when Francis Ford Coppola uses it in The Godfather: Part III (USA 1990) to drive Michael Corleone, who is seeking public recognition, even deeper into the clutches of the criminal world from which he is trying to break free. The message here is that organized crime has nothing on organized religion (although the church in The Godfather is infiltrated by another occult organization, a Masonic lodge: indeed, nested structures are by now a standard narrative component of organization fictions).

But organizations whose operation is understood as being driven by political decisions also feature prominently in these fictions: surveillance bureaucracies like the NSA and CIA, whether hijacked or not, and private security companies. Long before Edward Snowden, a surveillance scenario in which the NSA plays the main role became a reality in Public Enemy No. 1 (USA 1998).

The ‘selfhood’ of organizations enables Hollywood to substitute them for the individual villain, the super-rogue. Even James Bond no longer goes head to head with an individual Dr. No, Goldfinger or man with the golden gun these days, but an organization – Spectre, the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – although it is led by an uber-villain, of course. Someone must ultimately make the decisions. In the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (USA 2014), Captain America does not fight Nazi Germany, a state, or the Nazi party or the SS, although collateral damage does arise, but against Hydra, an organization that is independent of Hitler and has infiltrated a ‘good’ organization: S.H.I.E.L.D. – another example of the aforementioned nested structures. (Again, Marvel made this organization into the hero of a television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in which the formal-informal reality of the organization is also acknowledged; leadership battles and the constant conflict with politics are a central element. In one of the last seasons, the formerly virtuous members of S.H.I.E.L.D. end up as loyal members of HYDRA in a virtual world, something that enables the series to find remarkable manifestations of the ambiguity – temporary disloyalty – familiar to us all from the experience of being processed as employees. What is remarkable is that the series has already reacted to current social developments, for example when the director refers to the design of the “media, corporate S.H.I.E.L.D. machine”.)

The other prominent Marvel hero, Iron Man, is also a ‘boss’, in this instance of Stark Industries, the corporation he inherited from his father (USA 2008). He is a capitalist in the strict sense of the word, the owner of means of production, which he no longer uses, however, to generate profit but to produce his iron suit and save the world – the ‘added value’ here lies in the moral, selfless component of his action. The fact that the suit ultimately only came into being through exploitation is concealed – it would be possible to refer to latency here.

‘Teams’ as embodied most significantly by the A-Team (USA 1983-87) represent a special case in this new type of fiction. Particular characteristics of the team include its project-focus, the associated independence of organizations – in the words of Peter F. Drucker: “they work with a company, not for a company” – as well as the idiosyncratic individuality of the individual members, which no organization could be expected to accept in this form. The excessive acting-out of this individuality and the high price paid for it are justified by the specialized expertise and knowledge associated with it. All calls for role-conformity are dashed in the face of this expertise, which calls to mind, among other things, the concept of genius in aesthetics. 

Organizations are perfectly suited to generating tension through contrast effects: the individual pitted against the ‘anonymous’, inhuman machinery, whose engine is concealed from him. A certain social unconditionality (innocence) is often imagined on the part of the hero; the conditionalities are located on the side of the organization. It is the organization that ties, enchains and processes the individual through the wastelands and unbending rigour of the same old bureaucratic procedures and rituals. It replaces the ‘system’, that is modern society per se, which – as seen clearly in a late western movie like Lonely are the Brave (USA 1963) – cannot be defeated because it cannot even be addressed. In Miller’s film, modern society is represented by police bureaucracy. Those who cannot be processed by bureaucracy don’t exist.

Officer 1: Identification?

Officer 2: He hasn’t got any.

Officer 1: You mean to say you got no identification at all?

Jack: That’s right.

Officer 1: No draft card, no social security? No discharge, no insurance, no driver’s license, no nothing?

Jack: No nothing.

Officer 1: Look young boy, you can’t go around with any identification, it’s against the law. How are people gonna know who you are?

Jack: I don’t need a card to figure out who I am, I already know.

This spectre of state bureaucracy continues to assume a key role in these fictitious worlds – it plays on our fear that we could wrongly fall under the ‘wheels of justice and end up being ‘processed’ as is the fate of the protagonist in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (USA1985) or the real-life experience of German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz.

Does this dark perspective on organizations reflect reality? It would appear so at times. The mass media, for example, are convinced that a dark, dystopian data company called Cambridge Analytica gave the world Donald Trump and, moreover, used military methods to effect mass sentiment change (winning ‘hearts and minds’). Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University, fears the worst: “To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling.” And the commitment shown by Google, Cloudflare, Spotify, Facebook, Godaddy, Paypal, AirBnB to oppose Nazi propaganda on the internet demonstrates, above all, the new power of these organizations; the flow of information in society is no longer controlled by the political sphere but by them, a matter of great concern to the mass media: “This power can be used not only against right-wing radicals. The civil rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation draws attention to the fact that right wing groups are already trying to classify the Black Lives Matter movement as a ‘hate group’ in retaliation – and companies could again be pressurized into opposing the latter’s online presence.” The fears of imminent world domination are also confirmed to a certain extent by empirical analyses, for example those carried out by Autor et al. (2017) which draws attention to the “rise of superstar firms” in the USA – the fact that market concentration has increased in basically all broad industrial categories – and link this market dominance with growing inequality: the employee share of national income is falling while the share accounted for by organizational profits is growing. Blogger Noah Smith is scared that “monopoly power could potentially become Public Enemy #1 for economists” (Smith 2017).

As we have seen, it is already the number one enemy in Hollywood.

virality_curve

Communication is a fascinating thing – because it isn’t really a thing. Nobody has ever seen ‘a’ communication. Of course, there are books, songs, emails and posts like this, but if noone ever reads this text, it isn’t communicating anything. A poem in a drawer that nobody but the poet has ever seen isn’t communication. It has to be shared, people have to read and ‘understand’ it (“I don’t get it, but this seems to be a poem”) and then to respond to it – for instance by writing another one. Or by today’s way of approval: “I like.”

This is why I prefer the plural: communications. It takes two to communicate, the same way it takes two to tango – taali do haath se bajtihai.

Some communications make a hell of a career for themselves. They go viral. Literally, they are infectious. Older examples are the Bible. The Quran. Homer’s Odyssey. Or think of songs by Taylor Swift, films by Spielberg, poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, paintings by Sadequain. Or even of everyday phrases like ‘You know’, and words like ‘like’. Other forms aren’t successful at all. We can call them flops.

As a theorist, I am interested in the mechanisms of this selection. Why do some terms become popular while others don’t? Take, for instance, the word ‘Globalization’, that was used long before, but only after Theodore Levitt  mentioned it in an 1983 article, the term itself became ‘global’. Or ‘climate change’. I would have never imagined that a term as complicated as ‘deconstruction’ could become so popular, but nowadays nearly everyone claims to be a deconstructivist.

The word that Paul J. Crutzen coined in 2000 has also made a remarkable career: ‘anthropocene’. What are the reasons for this success story?

To me, the main reason is that ‘anthropecene’ is not – as it claims to be – simply and solely a geological term. It has a deeply moral dimension to it. It includes a dramatic gesture that ascribes responsibility and at the same time asks for possible charges. Not humanity, so the idea, but the West, the European civilization is in the dock.This is why some prefer to speak of the ‘Eurocene’ instead. (Personally, I’d prefer to talk about those agencies that have acquired industrial techniques developed in Europe – and those agencies can include Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese as well as Germans or ‘Britishers’.)

This, however, is not the only reason for its success. It also matches perfectly with another semantic virus – the apocalypse. As Peter Sloterdijk has shown, the term anthropocene is conclusive only in the apocalyptic logic in which the world is evaluated from its end, as a sorting method in which the wicked are separated from the good. Which explains why it has become such an important part of the end rhetoric of the intellectual elite, especially in former European colonies like Pakistan.

I’ll be the first to admit that watching the world end in a movie can be fun, just like a rollercoaster ride. While buildings and people go down in flames and disaster strikes, we comfortably sit in our chairs, munching on some popcorn. But the prophets of the apocalypse are dead serious. They don’t just tell a horror story. They mean it: “Breaking news – the end is near!” What could be the function of this warning?

The answer is simple: visions of the end bring those who proclaim it an interested audience. And in the best case: converts. If the end is near and inevitable, then there is only one salvation – to profess the faith. It must of course be the right faith. Many of those who proclaim the end do have – coincidentally, of course – exactly this product to sell.

Communication is a fascinating thing, but it won’t save our planet – nor is it interested in doing so. All it wants to do is to continue. If this planet dies, it can’t. Maybe that’s why we should try to save it – so we can go on telling each other stories about the end.

no man is an island

Dear Friends

This is the second email about the EU referendum you’ve received from me since I uploaded my posters at the end of April.

We’ve now updated the posters, shifting the focus from voter registration to getting people out to vote Remain on 23rd June.

Please go to my website www.tillmans.co.uk to download both jpgs for social media and a PDF to self print posters. Please forward this mail and encourage friends to do the same. No need to hashtag me when posting.

A couple of nights ago I wrote a comment piece for Time Out London magazine and website to be published on Monday. In it I use an image that came to my mind the other day. Should a Leave vote happen next Thursday, Britain’s message to the 444 million remaining EU members will feel a bit like this:

We lived together for over 40 years in this apartment building of 28 flats. Every member having a key to their own flat and some having even an extra lock on like Britain. We lived together in peace and got used to each other’s oddities. We even got down the utility bills, like phone and air travel and many more, but now I can’t stand living with you any longer. I hate it so much that I want to move out.

Brexiters shelter the public from having to think about what a snub this would be. The EU is not a machine; it is the representation of 508 million people.

Please post the posters and messages, maybe one a day to keep Brexit away.

The xenophobic Vote Leave campaign is part of an international mood to break things. Whether it’s Trump or Johnson, these attacks on the pillars of our society all reflect the same divisive mood.

Best wishes,
Wolfgang

Dear Friends,

I’m sure you are also following with horror the rightwards drift and anti-EU sentiment brewing across Europe. The Dutch referendum should be the final wake-up call, alerting people to the real risk of the UK’s EU referendum resulting in a victory for Leave.

The official ‘Remain’ campaign feels lame and is lacking in passion. It also lacks an active drive to get voters registered – and with the deadline already falling two weeks before the referendum, this should be an urgent priority.

I want to get involved and actively campaign. In particular, I want to work towards maximizing turnout among younger voters by focusing on the first, crucial step: voter registration – the deadline for which is June 7! So anyone who hasn’t registered before this date has no chance of having a say, no matter how strongly they feel about the issue. So the really crucial date is June 7. Everyone’s grannies registered their vote long ago, but students no longer get automatically registered by their unis. This is because of a new law brought in by the Conservatives that makes it possible for them to disenfranchise up to 800,000 students, who as a group tend to move around a lot more and so drop off the voter register easily. I feel that we have reached a critical moment that could prove to be a turning point for Europe as we know and enjoy it – one that might result in a cascade of problematic consequences and political fall-out. Firstly, the weakening of the EU is a goal being actively pursued by strongmen like Vladimir Putin and European parties on the far-right. Brexit could effectively spell the end of the EU. It’s a flawed and problematic institution, but on the whole it stands for a democratic worldview, human rights and favours cooperation over confrontation.

It could prove to be a one-in-a-generation moment. Can you imagine the years of renegotiations for undoing treaties, and all the negativity that would surround that.

Over the past few weeks, my assistants at my London and Berlin studios and Between Bridges have been working with me on these texts and designs. Please download here a PDF (15 mb) of 25 ready-to-print posters which my studio and myself wrote and designed over the last few weeks. They are best in A3 but also work of course in A4. Just take the PDF to any copy shop and ask for A3 size colour laser prints. I noticed the images spread fast on social media but then don’t stick around. Please help make the campaign have a lasting presence by making prints and physically sticking them up. I consider them open-source, you can take my name tag off if more appropriate.

Let’s hope for the best – but hope may not be enough.

Wolfgang

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transmediale iphone china

hi everybody,

I’m very happy to be able to show and discuss IPHONCHINA in it’s final version
at Transmediale Festival 2015 in Berlin.
the show will start on sunday at 6pm at Haus der Kulturen der Welt/ House of World Cultures.

http://www.transmediale.de/content/iphonechina. the version to be seen is in english and mandarin.

afterwards we should all have a drink together.
France seems to love my films from the very start on, so,
THE DUBAI IN ME will be shown in Marseille in february, and IPHONCHINA in Bordeaux in may.
I updated my website www.masseundmacht.com, and you can check all activities there.
I’m M and MOCRACY are now on vimeo:
hoping to seeing you here and there, and please comment.

love, christian