Conflict and Transgression

This post appeared in Italian on CheFare: Conflitto e trasgressione: Anonymous all’Unione Europea

Bruxelles, February 2015. NetFutures 2015

A series of interesting discussions are going on In the post industrial building of The Egg, the congress center few steps away from Gare Du Midi: smart cities, Internet of Things, social innovation, cloud and, in general, all those scenarios according to which the network – in all of its ubiquitous manifestations – will lead Europe into the future.

In a small room, hosting the CAPS (Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability) program’s plenary session, an unexpected collective laugh explodes, followed by a moment of slightly embarrassed silence.

The scenario: we have been invited to talk about Ubiquitous Commons, the research project with which we are creating a set of legal and technological tools that can be used to mitigate the enormous power imbalance which currently characterises the relations between data-subjects (those subjects who, consciously or unconsciously, produce data and information in their daily lives) and operators (Facebook, Google, cloud operators, large Big Data aggregators…): people don’t know (and can’t know) which data/information they generate and are harvested, and operators can substantially do whatever they want, buying and selling people thousands of times each second, transforming us into guinea pigs for social and cognitive experiments, and deciding with a few clicks the destiny of information and freedoms for a large part of the planet.

Fabrizio Sestini, CAPS creator and leader, a few minutes beforehand, while illustrating the program’s innovations for the next few years, highlighted an important fact: it appears evident how supporting and financing only large and well-known organisations and consortiums is not enough anymore. What is needed are ways in which to also support informality, emergence, the impermanent, and peer-to-peer. How is it possible? Mr. Sestini asks for the collaboration of the participants to discover solutions.

Fast forward: it’s presentation time. Right after Sestini’s statement – which, for us, is important, fundamental – we added a slide to our presentation, describing the partners of the Ubiquitous Commons initiative.

When we get there, we start the list: “… and thus these are the participants to the initiative: University X, Department Y, Research Center Z… and Anonymous.”



We throw in some humour, to make sure that people have received the message: “And, thus, also considered Mr. Sestini’s statement, to understand how an organisation such as Anonymous could participate to an Horizon2020 call.”

Laughter in the audience.



Go on with the other slides.

The theme is not really taken seriously. Perhaps it suggested in people’s imaginations strange cinematic scenes of peculiar groups of masked people presenting themselves at the doors of the European Commission to claim the payment in Bitcoins of the freshly obtained Horizon2020 funding with the “Anonymous Social Innovation” project proposal.

For us, this theme is of central importance, as it directly confronts a subject matter which is a fundamental concern for any innovation process: conflict and transgression.

But let’s step back in time for a while.

We’re always in Brussels. Always at the European Commission. It is September 2014, at the High Level Group Meeting on Smart Cities. Rem Koolhaas, from the stage, tells how, with the coming about of the “market”, in the 70s, the city has become an enormously less adventurous and more predictable place.

According to him, this is the place where all the apocalyptic effects of climate change, of the ageing of society, of water and energy find supposed solutions in smart cities, to the sound of sensors, drones, Internet of Things and efficiency.

Specific consideration is given to the visual language dedicated to the citizens of the smart city.

We quote here this part of his intervention:

When we look at the visual language through which the smart city is represented, it is typically with simplistic, child-like rounded edges and bright colours. The citizens the smart city claims to serve are treated like infants. We are fed cute icons of urban life, integrated with harmless devices, cohering into pleasant diagrams in which citizens and business are surrounded by more and more circles of service that create bubbles of control. Why do smart cities offer only improvement? Where is the possibility of transgression?


This term defines multiple different concepts.

Here we refer to its sociological understanding, according to which we transgress whenever we infringing a certain social norm.

Transgression implies going beyond a boundary, a limit, but also its existence. As described by Bataille in Eroticism: “Transgression opens the doors towards what is beyond the limits of what is usually observed, preserving them.”

There is little space for transgression in this age of smart (smart cities, smart communities), of innovation and creativity. Thus, there is little space for conflict.

The creative class has already been absorbed by the industry. Hackers, makers, startuppers and the other human profiles in the new scenario create the ranks of the new research laboratories and of the production lines of the industrial complex. They are the unexpected blue collars of this type of industry, perfectly encoded in the new models of labour and production.

This economy relates to an industry which has understood creative thinking as its pre-requisite, as highlighted by Pine and Gilmore in their Experience Economy. There is no doubt, from the point of view of the architectures of power, on who runs the show.

Troublemakers, in this scenario, are precious commodities.

Enzensberger used this exact word in his Industrialization of the Mind essay in 1962.

According to his thesis, the cultural industry lives in a state of paradox: it cannot produce its own product (conscience), as conscience is a social product and, thus, it can only be induced and reproduced by them.

A sterile industry follows from this, in which the larger part of production is of the derivative type, and in which only a limited few (the troublemakers) are able to really innovate.

This is not sustainable for the industrial complex, which, thus, has perfectly learned how to deal with conflict, using all sorts of techniques: from violence; to financial pressure; to media exposure and display; to cooptation.

In a few words: encoding, recruiting, aestheticising.

Subversive action has already been internalised by the market, under the form of instruments for the creation of value, to increase sales and for marketing. This is clear, for example, when we consider the linguistic (and, thus, perceptive and operative) transformation of the word “hacker”.

In his “Preface to Transgression” (on Bataille: a Critical Reader, by Bolling and Wilson) Foucault explains how transgressions forces limits, boundaries and norms to recognise themselves, requiring them to deal with their imminent disappearance.

Transgression creates a space, and innovates

Elizabeth Grosz defines this process as spatial excess, a new dimension which is able to go beyond preconceptions, prejudices and worries about utility, “beyond the relevance for the present, looking towards the future.” The revelation and discovery of this excess depends on the possibility for transgression.

Excess is in the “problematic”, which is full of potential.

The clandestine, the unacknowledged, the unofficial find their survival – beyond crime – in the transgression of social norms and limits. Those same limits which have excluded them in the first place. The recycle trash, appropriate spaces, invent communication channels, create styles, fashions and trends. They don’t cross borders: they move on them. Moving, they innovate.


De Certeau, Lefebvre, Maturana, Bateson, Bhabha and other show how this system is a cybernetic system of the second order.

Citizens continuously re-program their space, appropriating, hybridising, creating relations, reactions and transformation in the system.

Systematic transgression creates innovation.

Using a term from Massimo Canevacci Ribeiro: it is the methodological undiscipline.

The conflict as represented in the spectacle (by all participants, conflictual ones included) is not the one which innovates: the one with violence, molotov bottles, batons.

It is rather the polyphonic and undisciplined stride of myriads of uncoordinated individualities, actuating their own style of spatial re-appropriation (both physical and digital), continuously creating conflict, transgression and movement along and across boundaries and interstices.

The industrial complex has already reacted to this scenario, trying to resolve Enzensberger’s paradox intervening on languages and imagination, by encoding the roles of troublemakers.

For example, it is interesting to note the Italian case of Telecom Italia, whose ascent in the arena of digital cultures began with digital arts. With Venice’s Future Centre and initiatives such as RomaEuropa Web Factory, they opened up the way to the encoding of digital troublemaking, establishing de facto the rise of the new class of creative blue collars.

(In fact, one of our first interventions in this sense was through the RomaEuropa FakeFactory collective performance.)

Of course, this type of path is present across the whole world: cultural institutes, “factories” for digital arts, workshops for creativity flourish everywhere. Linguistic metaphors are in plain view. Spaces and events are created (co-working spaces, incubators, hackathons). Creatives are co-opted (makers and hackers). They are transformed in precarious research labs (startups, incubators, fablabs). Value and scalability/replicability are created (acceleration). The few good ideas are taken and sold (exits), generating profit.

This model, which is potentially virtuous, has a number of disadvantages, most of them at the level of the social and political discussion.

On the one hand it quickly comes back to the paradox of the creative industry: by encoding, conflict and transgression are integrated and, this, unable to innovate.

On the other hand, it creates precariety, by dumping business risks.

The initial funding of about 20 thousand euros (or similar amounts) for a startup are much inferior of the risk of hiring a single researcher. Large operators place the calls for proposals; they receive proposals from groups of precarious workers, offering their idea; the accurately select the most feasible ones, and the ones which are more in line with their business strategies (in direct and indirect ways); they give out the small capital; the incubate, instructing teams on reference imaginaries and work methodology; if something goes wrong, they spend much less that what they would have spent for a single employee, but having extracted from this cost a whole team, working day and night, without contributions, social security, holiday leaves, benefits, overtime, unions, and so on; if everything goes as expected they perform exits of which they will have a share, which will be higher than what they would have earned through other industrial or financial investments.

On top of that, by doing this they become able to promote the social imagination formats which are useful for the cultural infiltration of their business: innovation becomes the chase for a single form of future, instead of opening up to the opportunity of a plurality of possible futures. They typically promote optic fiber, sensors, robots and all of the other products, services and approaches of the industry financing the initiative.

Furthermore, this model promotes large differences and inequality in the distribution of wealth: the imaginary heroic startupper; the culture of failure; the “billion dollar startup”. They look like a lottery, more that resembling a model for fair distribution of wealth.

Technology’s role, in all of this, is banalised, reducing the complexity of the perception of how it could be possible to find solutions to the planet’s major problems.

Technology becomes a fetish which can be a per se guarantee for solution for energetic, environmental and social problems. It becomes perceived how small groups of people, by coming together for 24 hours of hackathon, can produce an App or a website to confront with large issues which are political, social and cultural, not certainly technical.

This obviously is reductionist and simplistic.

In times of crisis, this potentially becomes an apocalyptic scenario. When education, institutional initiatives, arts and cultural expense become flooded with these types of initiatives – with the “hour of coding” becoming more important than philosophy, just to mention one –, it becomes immediately clear who holds the strings of this process, supporting their own strategies.

And, going, back to the initial question: how can preserve the possibility for conflict and transgression, to maintain all of their positive effects on the world, starting from the possibility for critical visions, and the consequent possibilistic opening to the perception of a multiplicity of futures and imaginaries?

To look for a possible answer, it can be useful to adopt the metaphor of the garden.
In his Moving Garden, Gilles Clément explores the possibility for a new type of garden, emergent, mobile and in perennial mutation, which lives in friches, the abandoned, uncultivated lands, those which history denounces as the loss of power of man over nature.

“What if we lay a different gaze on them? Could they not be the new blank pages which we need?”

On the one hand, historically, form – controlled form – was considered powerful in protecting us from the diabolical residues of the unknown.

On the other hand “friches have nothing to do with dying and decay. In their beds species abandon themselves to invention. Walking in friches is a continuous process of self-interrogation. […] Could this great power of reclaiming and conquering space not be placed at the service of the garden? and of which garden?”

The Third Landscape is a moving challenge, with mutating borders and boundaries, in a state of perennial conversation. It is the weeds which grow in-between bricks and train tracks. It is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded.

In our cities, the largest part of biodiversity is found in the Third Landscape. It is an interconnective tissue, composed by residual spaces, which resist government and form. In this, it is transgressive. It is a multiplication of narratives. It is not a property, but a possibilistic space for the future.

If John Barrell spoke about the “dark side of landscape”, alluding at its controlled forms as imposition of the point of view of a single social class, Clément speaks about a “light side”: the Third Landscape is not an exclusive model, but an inclusive one; it is a “shared fragment of a collective conscience.” It is a mutating transgression, which operates in emergent ways through multiple points of view and intentionalities. It is a syncretic map which evolves together to the mutations of the residential, industrial and commercial areas of the city.

It is the geography of the mutation of the city.

Clément openly speaks about the need to educate a new type of gaze, to be able to understand the importance and valence of the Third Landscape: a new possibility for vision and for knowledge dissemination in natural urban environments.

In synthesis: the need for new aesthetics, new sensibilities

This is a potentially revolutionary point of view, opening up to the possibility to perceive emergence, conflict, transgression, and to transform it into a form of shared knowledge,

The same type of discourse can be made, for example, starting from Marco Casagrande‘s considerations on ruins, intended as the progressive reunion of objects and architectures to nature.

If, on the one hand, ruins represent a loss of power from human beings to nature, on the other hand, according to different aesthetics, they represent the life of the city, demonstrating its usages and non-usages: the action (and non-action) of human beings leads buildings into a different state, transforming them into ruins and, thus, producing the evidence of their and nature’s history.

Ruins, to all effect, constitute a shared, extremely usable and accessible source of knowledge and information.

According to Casagrande, the Third Generation City is the ruin of the industrial city, and becomes real when it recognizes its own local knowledge, becoming part of nature.

It is possible to search for solutions in these types of metaphors. How?

A new aesthetic system is needed, a new sensibility, which allows to recognize the value (and, thus, to directly support) of the continuous stratification, in our cities (and, in general, in the environment) of the unconscious, of the transgressive, of the conflict, of the different, to attribute value to it, as a new construction material which is able to innovate and to preserve history and knowledge, and to transform spaces and processes.

From Bhabha’s and Soja’s Third Space, to Clément’s Third Landscape, to Casagrande’s Third Generation City, to Pistoletto’s Third Paradise, to our Third Infoscape, alluding at its informational manifestations.

A new aesthetics, a new sensibility, a new imagination, corresponding to the possibility for institutions with a new form: ecosystemic; not only responsible for strategies, but also for the possibility for the emergence of tactics, transgressions and conflicts.

Not only “normative actuators and certifiers”, but also – and most of all – direct and responsible supporters of the environment in which transgression and conflict may take place, as a form of emergent, shared knowledge.

Going back to Clément;s metaphor, together with the imagination for a new type of garden, we need a new conception of gardner:

“it is hard to imagine which aspect these gardens will assume, in which existence is expected to assume no form. From my point of view, gardens of this kind should not be judged on account of their form, but, rather, on the basis of their capacity to generate and translate a certain joy of existence.”

Reinvent Reality at FADfest, a conference on Open Design and Shared Creativity, Barcelona

Reff, RomaEuropa FakeFactory

Reff, RomaEuropa FakeFactory

We will be joining in the conversation at Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference in Barcelona, on July 2nd and 3rd to present a scenario for radical innovation, based on a radically open process.

In 2008 we created REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory, a meta brand ( an open source brand, a brand which anyone sharing an ethical approach can use, with the results benefiting the whole p2p network of individuals and groups who participate in the brand itself ) which we created to confront Italy’s difficult scenario for what concerns public policies for arts and creativity.

When we created it, we chose to give it a peculiar form: an institution.

A Fake Institution, more precisely.

As Orson Welles might have said: “fake” is real.

Meaning that reinventing reality can become a tool for constructivist action onto society.

This is precisely what we tried to do with REFF: to create a p2p ecosystem dedicated to the systematic reinvention of reality through critical practices of remix, re-contextualization, re-enactment, mash-up.

We used these terms – which are classically associated with media – in real-life, in the space of the city and of the networks of relationships which describe our societies.

The structure of the initiative has been natively peer-to-peer, meaning that the whole “system” was designed as a tool for expression of a network of peers, used to add meaningful layers of information and opportunities for action to our ordinary reality.

This, in our perspective, is a wonderful definition for Augmented Reality, and AR has, in fact, been a great tool for REFF, which used it as a metaphor for its practices.

And this is, for us, a highly effective scenario to create opportunities in our near-future, beyond the scenarios of crisis: bringing the scenarios opened up by technologies to networked models which are deeply rooted into our cities and our communities, in which basic definitions of our societies – such as public space, production, distributionrevenue, governance, policy-making, decision-making and many others – can be redefined to become natively networked processes, and create new schemes for sustainability, sociality and development.

This is the point of view which we will present at FADfest, at the Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference.

Open Design / Shared Creativity Conference is an international forum that seeks to explore and debate the emerging landscape of openness and exchange that is taking shape around practices such as open code, creative commons licensing, co-creation, de-localisation and collaboration.

Digital technology and social networks have reached a point of maturity from which a new industrial culture is emerging, revolutionising the processes of creation, mediation, distribution and consumption. Taking design in all its expressions and forms as a starting point, the conference will be an important international forum of ideas, working platforms and specialised practices that are transforming the articulation of design with society, economy and culture.

Designers, architects, artists, editors, web activists, programmers, curators, lawyers and cultural analysts will explore over two days the reality and the potential of open design culture, from new business models to the most experimental creative practices.

FakePress Publishing at MFRU Festival in Maribor present REFF

FakePress Publishing and REFF at MFRU in Maribor

FakePress Publishing and REFF at MFRU in Maribor

From November 11th to November 26th 2011 FakePress Publishing and REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory will be in Maribor, Slovenija, for the 17th edition of the MFRU festival (Mednarodni Festival Racunalniskih Umetnosti).

Here is the website for MFRU2011.

At the festival we will present REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory, our innovative cultural institution using the ideas of reinventing the reality as an opportunity to create innovative practices and policies for digital cultures. At MFRU we will create an installation through which you will be able to experience the realtime planetary activities of our institution.

We will also perform a workshop in which we will show people how to use open and free technologies to turn the world into an immense, ubiquitous wiki: we will use free/libre Augmented Reality platforms to create new radical forms of autonomous ubiquitous expressions which can be used for activism, art, science, design, architecture. The same we used to create our REFF book.

Some info about MFRU Festival, directly translated from the festival homepage:

“MFRU (organized by MKC Maribor in Zavoda uho; oko: Maribor) has a rich tradition in Slovenia, because it is one of the central institutions of computer art, with its constant activity is responsible for its recognition and development.

Upon its establishment in 1994 was among the first in this part of the first and only one in Slovenia. Since its inception in Slovenia and the wider region pioneering work in presenting the theory and practice of computer arts and new media, making an important contribution to their promotion and implementation, while establishing a fundamental creative core – in terms of inter-media productions of new works – in this area . MFRU thus fills an important niche cultural program, which ranks among the Maribor Festival competitive European city.

MFRU considered a variety of topics, such as the potential of media images, computer and life, media arts, technological progress, etc.., And hosted many distinguished guests (Edward Hare, Peter Weibel, Stelarc). In 1994 he established a festival in Maribor Joze Slaček to date was conducted by numerous domestic and foreign selectors, among them Marina Gržinić, Eva Ursprung, Dunja Kukovec, Alexander Kostič, Donald Železnikar, Ales Vaupotič, Simona Vidmar, George and Mark Krpan Ornik .

According to the current program director, Mark Zornik, by issuing a transparent creation of an online catalog and archive break occurred when we can talk about the festival of computer art before and after. The festival is entering a new period of reorganized organizational structure of the software and the festival, which is expanding and becoming more complex, followed by the vision of further enlargement. Festival Individual units followed these annual festival. This is the year 2011 read Transmedialno storytelling .

“Transmedialno storytelling indicates a very diverse practice combinations of message passing through more than one medium. Within this area, which today is actually a matter of course, I was interested in practices that infringe copyright in it, expressive and innovative research “(Donald Železnikar).

Transmedialno storytelling method indicates storytelling through various media platforms and formats. It is a phenomenon that is also part of the mass entertainment industry (eg reality shows with a TV and web-based platform, online games, mobile and natural ingredients), but embedded in the expression and the research field. In the field we are witnessing a political protests, which are inherent in the use of social networks. Broader context shows that the constant flow of information media in the media, the boundary between users and authors are increasingly blurs.

Festival selection transmedijske narration will focus on the conscious use of multiple media and multiple platform operations, with emphasis on critical, reflective and creative Oz. innovative achievement that thematize questions of the present moment, both directly and through specific poetics and approaches. Thus, within the traditional, analog and digital, mobile media – and their combinations. We are interested in creative, author surpluses positioned outside instrumentalized use of the current ideological and political or commercial purposes.

Not to ignore this part of the creativity, but rather than exposing it to – as it already exists, at least in part, dedicated to the platform – we want to establish a reference point of critical discourse that allows reflection on the quality and importance of today are increasingly present transmedialnosti concept, but remains largely unreflected. Reflection is very important areas, among others, also with a broader educational perspective and from the standpoint of self-awareness and understanding of the media environment of the whole society.

MFRU also informs and educates audiences about contemporary intermedia art, nourishes the cultural consciousness of the general public and young people, through events and performative intervention in public space, connecting the region, explores the art computer, document and archive it.

MFRU work by local artists to festivals, exhibitions, installations or representations abroad (Gamerz, Dispatch, Ars eletronic, Enter …) conducts Internet transmissions of live events (produced by the Institute ear, eye:) and establishes a city platform to support the organization and intermedia art production facilities.
This is primarily for areas that do not fall into the mainstream, this is an established or set of “high culture” or the commercial or. profit-oriented pop-culture. One of the basic vision of the festival is the networking of related cultural institutions in Maribor and the wider region. Through these partnerships is to build individual projects, deepen and increase their accessibility, they are also more effective and widely informed.

Promotion of individual efforts and commitment can go through the common channels of communication – and awareness – to a greater extent, addresses the interested public. In the present partnership recognizes the potential of linking all the more cultural actors who strive for similar goals and create the field of contemporary conceptual and critical art, this is art that is in the mind of the general public wakes up and you only paves the way for his own and other artistic expressions. In this informal network is currently connected MFRU and beyond MKC Maribor, Cultural Incubator, Institute ear, eye: Maribor, Institute Udarnik, Foundation son: DA, KIT Kibla Today, beginners, UGM, etc., In the future we will be more partners.

Festival strengthens its visibility by creating a European dialogue and cooperation with embassies, cultural centers (public) institutions, institutions, foundations and comparable foreign festivals. Integration into the wider cultural network, infrastructure acquisition (new media art center in Maribor) and transfer activities in the web TV show a basic interface and pioneering role of the festival.”


Innovation and Art in Bolzano: REFF and the augmentation of reality

We will be in Bolzano on October 27th for the “Impronta del Digitale” the technological lab of the “Classe dell’Arte” a series of events and conferences organized by the Administration of the Province of Bolzano.

REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory, Reality Pushers

REFF RomaEuropa FakeFactory, Reality Pushers

The main objective of the cycle of events is to confront with the contemporary issues of art systems and to investigate case studies and specific experiences. The meetings and conferences aim to promote a reflection on the mechanisms of contemporary art and cultural systems, to develop economies and social engagement.

In this Framework, the technological lab sees the direct intervention of artists, performers and experts narrating significant case studies and approaches which have been proven successful and meaningful. Talks will mix with workshops, while the presenters demonstrate both their methodological and conceptual approach, and explain the usage scenarios of technologies, frameworks and techniques.

REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory, has been invited to the session that will be held on October 27th at the Centro Culturale Trevi to present and discuss the innovative scenario created during the story of the project.

Specifically, REFF will present:

  • the concept of meta-brand as a framework for innovation in cultural practices, and for the creation of pragmatic opportunities for artists, researchers and cultural operators
  • the idea of the “fake institution” which was used by REFF to create a globally active cultural ecosystem dedicated to the practices of collaboration and radical innovation in art practice and cultural policies
  • the methodological “reinvention of reality”, a novel approach through which technologies, networks and ubiquitous publishing tools have been used to create artworks, performances, initiatives, collaborations and research projects whose main goal was to “augment reality” by enacting new operative spaces promoting freedom of expression, freedom of innovation and a wide range of innovative scenarios creating opportunities for all parties involved
The methodological and conceptual discourse will be interleaved with the presentation of the technological tools used to create these scenarios including:
  • advanced networking tools
  • radical social networking practices and tools
  • open source tools for ubiquitous publishing and augmented reality
  • radical open source tools for global knowledge sharing, education, research and collaboration processes
These tools have been used by the REFF group (and by its promoters at Art is Open Source and FakePress Publishing) to enact planetary innovation processes, spawning multiple projects and receiving institutional appraisal worldwide.
The presentations will be completed by a poetic scenario realized under the form of an interactive installation.
The REFF fake institution has been known to promote its global youth program on the possibilities to “reinvent reality” with the provocative distribution of an Augmented Reality Drug. The ARDrug, featured at multiple festivals and in schools and universities in multiple countries, is said to “change your perception of reality”, just as a classical psychoactive drug, and is in effect an open source software that can be used to create autonomous layers of digital information and interaction which are stratified onto the ordinary reality.
The REFF collective will materialize a “Reality Pusher laboratory” at the Centro Trevi, showing through an interactive installation the creation of the AR Drug.
More info at:

Squatting Supermarkets and REFF featured on Memefest

An update from a little while ago: Squatting Supermarkets and REFF have been featured at the Memefest.

REFF and Squatting Supermarkets at Memefest

REFF and Squatting Supermarkets at Memefest

Memefest is a international network of good people interested in social change trough sophisticated and radical use of media and communication. We create, think, research, educate and work on the intersections of art/science/communication profession/activism/theory and practice.

As a platform Memefest has two main dimensions. It is a festival and a collaborative community.

In this scheme we proposed our projects Squatting Supermarkets and REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory.

Squatting Supermarkets on Memefest

REFF on Memefest

Squatting Supermarkets as described on Memefest:

“Buying, wearing, eating, using. Our lives are full of objects of which we know very little about.

Shop’s and supermarket’s shelves only tell partial stories made from companies, efficient productions, happy farmworkers laying down coffee boxes on trucks with the logo of Nestlè, solar panels amidst fields and atop the roofs of factories who seem to have really stopped vomiting their foul toxic wastes in rivers and air, replacing them with new by-products of production that smell like straw and wheat.

All this happens if we look in one direction. And if we look in the other we see the aisles of the supermarkets spreading messages telling the tale of happy families (politically correct ones: a man, a woman, possibly mixing races and continents, with children, with the only possible alternative to be found in the images of career boys&girls, replacing family with business and fitness) buying things using credit cards, placing sincere trust in the ear of wheat almost protruding from the box of the product X that they throw into their shopping cart. Just as they trust the words biological, sustainable, ecologic showing up in products of all kinds.

Great commercial distribution points take narratives to an architectural level, designing our experiences up to the deepest levels of detail: the sequence of racks, shelves, themes, suggestions, colors, turns, tight spots; the reassuring sound announcing incredibly special offers; social, ecologic and economic themes, by which all bread is that of the old times, every shampoo has low ecologic impact, every automobile reduces polluting emissions, and any pack of coffee is produced by locals living on cheerful mountains upon which everyone peacefully smiles.

Visions that are partial, designed, mono-directional. Not all of the time. We must say that: luckily we can choose among many producers that have made the transition towards sustainability, ecology and the respect of diversities and of fragile populations. What we need to state is that for everything concerning these issues the possibility to access knowledge and information is an element of primary importance.

Art and creativity often confronted these points of view. The Supermarché Ferraille comes to mind with their improvised store displays, their surreal advertisements, their distorted products. Or the AdBusters, their subversive and detourned communication campaigns. Or the performances by Banksy, National Cynical Network.Or, in Italy, the ones by Candida TV, Serpica Naro, Anna Adamolo, Luther Blissett, Liens Invisibles. (… and loads of others. So much that it would be truly interesting to list and map all f the actions of this kind)

Squatting Supermarkets combines several platforms: iSee, an iPhone application used to create information and communication systems localized on logos and symbols; Ubiquitous Publishing, a set of open technologies that can be used to create location and architecture based contents, accessible directly from the places tht we walk through by using mobile phones and devices, together with simple, affordable augmented reality techniques; architettura rel:attiva, DpSdC and OneAvatar, a series of technological platforms that connect bodies and architectures to the internet and to virtual worlds.


Turning the corner of the aisle. Cold. Frozen products. Sounds of shopping carts, bottles, plastics, bags, cardboard, rolling pasta and cereals. Light completely white. Reds disappear or flatten completely, leaving out the reflections on the shiny plastic of serial packages of standard food items wih geometrically acceptable shapes.

Cold and words, in front and behind. Requests for information, calls to other aisles, requests for consensus, children getting lost.

A small accident takes place behind me, just as I lift a package taken randomly among others: two shopping carts collide, pouring out cardboard boxes, synthetic fibers holding together oranges that look all the same, bottles labeled in geometrically psichoactive ways. The fast bureaucracy of the accident ends and everything orderly starts back up : people start following their directional vectors, dictated bi habit and special offers.
I grab the pack back up, simultaneously extracting a smartphone from my pocket: a rapid automatic swipe of my thumb on the touchscreen unblocks it.

Colored icons in one hand, a cold, wobbly package in the other. I run through the icons, finding one with an eye insistently staring back at me, white on black. I activate the application and immediatly frame the package in the viewfinder: red, white, blu contour, thick typeface, readable. A short wait: “Product recognized: XYZ”. Options on the screen “Available information: ecological footprint, social responsibility and sustainability, alternative products. Or you can access the public discussion”.

Two goals.

On one side, to systematyze practices and technologies, creating an open framework that can be used and evolved to instantiate augmented reality (or, berret, Virtual NeoRealist) spaces, connecting bodies and information, implementing accessible, relational and natural interaction schemes.

On the other side, to act, starting multi-author, diffused, emergent narratives.”

REFF as described on Memefest:

“Romaeuropa FakeFactory is an act of artistic and technological hacking, a platform for global discussion and a performance that, beginning in 2009, has dealt with the themes of active, critical and creative innovation, confronting the management of cultural and technological policies related to these areas. The story begins with the opening of the Romaeuropa WebFactory, a digital art competition launched in 2008 by the Romaeuropa Foundation (Fondazione Romaeuropa) and Telecom Italia. Oppressive copyright conditions, such as the unilateral transfer of the rights to the works submitted and a ban on the use of techniques like mashup, cutup, remix but conversely giving the Romaeuropa Foundation and Telecom Italia the right to remix the works, inspired the creation of a Fake capable of becoming a point for multi-disciplinary analysis of the possibilities offered by freely available knowledge, contents and resources: a chance to reverse the logic of the competition and bring to light the contradictions, limits and implications of such a typical, reactionary cultural policy.

“Remix the world! Reinvent Reality!” is one of the principal themes that has inspired the REFF, from an act of détournement and cybersquatting – that brought to life the creation of a remix skills competition determining in 2009 a reversal of the Romaeuropa Foundation and Telecom Italia’s policy on the management of intellectual property rights – to the presentation of REFF’s instances and methodologies to the Cultural Commission of the Italian Senate (Commissione Cultura del Senato della Repubblica Italiana), up to the current production of the REFF book, as a global effort to create a working business model that implements the concepts and demands expressed by the RomaEuropa FakeFactory. Supporters of the REFF are found all over the world: over 80 partners among universities, artists, academies, associations, hackers, researchers, designers, journalists, politicians, magazines, networks, activitst, art critics, architects, musicians and entrepreneurs together with all the people who share a belief that art, design and new technologies can unite towards a critical, yet positive vision of a world that can create new opportunities and new ways of being, collaborating and communicating.”

The projects will be featured in a publication produced by Memefest in the next part of the year.