essay deals with journeys. Traveling between political
activism and artivist practice, artistic and social
spaces, across the edges of the border regime of Europe.
In 2001 the publiXtheatre was on a six-week tour, geographically
conjoining locations of political resistance. The journey
ended with what became known as the Italian state's
staging of violence in Genoa.
In 2002 the group set out for Strasbourg, to a camp
organized by the international noborder network,
traveling on from there to documenta 11 in Kassel.
In 2003 the journey went from the Austrian Social Forum
in Hallein to a border camp organized by young activists
in Rumania, from there to the art events of the Upper
Austrian Festival of the Regions and the stately spectacle
of the European Cultural Capital, Graz 2003.
the beginning, the idea of the PublixTheatreCaravan
was to find new forms of political activism, articulation
and aesthetics. The constant movement, fiddling with
the most modern tools of communication, provocation
and intervention are the expression of a constant attempt
to apply practices that are capable of participating
in the staging of public space and intervening to shape
it. The staging of the public sphere and the power and
violence associated with it is, in addition to the nomadism,
the expression of movement, the central aspect of the
caravan. On its tours, the project is equipped with
an old English double-decker bus that serves as bar,
media zone, chill-out, stage and eye-catcher at demonstrations
and other interventions. In all these definitions, the
object works as a communicative factor in the public
image of the public sphere in various discourses has
changed. Established power relations were long presumed,
monuments of violence as objects that can be unequivocally
identified defining public space. Today, however, we
speak of a flow, in which everything is subject to constant
change. The territorial agreements of the nation-states
are losing their force. Internalized identities that
can be fixed to categories such as nation and gender,
social hierarchies and a neurotically fascist corporeality,
are subject to change.
on the one side there is much that is in motion and
escaping from the sedentary, on the other side the barricades,
the boundaries of this diversity are becoming visible
in a new form. Power's resistance against these kinds
of shifts can be recognized here. Migration is sketched
out as a threat, and the "stream of refugees"
runs into the outer wall of the Fortress Europe. Under
the auspices of the war against terror, channeling,
surveilling, detaining and protocoling are carried out.
Camouflaged as a practice serving the safety of western
civilization, people are measured and the racist stereotype,
physical attributions, are imbued with a new scientificalness.
It is still fascist methods being used, when hair root
x-rays and facial measurements are used to determine
the age of adolescent migrants.
the PublixTheatreCaravan traveling, nomadism, is an
essential expression to counter these developments:
a life after
urbanization, subservience to the economy and thus ultimately
one's own subjugation. According to the ideas of Deleuze/Guattari,
the caravan is a war machine that will not subjugate
itself to the conditions, seeking to dissolve geographical
anchors and identitary attributions.
In its methodology, the caravan thus breaks through
the dichotomies of art and politics, sitting between
two chairs, so to speak, and is viewed skeptically by
both sides. Criticized in the field of art as "activist
autonomists" and depicted as "stupid artists"
in the space of political activism, the caravan attempts
to thwart the respectively dominant logic.
dsec // 2002 [http://dsec.info/]
in the preparations of the first jointly organized camp
of the noboder network,
Database Systems to Enforce Control (dsec) in collaboration
with the media project of the PublixTheatreCaravan were
to call attention to the necessity of a technologization
of the movement and simultaneously destroy the myths
that have emerged around the terms of surveillance,
control and technology. Workshops and discussions were
held at the Strasbourg camp on SIS (Schengen Information
System), technological media practice, the relationships
of gender, technology and empowerment. There were also
discussions on approaches of using technologies to influence
public spaces produced through communication. If we
presume that communication produces space, then every
communication has repercussions in the space: virtual
as well as so-called real space. As soon as virtual
space exists, it is immediately and simultaneously depicted
in the real.
functioned at the camp as a kind of interface to a world
defined as "outside". Using radio streams,
text and picture reports, the Strasbourg actions were
made accessible to a broader public. The PublixTheatreCaravan
bus was a satellite, which was found, due to its inherent
mobility, not only in the camp, but also everyday at
the train station in Strasbourg. A connection to the
camp was created through the bus in virtual space by
means of technologies and through its physical presence
in real space, while the virtual and the real communication
spaces were linked together at the same time.
publiXtheatre was concurrently roving the city, attempting
to achieve an impact with provocations and theatrical
productions in the urban space. A bus from the airline
Lufthansa, infamous for deportation flights from Germany,
stops at the train station and waits for passengers
to take them to the airport: a concept of mobility for
all that can pay for it and are not being deported.
Activists from the caravan span a red and white ribbon
in front of the bus, indicating that driving away is
impossible. The bus driver is obviously confused. The
activists are dressed in white overalls and wearing
face masks, and it is only at a second glance that they
look like a group of amateurs doing sociological field
research. Their appearance and the form of communication
actually moves the bus driver to stop. The police are
called in, the red and white ribbon is cut through in
the end. Finally the passengers' journey can continue
on its course.
with a computer, cables, measuring instruments, cameras
and a shovel, a small group of activists leaves the
camp in Strasbourg. The destination is the Schengen
Information System. The group reaches the building,
a small modest estate, only conspicuous because of the
high fence, and they start digging at the edge of the
fence. A suitable network cable is freed from the hole
and coupled to the computer they have brought along.
The police intervene. It appears as though data were
quickly transfered from SIS to the laptop, mixed up
at the same time and thus removed from the relational
logics of database systems. A policeman demands that
the device be handed over and that the filming of the
whole situation should be stopped. The group is able
to leave the site a few minutes later and return to
the camp. There the story is told to a journalist in
roughly this chronology. An article is subsequently
published in Le Monde, mentioning that activists from
the camp have hacked the SIS. That this deed is unimaginable
ultimately results in a mystification. A rumor circulates
within the camp as well: it worked. The question of
where the perpetrators wanted to communicate to, in
which social structure they intended to intervene, remains
open. In the practices of the camp itself and in the
discourses of reflection on the project, dsec was depicted
as a "silicon valley" at the edge of the camp,
the imagined border assigning the activists to alien
// non-representation in public space
their participation in the Strasbourg camp, the caravan
traveled on to Kassel for documenta11: "accepting
an invitation", according to the press release
distributed through the media. When they arrived in
Kassel, the square in front of the Fridericianum was
occupied. A group of Roma families demanded their right
to remain and their right of self-determination in a
24-hour noborder camp, the documenta Platform6.
Tents were set up in the meadow in front of the Fridericianum
and arranged in the shape of a star. The info-point
by Fridericianum was the meeting place, discussion zone,
and often platform for conflicts with the documenta
security guards, with the press and visitors.
the noborder meeting in Vienna in December 2002, activists
from Rumania attended for the first time. They had come
to Vienna with the idea of setting up a bordercamp near
the Hungarian-Rumanian border. Together with many other
people, they wanted to address the situation in Rumania
that is characterized by the breakdown of the Communist
regime, the "major revolt" of the people in
Rumania, and finally the expansion of the EU. The next
meeting of the noborder network accordingly took place
in May in Timisoara and was also planned as a preparation
meeting for the camp.
June 2003 about seventy people traveled to Timisoara
to take part in the camp. This is where the paths of
the "freedom of movement tour" and the PublixTheatreCaravan
crossed geographically. They intended to set up a media
lab together that could work independently from the
state organized connections to the net. To this end,
a satellite connection was set up by the noborder camp.
The caravan's bus served as a kind of Internet cafe
permanently operating in the bar. At the camp, though,
there were primarily discussions, and forms of networking
and collaborating were exchanged and developed. It was
possible to link events in the camp with other events
taking place simultaneously via the media lounge. After
a few days, the experiment failed: the setup broke down.
the last day of the camp there was a demonstration in
Timisoara focusing on the demand: "freedom of movement
// globalisation now // freedom of communication".
of the regions // the art of enmity
Timisoara the PublixTheatreCaravan traveled on to the
Festival of the Regions in Upper Austria. Five days
time to travel along the B1 and present the project
and working methods with an exhibition, videos and stories.
That was the agreement between the art festival and
the caravan. Especially the task of being able to present
their own working methods within the festival proved
to be a challenge that the caravan was happy to take
up. By the way, the theme of the festival was "The
Art of Enmity".
Upper Austrian Provincial Governor Josef Pühringer is
an especially suitable enemy. He had been invited to
hold the opening speech for the festival. The caravan
invited themselves to welcome "their Peppi, their
great role model" as fan club. This led to the
first commotion. While the festival guests listened
to the words, dozens of police were hidden in the woods,
probably to be prepared for impending terrorist attacks.
The festival director, who appeared quite pale during
the event, was congratulated on the successful staging
of enmity and Governor Pühringer was unable to hold
his speech. He was out-sung by his fans, who could not
resist expressing their affection. Josef was exuberantly
referred to as a "geile Sau" ("hot sow")
with a pretty banner. That was the last straw. The governor
could not really deal with this sexualization of his
person and concluded: "If that's art, then it went
right past me."
few days later the caravan took up biometrics, entered
the college preparatory school at the Lambach Monastery
as a biological measurement office and started measuring
the children. The way authority and identitary thinking
function became visible at the same time. Up to the
end, the director of the school could not understand
that this was a theater action that had chosen his school
as stage. Teachers instructed the children, who could
already sense which way the wind was blowing, to meekly
follow instructions and be measured. The action was
disbanded after a short time and a discussion with the
pupils ensued. The group left the school again and returned
to the bus that was parked in the town center of Lambach.
Shortly thereafter, the mayor, the school director and
several concerned parents arrived. Following protracted
discussions with the persons responsible, finally even
the director was able to get his feet on the ground
again and understand simple things like the fact that
he had been an actor in a play, where he didn't understand
the script. Communication was continued via Internet.
The honorable director wrote letters and expressed his
fury about the representation of his role.
security and the festival direction, already confronted
with tremendous agitation and permanent questions, achieved
best performances in executing their tasks. While the
caravan stopped in Wels, allowing themselves a day off
and declaring war on the Secretary of State via Internet,
another panic-like situation was set off elsewhere.
Due to the speed of communication, the image of the
caravan escalated to fantasies of omnipotence. The game
only became transparent when the festival director,
sitting with the caravan in Wels, was informed by the
police that the same publiXtheatre was just preparing
an action in Linz.
Donna Haraway's writing, the communication game is to
be understood against the background of the transformation
of an "organic industrial society" to "informatics
of dominance": gliding smoothly from familiar hierarchizations
and identitary logics to a network that cannot be comprehended
in its complexity. This "informatics of dominance"
translates everything into a language, into code. When
this language is applied, when attempts are made to
affect public space through communication at this level,
then the advantages of virtuality can be exploited to
influence the staging of the public sphere. It was at
this level that the Festival of the Regions also attempted
to banish the perception of the publiXtheatre from the
public sphere. Immediately following the declaration
of war against the Secretary of State, the operators
removed the link on the their web site to the publiXtheatre
from the net. Only after it was expressly declared that
this action was not connected to the festival, could
the relationships be normalized again. Following long
discussions about the contract and the scope of the
work, it was finally possible to virtually establish
a public sphere again concerning the connection between
the Festival of the Regions and the publiXtheatre.
journey will continue in this sense, always establishing
a relation to reality and moving freely at the same
time in a virtual and real public sphere: moving freely
also in considering actions outside the realm of the
wishes of festival directions ("Art, too, must
respect the barriers of law"), actions that do
not accept the barriers of laws nor acknowledge the
differences between art and politics, between activism
and theorism. the caravan goes on ...