Due to certain whereabouts this text about Culture Jamming and Semiotic Hacking got lost on its way to vienna… So ‚monochrom #26-34 – Ye Olde Self-Referentiality‘ is missing it… For your pleasure it is blogged below, probably in poor english 😉
The Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz, Austria, is located on the right side of the river Donau, vis-à-vis the Ars Electronica Center. Due to this geographical axis the idyllic small town is supercharged with digital chique, postmodernism and global communication. The perfect place for the exhibition ‘Just Do It! – The subversion of signs from Marcel Duchamp to Prada Meinhof’, which took place in spring 2005. Here the history of Culture Jamming, the deconstruction, appropriation and détournement of signs, was compiled for the first time. But what is the properly meaning of that twisted and often used term Culture Jamming?
The term Culture Jamming has been coined by the US-American avantgarde-band Negativland.
To jam – which means techniques to limit the effectiveness of an opponent’s communication or detection equipment in a military context – was to Negativland to take existing communication codes and reload them with new meaning. However, this cultural technique is not new, the first known example is Marcel Duchamps „Mona Lisa“, the picture of the Gioconda on which Duchamp has painted a moustache and wrote ‘Elle a chaud au cul – She has a hot ass’ on the lower side of the picture. This is an early jam, let’s say a political jam, because Duchamp changes the semantic perception of the Mona Lisa and was bringing out a deeper truth, like Naomi Klein demands in her book No Logo. The truth that Leonardo da Vinci was gay.
A more current example of Culture Jamming in the Lentos Kunstmuseum was given by the project vote-auction of ubermorgen.com, aka Hans Bernhard and lizvlx, from Austria. To whom – like me – the didactical tension between the exhibits and the exhibition catalog is only a bit of a yawn, it was difficult to decode the ubermorgen.com-installation: Two big black and white prints of symbols containing e.g. the words „The Agency“ and „Vote-Auction“, two giant heaps of paper and a tv-screen playing the CNN-Show „Burden Of Proof“. However, a closer look on the installation turns out, that ubermorgen.com did a spectacular prank, using the American election system:
vote-auction was an internet platform on which American electors were able to sell their votes online during the election George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in the year 2000.
In a web mask the citizens were able to fill in their personal data and offer their vote for sale. Due to the fact that it is highly illegal for American citizens to offer their vote in any way, those people had to be protected. So the data that was filled in the form was erased immediately. It moved into digital nirvana. The whole action was at least a ridiculous game with some pixel ubermorgen.com arranged on the screen, claiming to buy and sell votes online. The highlight of vote-auction was a half-hour CNN-Feature ‘Burden Of Proof’ with seven attorneys, two technicians via video-stream, Hans Bernhard on the telephone and some politicians and journalists in the studio. But ubermorgen.com are insisting on the fact that they don’t have any ideological aim in their actions but doing ‘Researches in the living organism of global communication’.