Everyone is a Hacker !
– Hackers and the Avant Garde
Following Hito Steyerl‘s excellent satire performance “I Dreamed a Dream: Politics in the Age of Mass Art Production” in the Former West Project at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, she drew a beginning also an end to what she called Mass Art Production. It seems everyone must be making a work, or some sorts of art, either using iPhone or a professional cameras, or even Facebook, Twitters. The secrete pleasure of precarity, though already became a torture that makes everyday a meditation of life and death, also produces means to go beyond the pleasure principle. But “mass art production” is also a phase that comes a bit too late, or we can say otherwise, it is witnessing the end of this everyone is an artist movement after the provocation of Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys and other avant garde artists. Warhol is nevertheless a shaper observer of this proliferation of artistic culture, in comparison Beuys remains a political prophet who always aims for a political project, and Duchamp’s adoption of industrial aesthetics is reversed in this movement of mass art production.
“Everyone is an artist” is without doubts already at the core of the current cultural form. Yet Steyerl also drew an end to it, or pointed out that it is coming to its end. Now, it is probably “cooler” to say that “everyone is a hacker”. In the second day, an interview with Arianna Bove named “An author without translator is not an author”, the translator of numerous italian theorists such as Lazzarato, Negir said at the very beginning “but I am a hacker”. This is probably the puctum of the whole section on art production under the direction of Boris Groys. Without any disrespect or discredit of Aeianna – and indeed in the past I benefited a lot from her translations in the Generation Online – the interview is very sincere despite the title of the talk is quite “neoliberal”. This punctum shows that artist is no longer a cool title to have, since though we have many new media artists, but many of them are still skeptical of technologies, keeping a 9096 Nokia is an identity not of old-fashioned, but also of a “i don’t give it a shit” attitude to new technologies. But probably by the end both Luddite and Geek will have to claim: I am a hacker.
There isn’t nothing in common between Hacker and Artist, indeed as Paul Graham showed in his well known book Hackers and Painters, the commonality is: they are all makers. Media theorists since more than 20 years ago have tried to interpret this hackers’ culture through the examples of Linux, and now the open source movement. This alternative mode of knowledge production differs from the past mode of productions, e.g. commercialization. Though it could be in one way or another exploited by commercialization, it still holds some kinds of exception and distance. For example, the commercialization of Wikipedia and Linux won’t go too far if the open culture already gained its moral ground, Microsoft and Google wanted to adopt open source, but they won’t at least at this moment exploit open source (only crowd sourcing).
The rise of the making culture thanks to the internet, that allows new way of acquiring knowledge, through video, audio, text, images, forum discussions, etc, that gives also a step by step to technological knowledge ranging from fixing a printer to 3D printing. Simondon in Du Mode d’Existence des objets techniques, harkened back to the encyclopedia project of Dennis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert, and tired the encyclopedia movement to the question of technology. For Simondon, it is the first time in history that technological knowledge is formally represented in a detail manner that non-skill workers can also learn how to repeat those procedures such as making glass, cloths, etc. As we recall, the emergence of Encyclopedia has a political mission which is to bring mechanical art on the same level as literal art, meaning literature, philosophy, theology, etc. The encyclopedia project is a political one that popularized technical knowledge, and brought rayons of reason to everyday practice. Lets recall that one of the goals of the encyclopaedia is to ‘publish all the secrets of manufacturing’. In the 17 folio letter press volumes of the encyclopaedia, about 2,900 plates in 11 folio volumes were devoted to technology. This open making culture to come, is then shadowed by industrialization, the concretization of technical objects accompanied the abstraction of labour and knowledges, a button or a control panel hided away large amount of practical knowledge. Industrialization, moves from what we understand as tools and instruments to the question of systems. Simondon was aware of this question, yet he didn’t make it explicit in his writings. For Simondon, the most important cause of alienation is the lack of a technological culture, which was once opened by the encycolpedists but then immediately shadowed by industrialization. In such as system, economy is the amplifier instead of the direct cause.
This system aspect of industrialization isn’t unfortunately sufficiently reflected in the current making culture. It seems obvious that every users have become makers in certain sense, at least maker of contents and links. And there are users, or hackers in traditional sense, who produces open source tools and instruments, but these are quickly absorbed in giant systems, which now taking the form of material networks such as Facebook. The question, if we can say so, is how can hackers find an exit from the current making culture that nevertheless repeats what has been said regarding “an artist”. This means, what if the “hacker” or “maker” is another name (though more general) of “artist” of the avant garde?