Video Inverted Worlds: Debates on Social Media and Revolution

This presentation is two-fold: Part one is devoted to reflections on the debates about the relations between digital technology/social media and revolutionary movements, while part two is a sound performance called Discontent, made from recordings of protests, mainly in London, captured over more than 10 years. Horizontal networks of independently operating nodes, with their links to random access memory and nonlinear narratives, are seen as new models for political activism and revolutionary change, empowering the individual and avoiding the pitfalls of institutionalised power, while still enabling broad movements forsocial change to come into being.

The revolution will not be tweeted
(Gigi Ibrahim | CC BY 2.0)

Events like the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement point toward the possibilities of non-hierarchical networks, aided by technology, gathering spontaneously to mount a powerful challenge to the established order. However, after initial enthusiasm by a wide selection of the media, at least those of Europe and the US, many commentators have begun to question whether the role of new technologies has been misrepresented or overestimated. In addition, critics of Communicative Capitalism, such as Jodi Dean, assert that in the current abundance of communication individual messages are flattened to mere content, devoid of context and commodified.

What emerges from considering the tension between these opposing positions is a more complex narrative, one that is most likely non-linear and definitely open-ended. This lecture aims to open up the debate for a critical approach to the theme. Finally, the performance of Discontent is a re-interpretation of the audible matter of protests, following multiple routes and overlaps, including 2001 May Day riots, protests on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, the attack on the Royal Bank of Scotland building during the G20 protests in 2009, as well as the first days of the Occupy the London Stock Exchange. The piece aims to make audible the affective links established through sound between people who fight oppression collectively, the empowering and disruptive potential of noise as a cultural form, as well as the mixture of adrenaline rush and fear that is experienced once protest goes beyond peaceful.

Debates on Social Media and Revolution from Orient Institut Beirut on Vimeo.

Matthias Kispert is an electronic music composer and artist living in London. His broad range of interests includes audiovisual live performance, composition with found sound, improvisation, documentary as artistic medium, as well as the relations between artistic practice and wider cultural and social issues. As audio director of media artist collective D-Fuse, he is responsible for the sound aspect and also the conceptual development of much of the group’s work, including videos, installations and live cinema performances. He also regularly collaborates with other digital artists and designers including United Visual Artists, Quayola and Jason Bruges Studio. His work and collaborations are shown at exhibitions and festivals globally, including USC, LA MOCA, TriBeCa Film Festival and Eyebeam (USA), Itaú Cultural, FILE, Multiplicidade and Hipersonica (Brasil), Royal Festival Hall, onedotzero, ISEA, CineCity, Lovebytes, AV Festival and London Film Festival (UK), Hong Kong Arts Centre, I/O Gallery and Get It Louder (China), GaîtéLyrique and Nuit Blanche (France), EMAF (Germany), Moscow Architectural Biennial (Russia), MU, STRP, Sonic Acts, Today’s Art and Imageradio (Netherlands), NúmeroProjecta (Portugal), NABA Milan (Italy), MOD Festival (Mexico), Dis-Locate (Japan), REC Madrid and LEV (Spain), MIC ToiRerehiko (New Zealand) and others. Matthias Kispert is a lecturer in Sound Art at the University of the Arts London.

Video Inverted Worlds: Nonviolent Movements are Dictators’ Worst Nightmares

Social-economic issues are behind Occupy Wall Street, French, Greek and Spanish riots, the Arab protests wave and many other protests in the last few years around the globe. In the wake of what is known as “Arab Spring”, a wave of protests washed away the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt. Inspired by these events, demonstrators across the region stood up against and seriously challenged the strongmen of Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. The question is what the common denominator of the “Arab spring” was. The answer is People Power, the power of non-partisan youth movements. A united movement, committed to nonviolence, with a thorough plan to achieve its goals is capable of momentous achievements.

Such a strategic movement is the worst nightmare for every autocrat and can pull the pillars of support out of the government support and force the strongmen to make concessions once considered impossible. The results have been inconceivable; once ruthless rulers, the leaders of numerous Arab countries have been promising reforms, reshuffling governments, and entering into dialogues with opposition groups they once banned. Maybe the “Arab spring” actually began in Lebanon with the “Cedar revolution” after Hariri’s assassination, but unfortunately it finished the moment violence prevailed and became the leading force in the entire region. Unfortunately guns must be sold and used and everything that happened in Libya and that is happening in Syria cannot be called “Arab spring”. A better name would be “Arab tragedy”. Without labour unions in Tunisia and youth movements in Egypt changes would have been much slower and like in Libya and Syria would rely on armed groups. Therefore achievements of those people involved in changes in Tunisia and Egypt are even bigger.

Nonviolent Movements are Dictators’ Worst Nightmares from Orient Institut Beirut on Vimeo.

Actively engaged in the nonviolent struggle against regimes since 1991 as a high school kid; Siniša Šikman led students at Students protest 1996/97. His networked organization Serbian Students Movement became a fundament of OTPOR! (“Resistance!”), founded in October 1998, a movement in which he was a very active member but that finished with the Milosevic era in October 2000. Siniša then worked as a freelance trainer and has been a trainer with CANVAS (Center for Applied NonViolent Actions and Strategies) for the last five years. He conducted 46 strategic nonviolent struggle trainings with 764 participants from all over the world, including participants and movements who had pivotal role in changes in Ukraine, Georgia, Maldives, Egypt, etc. His expertise unites both partisan and NGO sector skills and knowledge.