ricardo dominguez on Fri, 12 Sep 1997 21:16:41 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: The Thing


The function of an avant-garde, or of a rear-guard, is neither to
advance nor retreat, but rather to maneuver.


We must be symbiotic, predatory, competitive, and parasitic all at the
same time.


Art is war by other means.


The cultural survival of the artist calls for new tactics that can
overcome and expand the shifting terrain of the "age of access." We 
must maneuver over the lack of resources, over the extreme binaries of
utopian and apocalyptic signs that converging technologies bring forth,
and continue to create situations that will allow aesthetic visions to
seek new forms and functions. This can only be accomplished by gathering
into small media cells that can remain in a state of permanent
flexibility and contact. As Carl von Clausewitz pointed out--small
numbers of light, highly mobile forces, can overcome large groups of
heavily armed forces--by concentrating their forces in unexpected ways
and by establishing rapid systems of internal communication about their
adversaries and themselves. We must become the Mongols of the post-media
battlefield by building networks of decentralized tactical cells who
share a centralized strategic infrastructure of communication. The Thing
is an attempt at doing just this--by gathering the The Thing nodes that
have emerged since 1991 under one shared interface, a decentralized
technological infrastructure, and maintaining decentralized autonomy 
for each node under the structure of "real time" integration.

We have gathered in secrecy to build and install the new technology to
make this specific operation more effective. The shared interface, the 
Thing Network Targeting (TNT), will inform cell members in "real time"
about their comrades location and actions, this will improve the
intelligence-gathering capabilities of the network--enabling each cell
to identify timely opportunities for surprise actions.  A "real time"
network of communication will integrate Thing cells across a wide span
of temporal differences and geographic terrain as force multipliers.
General Colin Powell summarizes the essence of this shared interface
tactic: "A downsized force and  a shrinking defense/(art) budget results
in an increased reliance on technology, which must provide the force
multiplier required to ensure a viable military deterrent. . . .
Battlefield information systems became the ally of the warrior. 
They did much more than provide a service. Personal computers were 
force multipliers." The Thing Network Targeting (TNT) will provide 
more than just a service to nomadic artists--it will be an aesthetic 
rapid strike system.

Things cells must be like "chameleons, " as Oppenheimer has pointed out, 
adaptable to varying contexts; they will not function under a single
structured tactic--each action my be fought offensively and defensively,
span a wide gamut  of  intensity, from conflicts waged by heavy chat
traffic, to insurgencies where "the mobility of the hyperlink" may 
still be a prime means of maneuver. The Thing has now added new and
improved elements to our shared arsenal.

The Thing TV and Thing Radio will be part of our "Blitzkrieg" format,
which willenable our forces to cut deep into defensive lines and
compromise vulnerable rear networks of communication and information
exchange with a massive overload of images and sounds. These new combat
systems should also open the latest PSYWAR technology to our roaming
Thing "kampfgruppe." Again this is all part of the "real time"
integration of The Thing.

The Thing may also have radical implications on many of our
previous tactics. Moving away from actions of Mass Destruction to those
of  Mass Distraction--using  "real time" technology to "decapitate" the 
leaders of any counter-network with moving-objects that will disseminate
specific messages designed to confuse non-Thing cells and break them
down with the weight of electronic saturation. Thing agents will have
the endo-codes to scan behind the Mass Distraction Systems and forge a
trans-tactic operations behind the lines all those treacherous NGO’s,
corporate nets, and myopic states. Our cells will operate  under 
General Sun Tzu’s  call for forces that will, "defeat the enemy troops
without warfare. . .overtake cities without laying siege."  

This infrastructure of  "real time" interaction between cells will lead
to the most vital and important element of the project—the ‘ground zero’
of  The Thing—The Thing Network Targeting (TNT) system will bring
together all the new deployments, plans, captured info-weapons,  and
smuggled designs to increase the mobility of all Thing cells. This will
enable each autonomous Thing to measure the effectiveness and
requirements or conducting an action on both a micro and macro scale.
The (TNT) will filter and integrate all troop movements with lateral
connectivity to allow for more flexible inter-action linkages 
in "real time."  (TNT) will allow our forces to move beyond the
traditional tactic of  "holding and hitting," to allow maneuvering. 
Instead of using part of the cell to tie down the opponent with with
firepower to make space for a flanking action by the other segment 
of the cell. (TNT) will allow cells to "hit without holding"—because it
will optimize an a priori mapping of the opponents movements and

The Thing will create a space that will allow post-media Mongols to use
similar military praxis as the Mongols of the past. The Mongol doctrine
relied onknowing  where their enemies were, while keeping their own
movements invisible. This enabled them, despite a chronic inferiority in
numbers, hardware, and budget to overthrow the finest, largest armies of
Imperial China, Islam, and Christendom. War against the Mongols
resembled playing against an opponent who could hide, move their forces,
and also knew where all your static forces were kept. They 
used a "real time" system of rapid communication called the "Arrows."
These micro-units would hide deep in the terrain of the opposition and
report to the generals thousands of miles away by shooting arrows of
information to the next team of "Arrows." In this manner an information
map about the opponent was made before any move was made. The Thing 
shared "real time" interface is the equivalent of the Mongols
"horn bows"—making it possible to identify the linear disposition of
troops, avoiding the powerful forward engines, and then hitting from

The post-media artist has much to gain by the example of the Mongol
doctrine—we must also favor a "real time" network design, invisibility,
and speed. Since most of this group has little support or resources to
draw from. The aesthetic paradigm today and in the days to come will
belong to whoever gains the widest network of support. But, we must also
remember that new media calls for new tactics--that may have no
historical support and must be invented. The implications of new modes
of  technology may not be seen during the first phase of interaction.
That was true of the tank, the machine gun, and the telephone. For
example, with their newly developed rapid firing "mitrailleuse," the
French enjoyed a tremendous potential force over the Prussians
in 1870. Unfortunately, this early version of the machine gun was used 
behind the front as artillery. Thus, the weapon that would dominate WWI
a generation later had almost no effect during the Franco-Prussian
conflict. Systems always try to fit new media in established ways and
are always expected to prove themselves in terms of existing standards.
It may take time to realize that inserting a new element into old forms
may create new inefficiencies and even create blockage. It may take
more time than we think to establish and meet the demands of this new
medium—which may mean that we will have to restructure what it means
function as an artist and not the reverse.


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