Geert Lovink on Wed, 17 Dec 1997 22:42:27 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Shu Lea Cheang - Buy One Get One (travel report)

[posted on nettime with the permission of Shu Lea Cheang. geert]


Buy One Get One is a two month homesteading project, an ever-processing
site. NTT/ICC Biennale , October25-December 7, 1997, Tokyo,
Shu Lea Cheang with Lawrence Chua (writer/router), Yasuto Nakanishi (java
programming), Jun Oenoki (hardware interface),Takahiko Suzuki (handmade
bento digicase).

"Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) signs a joint venture
to develop "Cyberjaya", an intelligent city, destined to become the center
of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor. " 
--press release NTT, May 7, 1997 

BUY ONE GET ONE derives its name from happy hour at Sphinx in Soi Silom,
Bangkok. The project explores a digital (co)existence that is borne out
of net technology. While Southeast Asia builds Cyberjaya and Africa
safaris on the net, we travel to test the limits of national and
electronic border patrols. 

a cyberhomesteader drifting, accessing with a borrowed password 
passing with a torn ID card, homepage, homeless page, buy one get one.

"As a matter of national security, we simply don't allow people from
certain countries to hop on a plane with an uninspected suitcase, leave
the airport without going through customs, and walk into a bank. But
today, there is nothing to stop a computer hacker in Iran from sitting at
a terminal and traveling to that same bank over the Internet." 

--Simson L. Garfinkel writes on Electronic Border Control, July 14, 1997

Shanghai. 11.17.1997, NO VISA. ENTRY DENIED. 

Shanghai, November 17: 
"If you are Chinese, why do you have a U.S. passport?" 
-- Immigration official, Shanghai International Airport 

Taipei, December 2: 

You conquered me. And me? I lost but I also triumphed. How could I not? 
I have learned so much from you. I can do anything now. You have educated 
me in the finer points of a civilizing empire. To savor the sound of the 
tea pot's wet bottom circling the lip of the warming bowl. You taught me 
the way to speak your language. To start thinking of myself as a human
An individual. With skin in place of borders and 99 channels in place of a
memory. You have taught me many things.


Bangkok, November 15:

Chai yen yen. Keep a cool heart. Something you say in the clotted arteries
of the city of angels. Something you say to remind yourself you were not
always hurtling forward. Listen carefully. Under the hum of the idling
motor, the clatter of the fallen baht, there is a more insistent song.
Something that calls you to reflect on the rampant materialism that's
permeated the core of life in this part of the world. To reflect on the
echo of your empty bank account, the shopping bags in your hand, the price
of the ticket.

Two digital suitcases modeled after Japanese style bentobox 
and equipped with powerbook, cameras, phoneline
and a hino maru bento (lunchbox with rice and ume/plum)
are netcast ready for HoME delivery.
One for the road, one for HoME in NTT/ICC gallery. 
11.5.1997 5pm, uploading from CYBER CLUB, Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi,
India. Hosted by hotel's own leased phoneline and 64 Kbps server.
log on: saudia 
password: welcome 

Johannesburg, October 14: 

You maneuver the streets, trying to lose your skin. With a suitcase of
privilege in your once colored hands, you try to become another
transborder data flow, skimming the surfaces of oceans, looted banks, 
whole cities still glittering under siege. All this you try to do without 
staining your feet. But as the ground seeps in through your calloused
soles, you realize that technology is not a colorless media. Even as you
try to jettison the essential encumbrances of the nation, the tribe and
the individual, the codes you have stored in your head become an
anchor, fixing you to a place, a history, a system in which you are even
now participating. 

The Times of India, New Delhi, 11.6.1997 
New Internet policy aims at 2 million Netizens by 2000

"The information market is a pattern of reprocessing, repackaging and
reselling that we're familiar with from colonial times: the colonies
provide the raw materials which are made into 'finished' products in the
West and then sold back to the colonies." 
-- Leo Fernandez, IndiaLink, the country's first computer communications
system dedicated solely to development issues pertaining to the
environment, women, children and human rights. 

Delhi, November 3: 

The bottle of water in my hand promises that it's "triple sterilized: 
No lead. No chlorine. No smell." I've been drinking religiously from it, 
but I'm still bed ridden with a flu. My head is congested with the same 
traffic of viruses with which the Flatted Factory Complex is teeming. 
In this shabby, barely lit block of concrete, hundreds of electronic
companies have set up shop. The stench of excrement competes with the
perfumed promises of technology. It's here, in a cramped back office of an
agent for the government run ISP, that we log on for the first time in
Less than an hour away, the Maurya Sheraton's exclusive Cyber Club 
promises Internet access in pristine, streamlined surroundings, 
facilitated by the hotel's own server. This is the promise of technology 
in this part of the world: a fantasy of ordered streets, access to
information and security. But the reality is closer to the halls of
the Flatted Factory Complex, a place that is always open to the
threat and possibilities of contagion.

"Lee chan's mother is 72 year old. She recalled that during the wartime
everyone had to bring a hino-maru bento for lunch to school on the 1st of
every month . Called 'Revival of Asia Day', no one was allowed anything
but rice and the umeboshi. It was meant to train ordinary folks to
experience the wartime 'front line'."

--from Claire and Marou's e-mail

Harare, October 19:
a Fanonian safari affair: tea served in the bush by tuxedoed Shona
waiters, a tour through a game reservation with all these pruney English
people. "That's a giraffe, isn't it? Giraffes eat their young for
breakfast, don't they?"
Language becomes a mirror, where any attempt at dialog becomes merely 
an exercise in confirming the white man's expertise. There is the
appearance of an interactive economy on the Web, but don't most folks use
Web sites like Game Boys? In order to truly intervene and interact with
this circuit, it's necessary to adopt a different kind of reflection.
Try this: shatter the mirror, then pick up the glass and use it like a
razor to cleave yourself from yourself. 

Seoul, November 23: 
It is a condition of life in the Third World to deny your place in it. 
But no matter how high the skyscrapers or how well paved the road, 
no matter how fast the speed or sophisticated the violence, no matter 
how long ago modernity triumphed and raised its imperial flag here, 
no matter how many places develop where the word "cyber" can be affixed, 
nothing can hide the scent of tear gas on your breath. The song in the 
noraebang remains the same. We still rule over the ruins of miracles.

Singapore, November 9: 
I suppose this is as good a place as any to consider your paranoia and
how it has shaped our journey. A state of paranoia is necessary for
maintaining any identity. Without the fear of disappearing into the black
world around you, the borders of our bodies would vanish. In Singapore, it
feels like someone is always watching, monitoring your every indiscretion.
Everything seems to try to reinscribe the permanent identity of a state
against the flows of travel and trade. Let's face it, without fear, you
are nothing. 

On the road, the digi suitcase is net transmission central, 
our last hold to a connection, an interface between travellers and 
marketplace locals, our attachment to HoME/System Mainframe. 
In the gallery, the bento suitcase serves as gateway for gallery visitors. 
When in doubt, PRESS. Memory chips scramble. 
Reprogramable auto-agents shuttle down the assembly line. 

The Daily Star, Beirut, 10.24.1997 

"They try to send a virus to the page, a form of electronic detonation. 
They send a message millions of times -- which could take up all our
capacity. There is no dialog. This is not a struggle over a piece of
land, it is a clash of civilizations -- between Arab civilization and, if
one exists, Israeli civilization. 
The media has always concentrated on the Islamic Resistance as a
military operation, but resistance is not just a military matter.
Combatting Zionism requires the most advanced technology in order to
counter the directed media and to convey our views." 

-- Hassan Naami, publicity director of the Islamic Resistance 
   Support Association on the Moqawama web site 

Beirut, October 29: 
Beirut is a fabric of ideas, different tenses that exist in the same
sentence. There is the Beirut before the war, the Riviera of the Arab
world captured in the postcards that are still on sale everywhere. Then,
there is the Beirut that will be, Solidere's Hong Kong of
the next millenium, dreamed up on architectural plans and real estate
brochures. Then, there are the few remaining edifices of bombed out
buildings. Across the street from the construction site for Sodeco
Square, in a crumbling building that architectural activists have 
temporarily saved from demolition, we wander up a staircase into a
sandbagged snipers' lair. The ground is littered with newspapers
from 1978 and invoices from the 80's. I find a photo of someone's wedding
under some broken tiles. The urge to forget lives on the same street as
the desire for nostalgia.

"The existing ruling class in Malaysia forms an unbroken link with the
colonial past. They operated with colonial categories of thought despite
their anti-colonial pronouncements. Their concept of property, income
tax, business, institution and the state, are still dominated by colonial

-- Syed Hussein Alatas, "The Myth of the Lazy Native"

"Asian cultural values will help bring Malaysia out of its current
economic crisis." 

-- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed 

Penang, Malaysia, November 13: 
My birthplace flashes by in a current of nostalgic bytes and futuristic
promises. The lure of calling this place home again has never been
stronger. Even in the midst of the depression, the excitement of the
future is infectious: hearing Mahathir Mohammed rail against Western
hegemony, watching manicured offices rise like refined Javanese palaces
out of the plantation oilpalms at Cyberjaya in KL. Wandering the backlots
of the Free Trade Zone in Penang, I pass aisles of young kampung women
boarding company hired buses that take them back home: every step of
their lives is accounted for. 
There is the feeling here that the Third World can keep some of its own 
rightful harvest rather than deliver it all to overdeveloped nations. 
The Keretapi Tanah Melayu carries me across the promised land. 
A train pushing forward through the forest of signs. 
Its engines screeching out a nervous lullaby. 

During the two month period of the NTT/ICC Biennial Exhibition, 
we claim our HoME in Tokyo gallery space and in the telecommunication
mainframe. Tracing a route that recalls seeds of discontent, we'll be
locating net connection and log on in every city. Recharging desire
carried on trade winds between Africa and Asia, we'll be uploading and
'furnishing' our HoME with wallpapers of the ever-developing, shuffling
memory chips as we cross the borderlines of hyperlink (il)logics.

"I.D. card. I.D. card"

-- Hong Kong policeman who stopped me in a park. 

Hong Kong, December 5: 
Is it possible that a city could just disappear? That a friendship could
vanish into the tabula rasa of a new year? Suddenly in this city with no
precolonial past, there is no history: only a colonial present and the
imminence of its disappearance. That's the dream, anyway: that
there are no places left to live. Only spaces of transit. But the
transients of Hong Kong woke up from a dream to find that in their
restless sleep they had built a city that could never vanish: 
a glittering mainframe of glass, steel and speed. They rose to find they
had become their colonial masters, hungrily feeding on newer forms of
migrant life. 
Just when you think you've reached the end of the line. When nothing more
can happen to you. Just when you think you have returned to your
motherland, a lovely witch curses you. Exiles you to forever live in a
place called In Between. But this barren island turns out to be a
paradise, linked to the mainland by twelve different superhighway and a
multi-media supercorridor. You become a winged cypher, a stupid angel with
no legs that flies forever and lands only when he dies. 

"The networks of the future will be digital. They will be intelligent. 
They will be defined and controlled by software. They will offer high 
transmission capacity and flexible bandwidth. They will have open 
architectures so that they can be easily accessed an interconnected. They
will convey information from every possible source -- by putting us in
touch with other human beings, information, by sensing what is happening
in natural and man-made environments." 

--Dr. Pekka Tarjanne of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 
  speaking on the subject of Africa and the Information
  Superhighway, March 18, 1995,

"Africans are good at playing with ideas, but not as good at actualizing
them. But the Internet is the the only chance Africa has to narrow
the gap; the first time the West can't use information to blackmail
Africa. All the studies that are done on forestry and agriculture by UN
bodies and foreign aid organizations would ordinarily be lingering in
files in cities like Paris or London or Washington. But with the Web,
Africans can access those reports in their home countries." 

-- Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor, Network Computer Systems, Ghana's home grown ISP 

Accra, October 24: 
In order to send an email from Ghana to neighboring Cote d'Ivoire, 
a former French colony, the messages are re-routed through Paris. 
We leave Accra for Abidjan to make a connection to Beirut. 
The manager of Middle East Air reviews my passport and asks me 
if I'm of Lebanese origin. Too exhausted to lie, I say no, and he refuses 
to accept our tickets. The plane takes off with us still on the ground. 
The only way out of Abidjan is to go to Paris. 

October 12: 1st stop, Johannesburg
in collaboration with Johannesburg Biennale, special thanks to Okwui
Enwezor. Much thanks to akram zaatari and Zahera Harb of Beirut. 

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