Matthew Fuller on Tue, 28 Apr 1998 11:43:52 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> A change of address letter from Graham Harwood

A change of address letter from Graham Harwood.

I wrote this letter when I was finishing at Artec and as a change of e-mail
address notice, but as it has circulated a lot of people have said that
curcumstances surounding the letter apply to them as well. So here is a
version of my change of address letter.

Please note change of Email Address(

May 98

During the past ten years. I have worked with new technologies and opening
up social spaces. For the last three and half years, I have worked at
Artec training unemployed people and have made many good friends and set
up many good working relationships with the people I taught. This was an
extremely busy time for me finishing and publishing Rehearsal of Memory as
well as running courses and being involved in the arts programme at Artec.
There were many sleepless nights, stress, excitement, and above all there
was the possibility of creating a space in which people could safely
explore culture clash and exclusion from the trough of society. I wanted
this space to be experimental, away from immediate poverty and also away
from the excesses of a municipal post socialist pretension. 

Before I went to Artec, I saw technology as an open window of opportunity
for the activist in me and so I did not mind being employed to prove its
"power and universality when dealing with social problems". After all, I
could get inside intellectual properties and places from which I had been
banned. Take a few things, rearrange a few more and get out unscathed,
hidden by technical knowledge. This mobility was a new experience for me
and proved very useful in projects like Rehearsal of Memory. Even if I was
spotted, boss culture would give me a pat on the back for being creative
with such a dull old space. However, now it seems in the wider context
that R&D is over and the creative types must be shown the door. Now boss
culture wants mastery: political, cultural, social and creative mastery.
Now is the time for Labour's workfare movement rather then the movement of
labour for fair work - which itself has had a enormous impact on Artec. 

It's no coincidence that during the writing of this letter that Newham
Council - the first area in England to elect a Labour MP - West Ham
Football Club, and the local police have come together to create a face
recognition system in its town centre. This system scans crowds for
individual faces, compares them to a database of known felons and then
informs the local security services. At the same time, Newham is employing
these new services it has stopped funding the Newham Race Monitoring
project, a project collaborating with Mervin Jahman, an ex-student of
Artec working on the Mongrel search engine "NaturalSelection". 

So these are the new technologies of opportunity.
The social purpose of technologies....
This is the space, that tracks the face, that creates the bars of social
class.... and of Newham's justification. Newham needs to attract more
middle class aspiration to its area in order to create wealth and nothing
attracts the middle class like surveillance... After all, "the innocent
have nothing to fear".

Enough, I'm being sidetracked. What I want to say is, in the last
few years, I have seen the context in which Artec and similar organisations
operate steadily tightening up, becoming accredited to a new social order.
There is a very real danger that these constrictions - or to put it another
way, the reordering of powerful elites to cope with technological change -
will strangle the technologies bastard miscarriage of social opportunity.
Over the last few years, Artec formed spaces where those without crept
unseen into situations of value, under their newly acquired technical and
creative mantles.

Artec I feel, like many other smaller organisations, could be lured
into adopting the agenda of academic and political organisations and
agencies which may dwarf it. People at Artec work hard and usually do not
have the luxury of distance from the day to day grind of running courses
and making things happen to see what's coming round the corner. It's always
useful to be reminded that the academic and political organisations and
agencies now setting the agenda are the ones which failed the client group
in the first place.

Anyway last year I became ill with stress and stomach ulcers through
trying to work as an artist/activist for which I was paid nil, not a bean,
and as an educationalist dealing with society's failings for which I was
paid badly to service the shit fuckups of society but not to be creative
about them. 

I finally decided to resign my position at Artec in order to improve my
health and to pursue those spaces once more.

I still support Artec as the only place I know where you can get trained
for free if you are from the bottom of the barrel. I wish the organisation
well and leave it with these chilling words from Philippe Queau (IMAGINA

"The power and universality of digital and virtual technologies no longer
need to be proved. The Web is turning into the meta-media, a ubiquitous,
integral crossroads. Now that the time of pioneers and prophets is over,
it is time for mastery: political, cultural, social and creative mastery.
We must lay the bases for the cyber-civilisation which is about to be
born. The task is a difficult one. We must pool our strengths to buffer
and temper the inevitable chaos of the maelstrom currently being provoked
by a generalised short circuit." 

Yours sincerely, a short circuit,


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