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Tatiana Bazzichelli * The Art of Networking - Networking practices in grassroots communities (was: [ox-en] Conference documentation)

Hi all!

Here is the documentation of Tatiana's talk. This documentation I'll
post text only because this is sufficient. The PDF is on the website.



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The Art of Networking

Networking practices in grassroots communities

Paper by Tatiana Bazzichelli, for the Oekonux Conference, Manchester,
March 27th-29th, 2009


Networking means to create nets of relations. Since the 80s, platforms
of networking have been an important tool to share knowledge and
experience to create works of hacktivism and net art.

The Art of Networking seminar held at the Oekonux Conference
(Manchester, March 27th-29th) refers to the concept of hacktivism and
art as a context of active participation, through the description of
Italian and international underground interventions and actions. The
scope of the seminar is to compare the diverse use of art and
technology among grassroots communities of artists and activists
involved in underground networking processes, with the contemporary
use of social networking platforms. The seminar proposes to analyze
the techniques of networking developed in the expanded, pervasive and
collective networks in the last half of the twentieth century, which
have anticipated the structure and inspired the rhetoric of many of
the contemporary Web 2.0 social networking platforms. Focus will be on
situationist, multiple singularity and plagiarist projects, such as
ubiquitous strategies of networking from mail art to the Luther
Blissett Project (LBP); the creation of Neoism and its network-web
conspiracy and the developing of hacktivism in the (mainly Italian)
underground digital scene, through examples of some practical
experiences. The aim is to reconstruct the roots of collaborative art
practices in which the artist becomes a networker, a creator of shared
networks that expand virally through collective interventions of
multiple identities.

The Gift-Exchange Networking Economy

Networking is a cultural strategy that creates an open configuration,
a map of connections in progress. The contemporary Internet-based
networking platforms have their deep roots in a series of experimental
activities in the field of art and technology started in the last half
of the twentieth century which have transformed the conception of art
as object into art as an expanded network of relationships.
Avant-garde art practices such as mail art, Neoism and the Luther
Blissett Project have anticipated the structure of the Web 2.0
platforms, which have today reached a huge mass of Internet users.
These narrow practices have shown that networked art is not mainly
technologically determined, but is based on the creation of sharing
platforms and of contexts for exchanging between individuals.

Networked culture, developed during the last half of the twentieth
century, gave rise to a gift-exchange community as an alternative
economy and social system (Welch, 1995; Baroni, 1997; Saper, 2001) and
this model of communication, often connected with the environments of
contemporary art, allowed for the "exchange" of spontaneous gifts.
Since the 80s, the platforms of networking have been an important tool
to share knowledge and experience to create works of hacktivism and
net art. The concepts of "Openness" and "Do-It-Yourself", today more
and more relevant with the diffusion of social networks and Web 2.0,
have been the starting point for the development of punk culture and
hacker ethic. Punk culture refers to the idea of the death of art in
order to open up creative possibilities for everyone. Anyone can play,
as long as there is the desire to do it.

The same Do It Yourself concept is then found in the subsequent
phenomena of networking and hacktivism; combining with the influxes of
mail art, from Neoism to Plagiarism to Luther Blissett, up until the
1990s, when the network dynamic is affirmed on a mass level through
the use of computers and the Internet. The "hacktivism" concept refers
to an acknowledgement of the net as a political space, with the
possibility of decentralized, autonomous and grassroots democratic

Access for everybody, information as a free good and the conscious,
use of hardware and technology, the basic concepts of hacker ethics,
are referred to as political objectives. According to this point of
view, networking means to create nets of relations, by sharing
experiences and ideas in order to communicate and experiment
artistically. Networking platforms are free spaces in which the
publisher and the reader, the artist and the public, act on the same
level. Art provides a critical perspective on political imagination;
networking projects act inside social interstices and cultural
fractures, which apparently seem to be at the margin of daily life,
but instead are an important territory for the re-invention and
re-writing of symbolic and expressive codes. Imaginative codes which
can transform and decode our present.

The art of networking is based on the figure of the artist as a
creator of sharing platforms and of contexts for connecting and
exchanging. This figure spreads through those who accept the
networking project invitation and in turn create networking occasions.
For this reason, it no longer makes sense to speak of an artist, since
the active subject becomes the network operator or the networker.

The art of networking is not based on objects, nor solely on digital
or analogical instruments, but on the relationships and processes in
progress between individuals. Individuals who can in turn create other
relationship contexts, or give life to creative products, which are
important if considered within the larger idea of sharing. Within the
world of networking everyone can participate by recommending his/her
own materials, and total freedom exists. Probably it is for this
"gift-exchange" logic and communication strategy that few publications
exist on the subject, because it has always been considered more
important to live out certain dynamics, rather than to write about

Connecting Multiple Singularities in Collaborative Art Practices

Networking communication might be a virus that grows from contact to
contact and expands through multiple actions of people who develop
collective processes of creation. These people and their multiple
identities, their personal relationships becomes the interface, their
exchanges becomes the medium. For example, the practice of mail art
took shape in a network of small works mailed to everyone who enter in
the collective postal circuit and at the same time giving life to
friendly bi-directional relationships, which are lived out in the
intimacy of one's own mailbox.

Mail art is a form of art open to all. The term that can best define
it is Eternal Network, according to the French Fluxus artist and
sociologist Robert Filliou (1926-1987). An eternal network that
starting from the 1950s has involved hundreds of people, made up of
decorated envelopes and rubber stamps, artistamps, illustrated letter
and zines, and any other self-produced object or pieces of paper
turned into creative art sent by mail. It involved individuals linked
by belonging to a non-formalized network, which consists of exchanging
addresses and one-to-one and one-to-many mailings. The origin of mail
art is connected to the figure of Ray Johnson (1927-1995) and to his
New York Correspondence School, created in 1962, but the network has
its roots already in Dadaism, Futurism, New-Dada and Fluxus. Until the
1980s the mail art network was also used as a channel and propaganda
for Neoism.

Neoism expressed itself through artistic practices and experimentation
in media. It embraced a philosophy that presupposed the use of
multiple identities, the collection of pseudonyms, the discussion of
concepts like identity and originality and the realization of pranks,
paradoxes, plagiarism and fakes, components that came up again later
in collective movements such as the Luther Blisset Project (LBP) and
in the actions of different net.artists, including the Italian ( and the Wu
Ming collective of writers ( Pranks
and actions of culture jamming focus on continual poetic renewal (Vale
and Juno, 1987), creating artistic, cultural and political new
experiences, using the unexpected, and a deep level of irony and
social criticism.

Between 1980 and 1988 Neoism expressed itself through the Neoist
Apartment Festival in North America, Europe and Australia and through
different publications (i.e. the "Smile" zine). It was founded by the
multiple identity Monty Cantsin, an open pop star who spread from
Canada (Montreal) to USA (Baltimore) to Europe (the name was suggested
by David Zack to Istvan Kantor and Maris Kundzins). Symbol-icons of
Neoism were the flaming steam iron; the clothes hanger used as an
antenna to create a telepathic flow between people; the
improvisational haircut during the performances; the red cross; a
particular type of spicy food like chili and chapatti. Monty Cantsin
was not only a multiple identity, but a real way of life for many
people who embraced being a Neoist in daily life; opening experimental
video stores, creating performances, publishing magazines, giving life
to independent projects (cfr.

It is the Neoists who talked about a "Web-network" in 1981, giving
life to a discourse on systemized libertarian networking based on the
idea of the Centre de Recherche Neoiste (CRN). The Centre of Neoist
Research originated in Montreal in 1980, as a consequence of the
Neoist cultural conspiracy. They were proposing "Open Situations", in
which people who can catalyze their own energy, give life to a series
of collaborations between the members of the network.

Between 1994 and 1999, another collective identity spread from Italy
to the United Kingdom, the United States, Holland, Germany, Austria,
Finland, and Hungary: Luther Blissett.

Like a mental virus the Luther Blissett Project (LBP) landed to give
rise to deeply impacting media pranks, together with happenings, shows
and performances in the subway, articles in publications, actions of
overcoming art in favour of the everyday, becoming one of the most
active projects of the period (cfr.
Luther Blissett was the voice of a multitude of people that wanted to
subvert the cultural industry, to expose the tricks of the media
communication and to create an urban legend, a new folk hero. Luther
Blissett was born because a mythological figure was missing in the
underground scene of that time, there was the need of a media ghost
through which everyone could speak and subvert the cultural scenario.
The LBP was the example of a fertile networking strategy, the applied
myth of a common cause. The entire LBP was a work of art, "an open
reputation informally adopted and shared by hundreds of artists and
social activists all over Europe" (Luther Blissett). Through pranks
and fakes, such as the Neoist bus happening and collective adventure
(1995); the legend of Harry Kipper in the "Chi l'ha visto?" TV show;
the fake book to be published by the Italian publishing company
Mondadori, called net.gener tion (1996); Luther Blissett was able to
create a common imaginary and become a popular phenomenon.

From Networking to Hacktivism: The Experience of Anna Adamolo

The collective experience of Anna Adamolo (October 2009 to date)
represents a new impetus in the Italian scene of activism and, at the
same time, converts into action radical impulses consolidated by
decades of hacktivist practices in Italy (see Bazzichelli, 2008). Anna
Adamolo plays with language, but also with the concept of collective
identity, becoming an icon for those who seek to re-write the cultural
and political codes through the détournement of symbols. Anna Adamolo
follows the subversive path of the Luther Blissett multi-identity, and
of the open-pop-star Monty Cantsin.

Unlike Monty Cantsin, more reconnected to specific members of Neoism,
Anna Adamolo is the voice of an enlarged network. In the past months
in Italy a network of people that involves students and young
researchers, workers and teachers, all those who wanted to transform a
political, cultural and social utopia into concrete action, has acted
through many protests and demonstrations. The students, followed by
the media, named their mobilization Onda Anomala, the Anomalous Wave;
( Anna Adamolo is the acronym for Onda
Anomala. She is the virtual heroine against the "Gelmini reform", an
Italian law - Law 133 - that cuts down on public funding of education

The networking component is central to Anna Adamolo, and her network
is based on anonymous identities, following the path of Luther
Blissett, but with different objectives. While representing a
plurality of individuals, Luther Blissett was acting transversely to
any political movement; Luther Blissett was like a virus attracted by
the bugs in the media system; he was an urban legend. Anna Adamolo
instead is developed as part of the Onda Anomala activist Italian
movement, and she represents all the voices that could be directly
rooted in this political and social battle. She is represented by a
face that could be used by whoever critically wants to change the
status quo, she is the diverse voices of people who are fighting for a
common goal. She is the face of the motto "noi la crisi non la
paghiamo" (We Will Not Pay for this Crisis).

Anna interprets Monty Cantsin and Luther Blissett playing with the
language and the labyrinths of politics, transforming the bureaucracy
of the state into open possibilities of intervention. She answers to
the Gelmini reform creating an "intimate bureaucracy" (Craig J. Saper,
2001) between activists, students and young researchers, workers and
teachers, creatively re-interpreting the structural elements of daily
life, as the mail art and other Avant-garde practices did years ago.
The symbols of the institution are reversed, from the official stamps
and signatures of the Ministry of Education, University and Research
to the Ministry's official website, and they become a common sharing.
Signs and labels of a network of actors that wants to change the rules
of action, to build its own education system and a better future.

As we read on the Anna Adamolo blog (
the first action of AA was the hijacking of the website of the Italian
Ministry of Education, University and Research, on the occasion of the
national students' and teachers' strike in Rome on November 14th 2008.
When visiting the website, first
very similar (if not equal) to the official (, the
visitor was redirected into another scenario: a video, which mixed
images of a calm sea and street demonstrations, commented by the voice
of Anna Adamolo (the "Wave Minister"), and all the students, mothers,
teachers, workers, spoke through her (
The virtual journey landed in a website where AA presented herself as
did all the people who had previously recorded their protest message
by calling a telephone number registered by the members of the Onda
Anomala network.

Some of these stories are now published in January 2009 in the book:
Sono Anna Adamolo. Voci e Racconti dall'Onda Anomala, NdA Editions,
2009 ("I am Anna Adamolo - Voices and stories from the Wave").

Another action of AA took place on Facebook, where she had initially
created a profile as the Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini,
easily reaching the number of 2.000 "friends": supporters and
antagonists who express themselves on her Facebook Wall. After some
days, in November 14th 2008, the profile of Mariastella Gelmini turned
into the one of Anna Adamolo, who in the meantime had become a symbol
of the street demonstrations of many activists and members of the Onda
Anomala network. This action generated a chain of support for the Onda
Anomala protest and immediately after the virtual heroine became one
of the most popular Facebook icons in the Italian activist network.

Anna Adamolo becomes a symbol of a movement of precarious identities
in Italy, which has also acted radically through visual messages in
the past, and which has transformed the heaviness of traditional
politics in a spiral of ironic activism: San Precario, the patron
saint of precarious workers (, and
Serpica Naro (, the designer of
imagination, have shown the way.

The message has finally reached a community of many actors, beyond the
hacker movement, the activist and guerilla marketing practices, and
opened to all those who wanted to transform our present creatively. In
this sense, Anna Adamolo was a real semiotics revolution in Italy,
because she has successfully sought to reach those who, for the first
time, decided to respond to the official politics getting down to the
streets and acting actively in the network.


Adamolo Anna, Sono Anna Adamolo. Voci e Racconti dall'Onda Anomala,
("I am Anna Adamolo - Voices and stories from the Wave"), NdA
Editions, Rimini, 2009;

Bazzichelli Tatiana, Networking. The Net as Artwork, Digital
Aesthetics Research Centre, Aarhus University, 2008 (download from:;

Bazzichelli Tatiana, Borrelli Loretta, Caronia Antonio, "Anna Adamolo.
Critica pratica dell'ideologia" ("Anna Adamolo. Practical Critic of
the Ideology"), in Digimag nr. 41, Feb. 2009, online at:;

Blissett Luther:;

Cantsin Monty, Neoism Now. The first Neoist Anthology and Sourcebook,
Artcore Editions, Berlin, 1987;

Chandler Annamarie and Neumark Norie, At a Distance. Precursors to Art
and Activism on the Internet, the MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005;

Perneczky Géza, The Magazine Network. The trends of alternative art in
the light of their periodicals 1968-1988, Edition Soft Geometry,
Koeln, 1993;

Saper Craig J., Networked Art, University of Minnesota Press, 2001;

Vale V. and Juno Andrea, PRANKS!, San Francisco, RE/Search, 1987;

Welch Chuck, Eternal Network. A Mail Art Anthology, University of
Calgary Press, 1995.

This work is published under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Denmark License.
Contact: projekt

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