All Sources Are Broken
“All Sources Are Broken” is an internet-based-project developed by Labor Neunzehn. ASAB is both an artistic experiment and a collaborative re-archival practice, which presents itself as an open access web content management system (WCMS) for the investigation of the hypertext space of post-digital books. It encourages creative re-reading practices, parallel narratives and unconventional learning strategies. An online space for creativity, collective action and re-contextualisation. The project aims at exposing the ofﬂine/online cycle of data and ideas, exploring how both are being shaped by migrations between the material and the digital world, ultimately creating output originating from that cycle.
ASAP stems from a participatory dimension that becomes clear in the re-archival and deconstructive processes enabled in the project. This, however, is not taken as a means for “pure” emancipation. On the contrary, as an artistic practice, ASAB deals with a critique of democracy for how it has developed, and continues to develop, through the World Wide Web Infrastructure. If information architecture, which constitutes the structures in which hypertext operates, were compared to city planning, Labor Neunzehn suggests that the latest development of the Internet recalls the experience of the shopping mall. Just like in a shopping centre, the information architecture can work to create paths and barriers intended to direct user choices. Or, alternatively, it can design strategies that sustain discovery and sharing activities – as ASAB does – facilitating dissemination and contiguity with original context as key tenets. We want to stress (and play with) the deferred space between ofﬂine and online, its delay and decay. Working at the intersection of intertextuality, audio-visual collage, sampling, cutup media and deconstructed narratives, ASAB progressively takes the form of self-published works, installations, video and lecture performances, in order to show the different levels of the discourse that brought us here, until “All Sources Are Broken”.
- Display at the Participation Matters exhibition
- Performance / Lecture on 13.12.2017 during the R! Festival
Interview with Alessandro Massobrio and Valentina Besegher (Labor Neunzehn)
By Olga Yegorova, on 13/11/17
Olga: You have been selected to take part in R! with a particular work, but what characterizes your art more in general?
Labor Neunzehn: We in Labor Neunzehn work on different subjects, such as on music composition, media art and film and as well as philosophy. But all of those attributes and reflections can be combined in many different ways. So, we do not have a particular art field that can describe what we do but can speak rather about the particularities that characterize “All Sources Are Broken” as a project.
Olga: How do you relate to the R! theme with the work that was selected? R! covers a variety of themes and concepts, where all projects relate to notions such as participation, democracy, community media and/or power, always in very diverse ways. From your point of view, which of these concepts play a role in your project?
Labor Neunzehn: There are two main keywords that relate to the curatorial line of R!: media or new media and participation. The project is a collaborative practice. So the participatory dimensions, strategies, and practices are embedded into the project. This internet-based platform requires an active participation on the web. But it is also an artistic experiment that relates very much to media and new media content.
The participatory dimension unfolds possible strategies for reading books in the post-digital era. It is a process of collection of data in an online-offline cycle. One of the aims of the project is to incorporate offline books, old media, paper, as the main source of data into the online space of knowledge.
Thereby, the participatory character is not just related to quantity or quantification of data. The website is not a wiki or a simple archive of books for other media. It is a platform in which we are interested in the process of collecting data that requires the user to be active. Participation is understood as exploring and expanding the media content of the website by adding new hyperlinked contents. This is both, a way of tracking the data and also a way of detecting obsolete data where hyperlinks disappear from the web, change their positions or are literally “broken”.
It means that participating in the project, the user implicitly accepts some rules that are unusual for the infrastructure of the world wide web 2.0 strategy where everything is easy, everything is fine and where you have a particular path that is already described, a space where you basically have just to play a little bit in order to do something. Instead, we actually ask the user to take the time, to open a book and to find cross-references between the hypertext and the text in the book. This demand has nothing to do with a lack of technology, but with a conscious choice of creating a space where the user becomes an active co-creator.
Olga: Does empowerment of the participants play a role in ASAB?
Labor Neunzehn: This project does reflect emancipative potentialities of the participant. This potential, however, cannot be fully used through solely using the website. To explore this potential, it requires commitment. You are really required to read a book, to understand what you are reading, to find quotations and to see whether those quotations are reflected somewhere on the world wide web.
Olga: You stress the participatory dimension of ASAB a lot. Why is this so important? Do you see a political meaning in it?
Labor Neunzehn: There is definitely a political motivation. It emerges from the ways the world wide web has developed up until now. However, the motivation does not come from a place of nostalgia, but rather, from our concern about how we can find information, acquire and explore knowledge through the internet.
There are a lot of resources online. However, you need to be registered on certain platforms or access the university archive so that knowledge is at your disposal. This is not bad, on the one hand, but a free exploration of knowledge is not enabled. We have many choices to take on the internet, however, also these choices are filtered through personalized social media, platforms where you have to become a member and create an identity. This altogether leads to an avoidance of experience. Our project aims at creating a user that has his or her own agency and acquires self-determined knowledge.
In this experiment with ASAB, we are also open to the possibility of failure. Because nobody might be willing to explore this possibility. And this is fine, too. This is art, an experiment and not a political opinion.
Olga: Your project depicts a relationship between the virtual and the embodied, the digital and the tactile. How is this relationship presented? how does this project deal with those realms? Does this representation also have a political meaning for you?
Labor Neunzehn: As a premise of our work, it is important to understand that this project does not arise from a judgment of the any of those platforms as good or bad, desirable or not desirable. ASAB is a process that observes how the entanglement of the online and offline operates on learning.
ASAB explores, on the one hand, the physical and digital world as two dimensions in the context of a post-digital world. On the other hand, it stresses the interweaving of these dimensions in one, online-offline cycle. There is no online without offline anymore. A student at a high school will not only use his textbook, but also the internet, to make his homework. We are always within the online-offline cycle.
Our project tracks and observes strategies within this offline-online cycle of collecting data in a nonjudgmental way. Thereby, we also show how the migration between the real world and the world of knowledge from books into the digital might take place.
Olga: In ASAB, the individual can contribute to the collection of data so that the wider collective may benefit. Do you work with this tension between the individual and the collective?
Labor Neunzehn: We hope to have more people participating so that more and more quotations can be re-mediated through further hyperlinks of sounds, text or video. At some point, we could even print books that are the result of the hyperlinked knowledge provided on ASAB. But at the same time, we are prepared for a failure. On the level of the individual, we stress the human factor, such as the willingness to invest time and effort into this process. So the limit is the participant him/herself who has the choice.
It can happen that no one will be at disposal to invest his time so that no community arises. But this is an art project. It is free, it is political, but at the same time, experimental and unpredictable. What matters is the process where one can experiment, and learn. It requires a lot of work to do so, to discover broken links, to find resources that are not updated and to interlink everything with each other.
Olga: You stress the importance of the process as such, without laying a too strong focus on the outcome. Do you see any connections on how this may relate to democracy?
Labor Neunzehn: I see a link that addresses the use of speed and velocity in democratic processes.
Work at Respublika!
Performance / Lecture at NAC on 13 December 2017, photographs by Olga Yegorova
R! Curator’s introduction, video by Olga Yegorova and Nico Carpentier
Performance / Lecture, video by Olga Yegorova and Nico Carpentier