Its art not commerce Artime Issue 2, 2005

Code  is both culture and a commodity. Hand in hand with all other forms of speech developing in late capitalism, all mass produced cultural texts, it suffers from this contradictory role, locked in an inevitable tension. featuring familiar from the open source movement and the arguments against patenting to the case for sampling, familiar politics constantly unfold, enmeshed in the fear of elitist or statist alternatives. medium embracing this tension, taking it to a whole different level: pure commerce, not commodified texts…. just tomatoes.

………………..Were I to stand on speakers corner and actually yell:

 clientism services, I can ensure you get that dirty state contract,… I can even make sure your son does his military service, and you become a civil servant…. credit payments,……. you can only pay by credit…

you would probably laugh. If you were to report this to the odd bobby ‘round the block, they would laugh too and politely explain that the services promised are illegal and that you have no proof this dude actually took money from you.  Now if somebody approached the same space and said hi, nice space you have here, mind if I sell tomatoes next to you. And you responded…. I am not really sure…I don’t thing what I am doing here and tomatoes have much in common…

and then he said oh common just let me install the thing.…….oh common you don’t have the money to pay for the space I am buying it and you can sit here and sell tomatoes next to me or fuck off. Then it would make more sense for the bobby to come have a look.

A greek artist Mr Fotiou did the above on-line and got arrested, he got arrest ( and auiqted) for posting a piece of web art that mocks greece state related clientism. He was not a activist, he was did not aware of electronic civil disobedience, nor hactivism. He just want to post his stuff…….

The Internet has been develop into a Mecca of shopping and art, groceries and news, a mass medium were signs and tomatoes co-exist, behaving alike, and are indeed regulated under the same law, offered through same visual languages. We are proud of this allegedly peaceful co-existence, celebrating the endless dance of laise faire evolutionary madness by priding on how the Internet is indeed unregulated, because we can enjoy this amazing freedom. But then the odd artists or hacker is arrested to remind us that actually the Internet is not unregulated it is just regulated as a space for commerce, as if tomatoes were what is actually being exchanged. Regulating free speech is censorship regulating commerce is fairness. Regulating both unfortunately  means choosing one of the two ways. And its usually the second one that is chosen.

In short we have created a huge problem, we have actively destroyed the remaining boundaries between commerce and speech. Every hactivist tactical media movement is aware of these problems. In the Fotiou case we seem totally oblivious to the tension, and problem. In not having purely accepted that cultural production is embedded in commerce contemporary greek freedom of speech and civil rights activists don’t see the war clearly. We are fighting another one, its different battlefield alltogether. Neither fotiou or the police seemed aware of the battlefield in which they had entered. The one does not fancy itself as an crusader for the free web and the other was visually blind to even consider the site as speech.