These projects are a small but representative sample of CAE’s use of the Tactical Media model. Tactical Media is situational, ephemeral, and self-terminating. It encourages the use of any media that will engage a particular socio-political context in order to create molecular interventions and semiotic shocks that collectively could diminish the rising intensity of authoritarian culture.
Keep Hope Alive Block Party (KHABP), 2013.
Whenever the inequitable distribution of resources crosses into territories once thought impossible, Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) has responded with a public party to highlight the achievements of various oligarchies and plutocracies in a manner that is less painful to those who must suffer the injustice. The first installment was in Sheffield, UK, highlighting the city’s twenty percent unemployment rate. The second installment was in Kyoto, spotlighting the failure of cultural institutions to function as public institutions. And now, here in the US, we will party in recognition of a distribution of wealth reminiscent of the era of the robber barons. The vast majority of wealth may be in the hands of the very few, but the many have a handful of remaining assets to give us pleasure, and at the KHABP we shall indulge in them all: Sustenance (we cannot guarantee that it is delicious, healthy, or life sustaining, but the soup kitchen will be open and calories will be delivered all afternoon); Delirium (forty-ounce bottles of Miller High Life for those of age, and Big Gulps of Mountain Dew for our under-agers); and Hope (raffle tickets offering big cash prizes, so that for a lucky few, economic mobility will not only be downward). For just one dollar, this trifecta of resources for the poor and downwardly mobile is available to all comers. Let’s party like it’s 1929.
A Public Misery Message: A Temporary Monument to Global Inequality, 2012.
CAE transforms statistical data on global economic inequality into an embodied spatial experience. Using a helicopter, participants are lifted to hover at a height that allows them to visualize the economic separation of the top 1% from the bottom 99%.
New Alliances, 2011-12
In collaboration with Parco Arte Vivente, CAE develops a workshop and action to plant endangered flowers on public lands and urban social space endangered by developers thus conferring the legal status of the plants onto the spaces. Most notably, to protect Parco Arte Vivente from loss of space due to austerity measures in Italy.
Underground Tarot, 2011
A series of freighted image/text constructions designed to illicit political free association among viewers. Like a tarot deck icons, the images would absorb whatever meaning a viewer wished to project on them. While the images are clearly political in some manner there can be no certainty as whose politics is represented. The images were repeated at ten minutes intervals throughout the day on the platform monitors of the Toronto subway system.
Concerned Citizens of Kyoto, 2010
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan CAE notices that the museum is underused if not completely unrecognized by the majority of the city’s population. In order to change perceptions, CAE initiates a campaign to give away free beer and cigarettes. When a diverse range of people come to the museum for beer, they also receive a counterfeit invitation to the Gala Opening for donors and friends of the museum.
Peep Under the Elbe, 2008
Peep under the Elbe was a project on water quality in the forgotten neighborhood of Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg. The city had given up monitoring the canals and wetterns in this area. Wilhelmsburg is an island neighborhood of immigrants and German working poor, that is criss-crossed with polluted waterways.CAE attempted to find where the safest places were for the popular pastimes of swimming and fishing (often as a way to get fish a person could not otherwise afford), and where the most dangerous places were.
"Renaming Project." Victoria Square, Adelaide, South Australia 2002
Local citizens had been requesting/demanding that the city council dual-name Victoria Square with its local aboriginal counterpart "Tarndanyungga." (Dual naming has recently become a fairly standard Australian social policy). The council neither refused nor consented. Frustrated by this situation, it was decided by the tribal Elders, local activists, and a variety of concerned parties that the square would be renamed by direct action. Street signs reading "Tarndanyungga" were contracted and made by the same company that manufactured the signs for the city of Adelaide, and the Public Art Action Coalition (PAAC ) was formed. The group changed 10 of the 20 signs marking Victoria Square, thus dual-naming it. A press release was sent to the local newspaper explaining the position of PAAC, which was cheerfully printed. Public response was mostly positive. However, the council had the signs removed, and left blank the wood plaques to which the signs were fixed. Eventually, the old Victoria Square signs were returned to their original site. However, for an unknown reason, the square was officially dual-named just a couple of months after the action. PAAC likes to believe that it had some influence over this sudden change of policy.
Halifax Begs Your Pardon!, Halifax Nova Scotia, Tactical Media Workshop, 2002
CAE and Beatriz da Costa, in collaboration with local activists and artists
Link to project original website »
Child as Audience, 2001
Child as Audience was done in collaboration with Creation is Crucifixion and the Carbon Defense League. This package, designed primarily for teenage boys, offers a host of radical software, instructions on how to hack a GameBoy, a hard core CD, and a pamphlet on the oppression of youth.
The International Campaign for Free Alcohol and Tobacco for the Unemployed, Sheffield, 1998
An action designed to create a sense of what public space could be when not dominated by the commodity.
Looks Different Tastes the Same, 1992
Freedom of Expression Show and Auction. Metro Pictures, NYC,
Diseases of Consciousness, 1997
Diseases of Consciousness is a human scale web presentation designed as an equivalent to easel painting and opposing the predominant monumental web work. The project constitutes a mini encyclopedia of case histories of the many new afflictions and pathologies that can strike consciousness in the world of global capital.