»Violent Consumer Media« looks into the role of digital consumer gadgets – such as mobile phones, action cameras, and toy drones – in warfare, terrorism, and other forms of what Slavoj Žižek calls »subjective violence.« Over the past two decades, the proliferation of self-generated digital content by soldiers, terrorists, and citizen journalists has increasingly complemented and influenced the narratives of mainstream media. At the same time, social media and other online platforms have facilitated the distribution of resources to build DIY weapons with consumer grade components.
The four projects selected through this open call explore different areas within this shifting paradigm. They question the implications of the blurring line between military and civilian technology, the emancipatory potential of modified consumer devices, and representations of violence in relation to social and news media practices.
Ronnie Karfiol’s 1001 Drone Nights engages with weaponization of contemporary and historical leisure technologies, like the encounters between kites with small explosives flown by Palestinian civilians, and toy assault drones operated by Israeli civilians in the conflict around theGaza/Israel border. An online space will provide access to digital simulations of these battles, while an accompanying set of downloadable construction manuals for the modified kites and drones will pose as an ambiguous invitation for audiences to enter the physical battlefield themselves.
Miyö van Stenis also works with consumer-grade drones, but in her ongoing work VIGIPIRATE QUADCOPTER DRONE, these are not used as weapons but as means to escape from a site of violence. In the event of a violent threat to her person, a drone can be activated through reappropriated military software protocols. The drone will evacuate the artist’s personal data set, consisting of a digital archive of her artwork and a personalized collection of stored news footage about her country of origin, Venezuela, which she left as a political refugee. During the residency, Miyö will work on an algorithm based on the artist’s personal evaluation of trustworthy news sources.It willcollectand store news on the current conflict in Venezuela; footage that is under potential threat of erasure or obfuscation.
The use of AI processes to assess news media footage is also central to Leonardo Aranda’s Gore Devaluating Tool. Mexican news media regularly publish graphic imagery depicting the lethal consequences of gang violence. While providing news information, this imagery also becomes complicit in spreading fear – often the main motivation behind the documented acts. Leonardo’s app will detect graphic gang violence-related images in online news reports and substitute these for violent scenes from famous paintings. Thus, the valorization of representations of violence in terms of enhanced status for its perpetrators is substituted for another paradoxical framework of value and representation: the »high-end« art world.
Pursuing the theme of violence and its representation with mobile technologies in a somewhat different direction, Kosta Tonev made selfie videos at public sites in Moscow where acts of terrorism have taken place in the past. While these sites currently appear innocent, memories of past events seem to contribute to the experience of a certain aura surrounding such spaces. Kosta’s Late Night in Sorrento (working title) will connect his collection of seemingly innocent selfie footage with digital simulations based on historical data and violent imaginaries. The project proposes a radical investigation of the implications of narcissistic social media practices by connecting these to proto-fascist fascinations with violence as a formative social principle.