ZEMOS98 is a team of cultural workers.
We try to create critical thinking, we try to deconstruct the mass-media messages, we try to weave networks, relationships and
communities. We try to work in the intersections and margins. We try to work (g)locally, behind the borders. We try to take care of our networks and we try to reuse and remix all of our contents. We try to organize a Festival every year and we try to create a New Media Laboratory called 98LAB to learn about this things.
So, basically, we try things.
AN INTERVIEW WITH FELIPE GONZÁLEZ GIL OF ZEMOS98, REGARDING THE FESTIVAL “COPYLOVE: COMMONS, LOVE AND THE REMIX”
SAIOA OLMO ALONSO
Zemos98 is group exploring creation, coordination and collective intelligence, working for the idea of free culture and audio-visuals. Their pledge is for the commons, for hybrids of the professional and the amateur, for DIY and the remix. Since 1998 they have organised the International Festival Zemos98 that each year has presented proposals that focus specifically on the Internet society and the cultural convergence between audio-visual creation, digital networks and contemporary thought. Previous editions have been dedicated to collective intelligence, television, control and CCTV, the memory and the palimpsest, expanded education and small organisational structures…In its 14th edition, under the title “COPYLOVE: Procomún, Amor y Remezcla” (COPYLOVE: Commons, Love and the Remix) they have wanted to focus on the most invisible aspects of the structures of production: the economy of affections, the reproductive, attentive listening, sharing as an act of love, caring communities and the recipe of open code.
SAIOA OLMO:¿What drives you’re interest in affections, emotions and care in relation to the commons?
FELIPE GONZÁLEZ GIL: The festival that we did surrounding expanded education was paradoxical: though a subject that supposedly goes beyond the limits of the school and the very practices linked to education, we made a fairly formal festival. It was full of presentations where there was a dais and an audience sat one behind the other. One of the things that stood out in this festival was that, in most of the presentations, what people explained about their project was the positive side, that it to say the marketing side of the projects. Even in the cultural projects that supposedly ought to be more critical, they end up selling the best features of your project and don’t talk about the usually hidden side, the domestic side, the reproductive side, the doubts, the fears, the contradictions. So from there we set up a debate that was called “En qué la cagamos”, (How we muck it up) where we explain all our muddles and contradictions. And we also began to be tired of the fact that the commons, as it has become fashionable, is frequently linked to legal questions (logically, because it is to do with the law of intellectual property, creative commons licences, etc.) or otherwise, to economic questions. Little by little, we also found ourselves slightly hemmed in by our position, because, being a festival on the one hand but a collective on the other, we don’t always have time to investigate and talk with authority about a subject. We decided that the fundamental question to be tackled was the subject of affections in relation to the commons, because we had also identified it as an internal problem. So then we realised that vulnerability ought to be something to work on. This whole compendium of contradictions, doubts, fears and also the need to learn more about a subject is what led us to create this evocative term, “Copylove”, that in reality doesn´t exist as such, but remembers love, not romantic love, so much as the love implicit in the idea of sharing, in community.
S.O.: Love rhymes in consonance with: cooperation, confidence, care and emotion, but can also rhyme in assonance with: betrayal, manipulation, dependence, pain…Despite everything do you wager on “Love” as the companion for the “Commons”? Uniting emotional factors to a movement/concept also has its dangers.
F.G.G.: To talk about a term with so many connotations, that is as mythologised and exploited as love is dangerous in itself. Since we were little we’ve been consuming tales of romantic love in Hollywood films, in advertising, in the media, etc. But in love there is also power and domination. To reveal the concept of love linked to communities and common resources, which ultimately what we are aiming to do, is a very difficult task. We are not even capable of baring all in front of people with whom we have ten years of relationship, if at times we aren´t able to identify what conflicts of micro-power or micro-politics there are between us, to do so in a public event is even more ambitious and maybe even a bit pretentious.
S.O.: Can proposing the commons linked to love or highlighting the most affectionate or emotional aspects of the community can create rejection?
F.G.G.: The emotional can create rejection in two senses: one, the obsession with production, because we are in crisis there is the sensation that everything has to be related to generating economic resources; and, on the other hand, because talking about emotions implies ridding ourselves of what we are, of our identity, of the baggage of stereotypes, clichés and prejudices that weigh us down, to bare ourselves in front of the rest.
S.O.: Do we feel closer to one another…the more we intermingle, interconnect, exchange? Or is it also good to establish limits, private areas, frontiers, etc.?
F.G.G.: With the subject of open code and collaborative practices there are many paradoxes. The first is that we need rules to be able to share. When all is said and done, creative commons licences are a list of rules that impose a game. We’ve discovered, in the process that we’ve been carrying out for a while now, that games are important, for collaborating as much as for sharing emotions. Games have rules, that establish a time and a terrain in which there are a series of premises that everybody has to comply with. Generally with the game more participation arises. But every game has a person who writes the architecture of the game and this architecture is also power, so the only thing that occurs to me at the moment, is that we rotate the roles, that is to say, that it is not always the same people who write the rules, that we all take on the roles of being players and writers of the rules of the game.
S.O.: Are we continuing to bet on love with the most restrictive licence, that of “fidelity”, all rights reserved?
F.G.G.: Exactly. I had a very absurd theory when I was at university that I called “relations of non-exclusivity”: to sleep with anyone I wanted, always making clear that I didn´t want to maintain a relation of total fidelity while trying to cultivate diffuse relationships that could unite sex and friendship. But this model can be be assimilated to what the free market has always defended, that is that there are no rules. I think a basic subject in the next few years will be that all this nonsense that we have in culture of establishing licences, so that others can reuse your work, will be imported to personal relations. Though I have no idea about how to do this, because, for example, at the moment I have a partner, and we find ourselves rewriting the code of our relationship and I don´t know if we are ever going to stop rewriting it, amongst other things because the idea of the family is in crisis, the idea of the school is in crisis…all these institutions that have governed our lives are crumbling. However, at the same time it’s not easy for me to imagine a scenario, bearing in mind that we don´t stop being animals, reacting in an almost instinctive manner. I think a monumental challenge is trying to experiment with models of relationships in which love isn´t exclusive but where there is, at the same time, commitment. I remember noticing this contradiction very keenly once in relation to a boy, who was incredibly copy-left, very open and a total hacker in life. But who with his girlfriend was very jealous and possessive. And so I asked myself, aren’t you defending a society where there has to be a change with regard to forms of possession not just of objects, cultural objects, but also of people?
S.O.: Are we reinventing concepts that were already considered at other times? For example, free love of the hippy movement, or the collective property of communist ideology.
F.G.G.: We do nothing more than copy models that were already tested at another time that sometimes functioned for a while and at others times didn´t. Maybe the biggest problem of all, however pompous it might be to say it, and I’m probably not anybody to consider myself from an objective point of view, is capitalism, it devours everything. I don’t know of any social movement to this day that hasn´t ended up being devoured by this discursive mechanism that continuously generates stories, such as advertising. Three months after 15M, an advertisement for Movistar emulated a protest assembly. One thinks of the hippies as a movement that really tried to change society and today it is practically a cliché used to sell clothes. We are so blocked by money, when all is said and done, that it is impossible to create something that firstly, isn´t based on a precedent and secondly, doesn´t reproduce it. The only thing that occurs to me is to try to traverse all these nebulous contradictions in the most honest way possible.
S.O.: As it is, each person is a remix on a genetic, behavioural level, as well as of values and beliefs. Are our productions, whether we believe it or not, want it or not, express it or not, always remixes?
F.G.G.: Every cognitive or genetic process is a remix. The very process of learning for children consists in copying you copy the people that teach you. Emulation is something that is very present in the idea of remixing and is inseparable from any act in which the intellect and the body also mediate.
S.O.: Remixes are usually perceived as amorphous, polymorphic, heterogeneous entities. Do monolithic, univocal entities, with simple structures, have qualities that make them easier to communicate and broadcast, thereby penetrating more easily into the mind? Do they appeal to us more?
F.G.G.: Ultimately the problem is authorship, even I don’t escape this. I make remixes, which implies making works based on the works of third parties, but I sign the remix. Maybe the most coherent remix would be one which wasn´t signed, or if anything was signed by an infinite number of names, an almost impossible list of all those to whom we are indebted for being able to do something at a certain moment. I suppose that we are still interested in authorship and uniformity in terms of who has done what, who has made this video, who has written this book. Even with the digital, all those twitter accounts and facebooks, all those pages are distinguished by who has made them and who signs them.
S.O.: Is the concept of the author, as we understand it today, the capitalist author? Does each system generate a corresponding type of author?
F.G.G.: The best example of the failure of how we conceive authorship are the grant forms of the Ministry of Culture, where amongst other things, in many occasions they don´t allow you to put a collective author. Often with Zemos, when we have to sign a text collectively it generates tensions. We have always functioned as a collective, but as the years have gone by, we have matured and each one comes to signify more in one area. This also hems us in, limiting us with regard to what others expect us to be and in the paths that each one chooses. Even within collectives that sign as a group questions of identity and authorship are not always that easy. I think that a lot of it is due to capitalist possession, to possessing “whatever it might be”, a video, a phrase.
S.O.: So what do we do then, kill the author or redefine the figure of the author?
F.G.G.: It is impossible to kill it, aside from the fact I don´t like killing. The other day I said to a friend, when was the left going to stop using the discourse of militancy, because the word “militancy” is to do with war. This very word talks about the failure of the parties. One of the positive things about what has happened with 15M is that the process of belonging to the movement is not at all clear. You can enter and leave, which on one hand be seen as more negative because it is part of the culture of the click, you enter and abandon pages. However, it is also positive, because there is not such a military affiliation, there are more lax ties, they don´t ask for your card when entering a meeting or to participate in an assembly, something that does happen with political parties, even those that consider themselves more left wing. I wouldn´t kill the author, but seeing that we all continue to sign things, I would try to redefine it and increasingly I see more possibilities for co-writing. I enjoy myself most when I’m working with people and co-writing things, I mean co-writing in general: projects, ideas…The other day it occurred to me that blogs are often personal spaces, but why not invite people to have residencies on our blogs, as a metaphor for physical residencies. Invite, for example, someone to write in my name to inhabit my identity and write as if me for a week. This seems more interesting than killing anything.
S.O.: In the productions that you are doing called source codes, someone shares their audio-visual references about a subject in order for them to be commented on, given new meaning or for people to create from them. Do people really end up presenting their source code or is there part of this personal source code that remains hidden?
F.G.G.: Every public exhibition, whatever kind it might be, a conference, a video, a dance spectacle, has a hidden side. The question is which is the hidden side when the nature of this public exhibition is about not hiding anything. If we saw a show in which a magician revealed his tricks, the question would be why has he done this? That is, what is the intention behind revealing these tricks? We can’t allow the revealing of source code of what we are, to become a fad. It has to be an ethical stance with regard to the creative act. To make a collection of what you consider your source code to be is nothing more than making a sort of homage to all those people or entities, of whatever type they may be, regarding what you owe to this infinite chain of writing that has reached us. For me it often generates the doubt of whether ultimately there isn´t also a strategy behind all this and if converting it into a constant could end up being a pose that hides something else.
S.O.: If when you explain the trick, magic loses its magic…does it make sense for art works to be open code? To open can also mean to lose. Do we value something less, the more accessible it is? Are we devaluing the emotional and attractive potential of secrets, of the restricted, of the hard to obtain?
F.G.G.: I’m very much in favour of dividing it into two phases, of doing the trick and then sharing what you have done. Many of the things that intrigue us, that draw us in, do so precisely because something remains hidden, because there is a sort of sensuality in the hidden that fascinates us and that makes us always want to know what more there is out there. Often, not showing it means that you ask more questions, than if you see it directly. Because to put it practically, when you go to a restaurant and you really like something, you enjoy what looks like charcoal and covers up a piece of fish, and you ask yourself what it is and you are fascinated. However, I think that restaurant menus ought in the end to have a second menu, one that explains that everything you have eaten has these ingredients, has been made like this, because in this way you maintain the key aesthetic pleasure intact, but later you are coherent because you show how you have done it. I’m clear that it doesn´t make sense not to share the code a posteriori because that does form part of this logic of total occultation, not just of traditional authorship, but of the industrial tradition, of competition, of “we can’t show the secret formula to others because they will copy it and then they are going to do it better than us”. If I give the recipe for gazpacho to a friend and then I go to his house and this same friend makes a better gazpacho with my recipe, well, I should be happy that he gave the world a better gazpacho, and not lament that I had lost a recipe that was so special.
S.O.: A certain measure of competition can be good or should we banish competitivity to the trunk of the reprehensible?
F.G.G.: I‘m competitive, so it would be very dishonest to reject it. I’m very demanding of myself and of the things that we do. Within the terrain of the game certain rules are set, community rules or rules of intellectual property. If we play, we have to get carried away with the game and compete within the framework of the game. What one shouldn´t do is become obsessed with the idea that life is a competition.
S.O.: Truths and fallacies about longed for horizontality. Are there divisions of tasks that generate different degrees of power, authorship and legitimation?
F.G.G.: To talk about horizontality or verticality in terms of a working group, of whatever kind it may be, is key. I think that there are clichés everywhere. Not so long ago I was in an ambit of a cooperative nature where the projects that come together are usually for social economy, cooperatives of all types, and it is funny how in the meetings themselves the word “horizontal” emerges as a sort of unquestionable totem to which one has to constantly refer. However, we all know perfectly well that assemblies, that are supposedly a model of horizontality, are full of monumental power struggles and also phallocracy. I don´t know exactly what the horizontal or the vertical is because in the horizontal there are often many invisible verticalities. A model to follow perhaps would be the redistribution of leadership, to be capable of identifying who leads within a group depending on the subject, or that the leadership rotates. The group is always wiser than the individual the key is in identifying how the decision-making is distributed. If we think about how the web functions and the graphics in data visualisation, it is a sort of multidirectional network in which there are certain concentrated foci. The decentralisation doesn´t imply hard and fast horizontality, so much as there are poles and axes, and as such there is leadership. As was said before in the Copylove residency, the authority is granted, you give somebody the authority because they have worked for it, they don´t get it per se.
S.O.: Does the formula of artistic co-creation end up with diverse results, or does having to negotiate between peers end up leading to productions based on consensus that are therefore less radical than those that arise out of individual creation?
F.G.G.: In processes that tend towards horizontality, the result usually matters less, as the way through is generally much richer. There is more discussion, you have to come to an agreement or a disagreement and you don´t know whether reinforcing your position is egotistical or whether it is coherent with what you think. Undoubtedly in solitude there is a lot more freedom, and in the model of interdependence and co-creation the results will probably be less efficient, to use a very cold word, or less spectacular, but the process is much richer.
S.O.: What would be an “open work of art”? And a work of art with open code?
F.G.G.: In a context like the one we find ourselves in, where on the internet advertising is increasingly disguised as art, or art is disguised as advertising, the key is often knowing who has made it and why. This determines everything. Being explicit about why you have done something is sharing the source code. For example, “Prometheus”, is a video that describes the future of a hyper-technological society in which all the technological entities fuse and create a sort of virtual reality where people can connect and become whoever they want. This video began to be distributed and resent on the Internet and hardly anyone paid attention to the source that had originated the video. There was a web page. I entered, investigated and found out that it was an advertising agency. It is not the same knowing that a student in communication has done this for a final degree piece about the future of the media, as knowing that an advertising agency has done it wanting to sell the agency. Knowing the source is to know why something has been done.
S.O.: Do the values of the artistic and creative imaginary such as originality, geniality and exceptionality in some way sustain the option of copyright?
F.G.G.: Yes the are values specific to copyright and a very romantic idea of authorship. Now production processes and access to technology have been democratised. There is an abyss between the record industry and the little it costs for a group of independent people, not linked to it, to make a product that is probably superior in quality, in its discourse, because of the risks it takes. The fact of lowering the costs of production of any work of art, means that we realise that artists are not special beings, that anyone can do it if they want to tell something to the rest. So these values have already been dismantled, the only thing left to do is to gather up the dirt of the industry. Beuys’ famous phrase “everyone is an artist”, is today evident.
S.O.: From the start when you create a work it always carries copyright, right? Would it help if productions were understood as open unless the contrary was specified?
F.G.G.: On the one hand there is a very extended belief that any of the creative commons licences is an alternative to copyright, when in reality no work with creative commons stops having copyright, so much as the two licences coexist. If you put creative commons on a book, first you have to say that it is copyright and then liberate certain rights. Those who wrote the creative commons licences adapted the law of intellectual property and what was in force was copyright. Though it is increasingly irrelevant whatever licence it has. People are leaping over the barriers imposed by the licences and have no respect for the industry, not simply downloading series and watching them, but in the new generation, it is naturally ingrained in them to play around with the media. So I suppose the day after tomorrow, it will have dawned on the industry and they will create mechanisms for you to play with the films and they will be creative commons. Then we will have a problem because we’ll have to think about what is the alternative mode, for us it was the alternative mode, and when it is institutionalised and ingrained, one will have to defend other questions. If I wanted to take a risk and say something, I would say that of the six creative commons licences only two allow remixing, so I would stick with these two and the public domain or the commons as this idea of common assets that aren’t mediated. It seems to me that this is a more desirable future, that of writing our own licences, if we want, a licence to love.
S.O.: You have been investigating and experimenting with new models and working systems. What models interest you and why?
F.G.G.: The first premise of the model is to call the model into question continually. We have used thousands of nomenclatures, from the most seedy and rancid like “department”, to other more supposedly cool ones, such as “cell”. It is about continuously trying to rewrite the code of how to work as a group. What we are now going to try and do, to the extent that it is possible, a premise of Copylove that comes from feminist practices, is “to put life at the centre”. This implies giving much more value and space to the reproductive, understood as the relations that we build and share, that aren´t measured by projects, presentations, money, work etc.
S.O.: Does size matter?
F.G.G.: Size always matters. We have functioned much better when we have gone deeper into the micro, when I say micro: micro-narrations, micro-stories, micro-politics. When a group becomes too big or when ambition grows everything become more difficult. If I had to choose, without knowing exactly what I’m left with regarding the metaphor of size, I would say that small things and the micro, are of more interest as a working focus than big things. What is more, our festival is a small festival, a small proposal, almost pseudo familial. We function like a family, taking people in and want them to feel treated in a special way. Affection lies in taking care of the little details.
S.O.: You work with experiences in expanded education, informal teaching, workshops, residencies, laboratories…
F.G.G.: The most sensible thing I’ve heard about expanded education, is that it is more interesting to do it, than to talk about it. When all is said and done, to go beyond the model of the lecture is extremely difficult and I consider it an educational practice, because many university classes are constructed with this model of lecture in which one person has the knowledge and the others don´t have it and receive it. If we consider how the web functions, how knowledge is multidirectional and that there isn´t just one person who knows, we will understand that there doesn´t have to be one lecturer. Expanded education could be like Copylove, an excuse to try and dismantle the hegemonic and to try out other things. Expanded education is not a magical formula for traditional education so much as about testing things, games, methodologies, etc., that could later be imported into contexts that already exist, or as some think, dismantling the current system and proposing a new one.
S.O.: This is the 14 edition of the Festival Zemos98. After so much time and work, looking back, what do you think the festival has brought to the context and what returns have there been from the community to the festival itself, or towards you as the driving team?
F.G.G.: The Festival Zemos98 has been at many moments a sort of virus within the city of Seville. We were a sort of unclassifiable oddity, for example, for journalists who didn´t know where to place us, “What do you do, short films or are you a psychology school or anthropologists?”, “Now you are talking about education, now you are talking about love, now you are talking about remixing”. We can function a bit like a virus, to hack the cultural system, with our limitations and problems. One of the problems that we are trying to tackle is that we have functioned more on the web with collectives and agents external to Seville than within the city itself. We have been seen, and I think on occasions rightly so, as agents who were slightly independent of certain practices that were taking place within the city. But we have also helped to show many things from outside which otherwise would not have had a circuit here in Seville. And as we are going to get older, soon, we have to stay in contact with very young people, so that these young people can throw us out. We’ll have to hand over the reins.