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Rules of Engagement, Report

Report by Omar Muñoz-Cremers about the presentation Rules of Engagement at DEAF07.

Rules of Engagement, Report

Drawing by Mazen Kerbaj

After a helping of mustard-orange soup the morning started with a talk by the artist working in probably the most constraining circumstances – at least during last summer, when Beirut-born Mazen Kerbaj started his blog dealing with the direct experience of falling bombs. It is a blog full of drawings, spiked with rants, observations and dream thoughts. Kerbaj despite his pacifistic leanings talks about the blog as a counterattack, of becoming a soldier, just using a different kind of weapon. He positions himself, from the perspective of our cynical Western minds, as an almost old-school Internet idealist who sees his blog as a subjective medium and authentic alternative to corporate media. Overall it was a very touching talk about different levels of blogging, the will to cling to a subject and the necessity of art for psychic well-being during wartime. As Kerbaj wryly observed “artists are the lucky ones as they can keep working in a war.”

After that Chinese blogger Aaajiao tried to paint a picture of blogging in a more ambient or continuous mode of distrust. Probably the most fascinating aspect of his talk was his characterization of censorship as something that isn’t out in the open, something that is-and-isn’t there. He explained that it is suspected a mechanism exists, based on a list of terms which are frowned upon. A list, that Aaajiao, arguing from his own experience, thinks is actually getting smaller. Perhaps another surprising element, concerning censorship, is the role of the service provider who contacts the user, instead of a stern state official, with an actual request to change published content before it is blanked out.

The brunch ended with Ellen Pau who gave an impression of the activist culture in Hong Kong, a city whose shape and identity is in constant flux, yet where there is a prominent place for young artists and curators.

 

2007, Omar Muñoz-Cremers

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