Medialab Prado


Commodify Your Consumption: Tactical Surfing / Wakes of Resistance

03.03.2009 12:00h

Place: Centro Cultural de España en Buenos Aires (Paraná 1159) Buenos Aires

Paper by Curt Cloninger presented within the context of the 3rd Inclusiva-net meeting: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH). The Evolution of Artistic Creation in the Net-system Seminar (in Buenos Aires, from March 2 through 6, 2009).

Internet "surf clubs" (artist-run, invitation-only group photoblogs) have been critically described by their practitioners using a variety of loosely defined, partially elucidating analogies: film montage (Olson), Duchampian found objects (Moody), Cornellian wunderkammern (Bewersdorf), and semiotic play (Ramocki). This paper analyzes group photoblogging, public bookmarking (via sites like, "artistic surfing," and related practices from the more fruitful/apt perspective of de Certeau's "tactical consumer."

I first establish a model for understanding these recent practices of tactical consumption by proposing a continuum of artistic "production" ranging from "strong/deep/strategic" to "weak/shallow/tactical." Toward the "weak/shallow/tactical" end of this continuum are precedences like DJ Spooky's remix ethics, Fred Wilson and Haim Steinbach object ensembles, Ted Nelson's Xanadu project, Vannevar Bush's Memex trails, Debord's derives, Bourriaud's notion of "post-production," and Galloway/Thacker's notion of "edges."

I argue that "artistic surfing" is a tactical practice of "strong consumption" that produces a trace (or "wake") which acts as a form of "weak production." The goal of such surfing (whether explicit or implicit) is to broadcast a singular and personal signal of resistance amidst a "wave" of commercial content and noise.

I then critique the efficacy of this model of resistance as it applies to the contemporary internet. If the ocean in which I choose to "surf" is comprised of corporate culture, then my "wake" through it may be less an assertion of my own singular resistance and more a local case-study in how the "creative demographic" surfs the corporate network -- a marketing statistic rather than an inflection of critical agency.

Finally, I suggest other net art options further down the scale of production that still utilize tactical consumption; but produce a stronger, less impotent, more resistant signal. These options involve deeper levels of media modulation, more strategic plans for "spinning" the "wake" (strategies for online trace dispersal), and a greater emphasis on personal transformation as a viable practice of tactical resistance.

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