Activist Objects and the Disappeared

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by Martha Dietrich and Penny Harvey

The mothers and grand-mothers of the disappeared gathered every week in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, defying the military regime (1976-1983). They used photographs to invoke the presence of their children and grandchildren. The hugely repressive military regime systematically wiped out / murdered and imprisoned all political opposition. Many thousands disappeared. The women met in silent protest demanding simply to know what had happened to their loved ones. Dismissed by the military as mad women they were nevertheless hard to shake off. Gradually they got international publicity. Their stubborn presence worked to mobilise international public opinion, through the affective force of their claim to the right to know. As mothers and grandmothers they made gendered claims on an aggressive male, military regime whose own right-wing conservative family values could not easily construe such a claim as political – despite its political force.

Our presentation explores the political force of these photographic images and asks how they indirectly display the suffering of disappearance and enact a claim on the state. In the Argentinian case small images of particular people were combined to stake a mass claim that nevertheless remains individuated – through the photos – reminding us that the loss of each mother/grandmother is both particular to them and at the same time one part of a larger public artefact that indexes a shared experience of loss.

This link is to image of the Pirámide de Mayo, the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires, an allegory of Liberty it commemorates the first anniversary of the May Revolution that began the Argentinian Wars of Independence against Spain in 1820. 200 years later the memorial commemorates the disappeared, but the force of the images of state-induced suffering are also channeled by the contemporary social movement that says ‘no’ to the payment of external debt in the face of internal financial crisis, channeling the force of the images to demands for a better future.

On the other side of the Andes, Martha Dietrich has been working with three groups of people deeply involved in the Peruvian ‘dirty war’ that was fought throughout 1980s and early 1990s. One of these groups were Quechua speaking peasant women from the Ayacucho region of the Andes in the rural area most affected by the war. Here colonial oppression and ongoing discrimination was bitterly played out, and peasant populations in particular were subject to violence suffered at the hands of the army, the insurgents and fellow villagers. There were massacres and many disappearances.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 18.56.37 (1)Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 18.56.06 (1)

The images are screen shots from Martha’s film “Memories in Conflict”. The woman depicted is Eudosia Conde Quispe. She had gone with Martha to an isolated place, a place where her husband, Alejandro Quispe Achas, had been taken by the military, killed and dumped in a mass grave. Eudosia had failed to recover the body. She had seen it, she knew he had died there. But the body had disappeared when she returned to bury him. She didn’t really know what had happened. Perhaps dogs had ravaged the bodies and scattered the remains. Eudosia was still looking for the body of her husband. She knew he had died in this place, but as she wanders, picking up a little piece of cloth here and a tiny bone fragment there, it becomes clear that she knows there is no ‘body’ to be found. She wants to bring her husband home, but she does not want to bring these pieces of bone home. She is concerned that they might disturb her. She treats them with care, re-buries them, she wants to put down flowers, but does not know where. She talks about how much she misses him, about how she will keep visiting this place, keep looking for him, wanting and needing his company – wanting somebody to talk to and share her life with. The bone indexes the death and registers the incompletion, the lack of burial, and induces fear in its enduring capacity to unsettle.

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Later in the film we see Eudosia on a march in Lima. Pinned to her is the image of her husband. The photo takes us by surprise. Eudosia, now in her 40s, is wearing the photo of a very young man. The years of living without him register with a new poignancy. Despite the many and important differences between the struggles in Peru and in Argentina there are similarities in how these photos are mobilised. In both cases the images have become part of a global human rights language, a means by which claims over the past can be made. But, they are also used to make claims on the future, integrated into demands for better living conditions and a greater sense of social inclusion. Much is written about the violence of disappearance and how this kind of open-ended loss motivates a continued search for closure. But what of the images and the objects, the small pieces of bone and cloth? What forces activate these objects? The photograph that Eudosia pins to her body creates a sense of both proximity and distance. The body that has disappeared and can no longer be found or identified, the person who is no longer there as companion, is made present as somebody with a face, a name and perhaps a story. At the same time the image invokes a sense of rupture. The image of the husband is the image of a young man, from another time. The image is also decontextualised in that it does not invoke his relationship to Eudosia, but points instead to more bureaucratic concerns. These black and white images, often the last remaining depiction of a loved one, are official photos that nevertheless register the existence of a citizen – and activate the claims on the state of those who survive them.

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Activist Object by Hannah Knox

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Fig. 1

Fig. 2

My ‘activist object’ is a document that was produced by a group of environmental activists working in Manchester. It was put together as a response to the release of an official report on climate change which had been commissioned by Manchester City Council, carried out by an environmental consultancy based in London and was deemed by those already working on carbon reduction measures in Manchester to be highly problematic in its recommendations. The commissioned report was called ‘A Call to Action’. The activist document that was produced in response was entitled a ‘Call to Real Action’.
I have chosen this object, as I was interested in how something as apparently benign and static as a report became a viable form of activist intervention in Manchester’s climate politics.
Since the signing of the Kyoto treaty in 1997, tackling climate change has largely been seen as a matter for public bodies and as such has been a highly technocratic exercise. The activists object I present here suggests that for activists, intervening in this technocratic world has meant the development of their own counter-technocracy. Documents play an important part in technocratic interventions: formulating evidence, enacting reports, establishing strategies and development plans of action, But documents can also play a disruptive role, appearing to participate in the same set of circulating references as official documents, but at the same time subtly subverting them.
One possibility, when it comes to curating the activist object of ‘the report’, is to enact a comparative analysis of the activist object vs. that which it is emulating/subverting/countering. In this case, this involves a comparison between the ‘Call to Action’, produced for the City Council, and the ‘Real Call to Action’, produced by the activist collective.

Rhetoric and Reality

Starting with the title, the notion that the first call to action was not ‘real’ stands out as an interesting counter move. What, I want to ask, was not ‘real’ about the first document that was ‘real’ in the second?
Clues can be found in the second document itself – an overt criticism is made of the Call to Action, for example in the quote:

Fig 3

 

In contrast the second document is clearly programmatic. In it, the first document is criticised for being enmired in Bureacratese, deploying sentences such as:

Fig 4

In contrast, the second document deploys rhetorical arguments to galvinise its readers:

Fig 5

Action: From the General to the Specific

If the rationale for action was differently articulated in each document, so were the kinds of action being called for.
The activist document criticized the first for being vague about what it classed as action. For example, where the first document states:

Fig 6

the Call to Real Action responds:

Fig 7

…and so on.
In terms of its own recommendations the call to real action suggests that:

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From Statement to Dialogue

As well as trying to move the tenor of the document from generic recommendations to specific actions appropriate to Manchester as a particular place, a final aspect of the documents that I want to draw attention to is the way in which the second document seemed to transform the first document from statement into dialogue. The conclusion of the first document states that:
‘this document has described the potential for Manchester to turn the challenge of climate change to its advantage…’
It is signed off, Manchester City Council, 14th January 2009.

Fig 9

In contrast, the second document ends with a request:

fig 10

The document is not signed by an organization but closed with two words – Thank You, words that we learn come from the eighteen people thanked on the first page of the report.
In terms of activists objects then, the document enacts itself as an activist object in at least three ways: whilst mimicking the documentary form of the report it also subverts it through a) the deployment of rhetoric in place of bureaucratese; b) through an emphasis on the specificity of actions in place of generic gestures and c) through an attempt to move from static statements to ongoing dialogue.

Dissenting Practices: Photography as provocation and document

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by Fergus Heron

Please find links to artists’ work as mentioned during the workshop:
http://www.choppedliver.info
http://www.theatlasgroup.org

Some other texts on documentary film that might be of interest:
http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/aesthetics-documentary
http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/dispel-great-malady-robinson-ruins-future-landscape-and-moving

Murdered Object / Self-Institutional Pamphlet

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Nick - Infopool_1

By Nicholas Thoburn (University of Manchester)

At the first of our ‘activist objects’ workshops I presented not an object but a concept: the ‘communist object’. I described this as articulating an anticommodity fetishism, a fetishism against the commodity. But I will take a little license in documenting that presentation, and display here one of the artifacts that sparked and informed my research on communist objects. This is an artifact arisen of a conflictual encounter between Tate Modern and Infopool – institutions both, but of very different magnitude and political orientation. It is an opportunity also for me to offer some preparatory input on the ‘curating’ theme of the second activist objects workshop, as we shift hosts from the ‘three-dimensional imperial archive’ of the Victoria and Albert Museum to MayDay Rooms, with its project of ‘socialising the archive’ (1).

Established in 2000 (-2009) by Jakob Jakobsen, Infopool unfurled on the mobile ground of a series of low-tech, self-published pamphlets. In response to the appropriation of some of these pamphlets by the Tate Modern, who took them for curated display in the 2001 Century City exhibition, Infopool formulated an exquisite reflection on the politics of pamphlets and institutions. In a text called ‘Operation Re-appropriation’ Infopool describe these pamphlets as ‘self-institutional’ entities, entities ‘concerned with developing their own contexts’ (2). Such fledgling self-institution is infused with ‘vulnerability’, for without formal institutional structures or rights protection the pamphlets extend only a ‘contract of “trust”’ concerning sensitivity toward content and aim in an ‘unprotected offer of communication’. This may look like a weakness, but it is in fact a signal feature of the self-institutional object. Since, in contrast to instances of political expression that are the products and bearers of institutional norms and regularities, this vulnerability affirms the pamphlet’s emergent or eventual quality, its existence only in the undetermined, exploratory, and intimate ‘institutions’ that are articulated, or held, in its encounters. It is hence no contradiction to say, as Jakobsen has it, that ‘the vulnerability of the pamphlet is also its power’ (3).

Most likely, it was something of this self-institutional quality that appealed to the curators of the Century City exhibition, when they chose, without notification or consultation, to bind together three Infopool pamphlets in newly fortified covers, doctor the cover text, and display the artifact threaded on a presentation wire. As Infopool saw it, the museum’s interest in these pamphlets was exemplary of the ‘valorisation of socialisation’ – the commodification of social relations that seek to escape the commodity – that is common to contemporary cultural institutions, as they cast around for content and legitimacy. In the Tate’s case, it shows the inability of the institution to understand and handle the very qualities that had caught the curators’ attention in the first place. For, in its new guise, the pamphlet’s values of tentative and emergent self-institution were converted, with proprietorial disregard, into exhibition value; the value, as Boris Arvatov has it, of ‘murdered objects,’ ‘hidden under glass’ (4). The only adequate response was for Infopool to liberate the artifact, documenting their intervention with a damming critique of the museum’s blunt and clumsy action:

‘On display in a new hardback cover and threaded through with wire (the new vitrine) the pamphlets take on an aura that undermines both their form and content. They are no longer able to be passed on, given as gifts, and circulated to friends and fellow travelers i.e. to be self-institutional. In short the pamphlets have been commodified beyond their informal and nominal £1.00 price. The generator of value that is the Tate Modern has allotted them an immaterial cultural value (prestige, distinction) in exchange for the appearance of the value of their autonomy. … We picked the pamphlets up on Friday February 9th. To negotiate their exit would have taken too long.’

Notes
1. Tim Barringer, ‘The South Kensington Museum and the Colonial Project’, in Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn, Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum (London: Routledge 1998), 11.
2. Infopool, ‘Operation Re-appropriation: Infopool @ Tate Modern, 9.2.2001’, http://www.infopool.org.uk/tate/htm. All Infopool citations are from this source.
3. Jakob Jakobsen, author interview.
4. Boris Arvatov, cited in Christina Kiaer, Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT, 2005), 68.

Political materiality of everyday objects

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By Yannis Kallianos (CRESC, University of Manchester)

My presentation is structured around two quite similar objects and focuses on the political context through which their materiality transforms. What is of interest to me is the ways in which this transformation takes places via an event that makes possible a radically different interpretation and re-articulation of the object. At the same time this transformation changes altogether not only the usage of the object but also it alters the set of relations that produce its meaning in this context.

Maalox and Riopan (Magaldrate) are antacids and are used to neutralize and reduce stomach acid relieving heartburn and indigestion. However, during protests and demonstrations maalox and riopan acquire a different more dynamic and thus, collective usage. Maalox (liquid) is mixed with water to produce a spray that cools the burning caused by tear gas.
Riopan, on the other hand, is in a gel form and it is applied on the face in order to also counter-balance tear gas effects. What is of issue here is that during these moments these objects have a different usage/function than the one that they were made for originally. Their mundane (medical) practise is replaced by an eventful operation. What this means is that this transformation is only possible when an event (tear gas use by police forces) occurs. In this regard, this transformation problematizes the idea that there is a solid separation between everyday life and the event. These objects act as sites that both divide and connect the processes that both constitute the mundane and the event. Their materiality consists of this ambivalence. Let us consider that even though their substances are not transformed their materiality is re-contextualized and thus, they can be re-employed as entirely new objects.

This functional transformation is supported by another more significant change. It is not only their function that changes, but also, in the process the productive labour that ascribes meaning to this function transforms. From objects of individual usage they become objects that both entail and constitute collective practice. Collective labour is an essential feature of the way these objects are used at times of protests and demonstrations.

Overall, this short presentation is an invitation to consider the transformative materiality of these everyday objects as processes that reflect a wider socio-cultural and political change.

Documenting: an activist object

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An example of a ‘collective intelligence’. Source: Zoohaus / Inteligencias Colectivas (http://www.inteligenciascolectivas.org/tetracleta-upgrade/)

By Adolfo Estalella (CRESC, University of Manchester)

Between 2010 and 2012, for almost three years I have developed an ethnography in Madrid in collaboration with my colleague Alberto Corsín Jiménez. The fieldwork has moved between three different sites that are connected. The first one is Medialab-Prado, a critical centre that works in the intersection of art, science and technology where hackers, technologists and academicians meet together to develop what they call prototypes. Our second site was one of the many neighbourhood assemblies that spread all around the city after the sprang of the Spanish Occupy movement (also called the May 15 or Indignados movement). The third site turned our ethnography in a kind of collaborative project with two architectural collectives, Basurama and Zuloark, two urban guerrillas specialized in material interventions in the public space. These three sites are inflected by free culture, the idea that knowledge should circulate freely and without restriction. This is important because the project I want to mention draws inspiration on the philosophy of free culture.

I want to refer to one of the project of Zoohaus that is called Inteligencias Colectivas (Collective Inteligences, http://www.inteligenciascolectivas.org). Zoohaus is a multidisciplinary platform that functions as an umbrella operation for a variety of urban grassroots and architectural collectives in Spain. All of them share a concern for participatory urbanism, sustainable development, recycling, open-source technologies. It started in 2007 and works as a repository of local do-it-yourself constructive techniques. It was developed mainly during 2010 when some members of Zoohaus travel around different Latin-American countries and document the intelligences they found. The project was connected originally to the realization of workshops in different places of Latin-America; attendants to the workshops were prompted to document to its finest detail the collective intelligences they found in their urban surroundings.

They developed a four-step methodology for documenting and describing such intelligences during workshops. The steps were named: ‘catalogue’, ‘upgrade’, ‘prototyping’ and ‘human network’. There is not time to discuss the different instances so I just want to mention the process of ‘upgrading’. It involves breaking it down into its constituent parts and documenting, step by step, its technical re-assemblage. It is a complex, arduous task, which requires skills in technical drawing, 3D design, often expertise with Autocad architectural projections. The aim of an upgrade is to specify and explain the internal functioning of any device in order to make it replicable.

My description does not justice to the sophistication of the process but, anyway, I have described this project for two reasons. First I present it as a digital object, certainly a particular one: a digital open source database that gathering different ‘intelligences’ make them visible and propose different building solutions for urban contexts. It is an object that establishes a link between different traditions of design: informal design and do it yourself practices are linked to the tradition of free software. Inteligencias Colectivas is an object, and activist one, or a method for documenting design practices and make objects travel to different geographies. Second, I have described Collective Intelligences because it could be a source of inspiration for the process of documenting the objects on the disobedient objects exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum. There is an enormous effort on the process of documentation in Inteligencias Colectivas that we could say that turns it into a properly design process.

I want to add a last comment. I guess that some activist movements and projects will find very difficult to get engaged with a traditional institution as the Victorian Albert Museum. I should suggest that a kind of extensive documentation that provides the conditions for different designs to travel could be a way of giving back knowledge to the people, projects and movements that contribute to the exhibition.

Reflections on Activist Objects: The Material Culture of Social Movements

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By Dr Rafael Schacter (University College London)

I want to talk – obviously very briefly – about two issues related to graffiti and street-art, or Independent Public Art as I prefer to call it.

Before I even start, I will claim that all Independent Public Art must be understood as an objects of activism, as a form of material culture which acts politically not through any overt stance, but instead through its necessary illegality, through the rejection of societal and urban norms that its production requires.

As such, there are 2 issues that I want to discuss; the first, related to graffiti as artefact, and the necessary paradoxes that is institutional exposition generates, the second, related to graffiti as practice, and the particular material tools through which this aesthetic comes into being.

So, firstly, one of the core arguments in my forthcoming academic monograph is that graffiti – well almost all Independent Public Art – is a form of classically defined ornamentation, what I term insurgent ornamentation to be specific.

As a product that is both a) adjunctive, and b) decorative, that is an addition to a surface, an accessory to an already existent body which in fact entirely fuses itself with its medium; and that is a form of embellishment, a form of beautification – whether in its most ostensibly vandalistic (as an acid tag) or seemingly artistic state (such as a form of contemporary muralism), I argue that all Independent Public Art is ornamental and thus contains the power and danger, the paradoxes which theorists of ornamentation as diverse as Oleg Grabar, Jacques Derrida, and Tom Phillips have argued it contains.

The critical point here however is the paradox which surrounds the display of these insurgent ornaments within an exhibitionary context, seeing that these ornamental bodies are ones which are neither portable nor detachable – without taking a drastic, destructive, secondary act of violence of course.

Moreover, this is without noting that the very notion of removing something which is by essence, public, into a private sphere, into the institution, is an anathema to most committed Independent Public Artists.

Whilst these artists do of course produce work outside the public sphere, when they do, this in itself is not, cannot be Independent Public Art. It cannot be graffiti or street art.

In this way, graffiti on canvas (rather than on its true medium of the city) is not graffiti but spraycan art.

In this way, the oxymoronic conception of street art within a gallery, a replication of an outside work in print form for example, is quite clearly not street art but rather a form of poster-art, or perhaps neo-pop-art etc.

So how can graffiti ever be displayed within a museum context then?

The Vietnamese born but Berlin raised artist Akim Nguyen has, I believe, dealt with this issue in the most astute manner.

His video project Leistungsschau, for the exhibition “Based in Berlin” documents the residue of two performances, first, the production of graffiti on the exterior walls of the exhibition space itself, second, the painstaking removal of the buildings outer plaster layer, the first act undertaken with spraycan and markers, the second with hammer and chisel. Carefully extracting the graffitied segments only, the layer of paint interlaced with its plaster surround, these remnants were then collected, placed into a wooden pallet, and finally displayed in the exhibition space. Functioning to both highlight the basic irrationality of graffiti occurring anywhere other than its parietal surface, as well as acting to scar the building much like the original graffiti itself, Akim’s work not only underscores graffiti’s inherently ornamental nature, the fact that it is irrepressibly bound to its surface, but also replicates the innate violence held within every act of graffiti itself. It displays graffiti in the only way Akim believes it can be achieved in a gallery setting, as an archaeological remnant, a pile of rubble, an insurgent ornamentation whose removal from the street necessitates its destruction.

Not just material remnant (or rubble) however, graffiti is in fact as much about practice as product, and the tools that enable this practice – the material tools of this material culture, is the second issue of which I will now very briefly mention.

The tools used to undertake graffiti are not only manifold – thousands of different kinds markers, pens and spraycans, of acid mops, rollers, caps, latex, shoe polish… the list goes on – are not only also often home-made – expressing the DIY essence of the aesthetic – but are also tools which must be carried, as much as used, in a highly furtive manner.

Akay, a legendary Independent Public Artist from Stockholm, has addressed this issue in many of his projects, in particular his series entitled, and I quote, Instruments of Mass Destruction (complicated technical solutions to aide in simple acts of vandalism).

In this short video however, Dressed to Success, Akay perfectly illustrates the diversity and necessary furtivity associated with the tools of graffiti.

Starting with the image of suited gentleman stood pensively waiting at an empty table, the star of the film then proceeds to disrobe, in this case removing a plethora of these tools, 12 spraycans, 20 odd markers and mops, rollers, caps, wrenches, assorted keys, all from within his suited body.

For me, these two methods of exposition are some of the very few ways that the material culture of graffiti can enter the instutition; 1, as a video and installation displaying the very paradox of its display; 2, as a video and installation showing the diversity and compulsory surreptitiousness linked to the tools of graffiti itself.

Akay 1 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 23.10.00 2Akay 2 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 23.14.05 2  AKIM 8 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 22.25.49 AKIM 7 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 22.25.41 AKIM 6 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 22.24.29AKIM 5 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 22.24.45  AKIM 4 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 18.00.26 AKIM 2 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 18.00.14 AKIM 3 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 17.59.57 AKIM 1 Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 17.59.45 AKIM 9 FINAL SHOT 04leistungschau_part3_2011berlin

Some notes on Space Hijackers “Official Protester of the London 2012 Games” campaign

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By Isaac Marrero-Guillamon (Goldsmiths, University of London)

I encountered the logo you can see in the image above in the summer of 2012 – first as an online image, then as a copyright controversy that made it to the news, and finally printed on t-shirts (mostly worn at anti-Olympics events).

Space Hijackers (SH), an activist collective who define themselves as “a group of Anarchitects”, had set up a webpage (1) where people could “sign up to be part of the official protest of the Games” and apply for tickets to official protest events. They warned visitors to “be wary of bogus sites claiming to give you access to protest at the Games. Ensure you only register with our authorized website.”

The website, and the tweeter account associated with it, caught the attention of LOCOG (the London Olympics Organizing Committee), a limited company created to organise the Games and exploit them commercially. Acting within their legal remit, they accused SH of “inappropriate association” with the Olympic brand, arguing that their use of the official logo could create confusion. According to LOGOG, SH were impersonating the Games’ official organisers.

Soon after, Tweeter duly responded to the accusation and shut their account without previous notice. This of course made news amongst activist circles, but also in the  mainstream media (2), which of course further publicised the campaign and contributed to its notoriety.

Following a bit of back and forth, Tweeter ended up restoring their account. This, according to SH, meant that the “confusion” had finally been resolved – and their status as official protesters officially recognised. Later on, in order to avoid further conflict with LOCOG, they stopped selling the tshirts and instead posted the instructions to make your own. The DIY shirt became even more popular, and was worn by many activists in the spring and summer of 2012.

I think the campaign raises interesting questions for Curating the activist object. First, it produced a momentary shortcircuit in the logic of the copyright system: SH managed to drag LOCOG into a paradoxical position, where denouncing them meant recognising the success of the campaign. Second, it involved connecting ‘viral’ online tactics with offline actions, so that the debate over the trademarking of the Olympics (which, lets not forget, included protection over the flag, the motto, the anthem, the emblems, the flame, the torches, and words such as “Olympiad”, “Olympian”, “Olympic”, “Summer”, “2012”, “Gold”, “Silver”, “Bronze”, or “Medals”) proliferated unexpectedly. Third, it made use of satire and DIY methods in ways people could easily participate in – allowing the campaign to become appropriated by many, rather than directed by HS.

(Image from SpaceHijackers.org)

1 http://www.protestlondon2012.com  (as of June 2014 the site seems to be down.)

It was featured amongst others in The Guardian , The Telegraph , and Wired .

On curating activist objects

Sin categoría

A video tutorial of the Occupy movement explaining how to record a demonstration, a website of Gezzy Park in Turkey posting sketches that show in detail the precarious architectural constructions in the square, or a collection of placards of the Spanish indignados kept in an squatted building later evicted by the police… the uprising of new social movements all around the world since 2010 has made visible the material effort that has refurnished the city with new political forms. It is known that in the analysis of politics we not only should take into consideration the materiality of politics but that material things are political objects too. Social movements are characterized by particular repertories of practices and modes of organization that imprint their political forms. We assume that their material culture has a particular political condition too; the infrastructures and objects mobilized by social movement have a distinctive political condition that we want to explore through the notion of ‘activist object’.

Digital infrastructures have produced intense changes in the forms of organization of social movements, but they have made visible their materiality too. Tutorials, photos, videos, websites, digital archives… account for the everyday activity in social movements and preserve their history in digital repositories, archives and collections. The intensification of documenting and archiving practices is especially evident in the case of the Occupy movement which documented its own existence on the Internet since its beginning. We think that these gestures reveal the reflexive stance of social movements towards the preservation of their own history and material culture and gives expression to the extension of the archive in our society. Documenting and archiving are however only two of a set of practices that are mobilized in the preservation of material culture among activists. Collecting placards, leaflets; documenting ephemeral interventions in photos and videos, building and curating websites and digital archives are part of this effort. It seems that these practices are usually located in sites chosen very carefully and that the circulation of these objects to mainstream institutional sites is full of difficulties; in this situation the activist object reveals the tension between the modes of publicity deployed by social movements and those of more conventional institutions like museums or public archives.

We want to approach activist objects through the entanglement of practices that social movements mobilize in the preservation and care of their material culture; exploring the processes of collecting, documenting, archiving and curating activist objects, both inside and outside the movements. What is the relation between the activist condition of certain objects and the practices that take care of their preservation? Is the circulation of documentation what activates an otherwise mundane object into an activist one? Is the documentation of certain practices (photos, videos, websites…) an activist practice in itself? Which kind of political relationality is enacted by activist objects in their circulation? How to curate and exhibit objects without disarming their distinctive political capacity? What kind of transformation takes place when an activist object becomes part of a museum collection? Might it be possible to collect, document and preserve such objects without deactivating their political potential?