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The revolution through affect

Posted by Santiago Garcia Navarro over 11 years

9 2303

The Internationa Errorist: The revolution through affect.


In early November of 2005, a security strategy designed principally by the governments of Argentina and the United States, in order to guarantee the development of the IV Summit of the Americas, transformed a 250-block section of the central coast of Mar del Plata into a hermetic enclave. As for the resort, where the vacation fantasies of a majority of Argentines are exercised, the local residents themselves could only enter their homes after showing police issued ID cards.

The decision makers decided to remain completely isolated, in order, paradoxically, to make decisions in the name of those they represent. However, the fundamental issue was business: pressure from the Bush government to achieve a continental accord that permitted the definitive launching of the AFTA was overpowered by the opposition of the Mercosur countries and Venezuela.

The morning of the day prior to the close of the Summit, a peaceful mass demonstration led in spirit by Hugo Chavez, crossed dozens of blocks of one of the unrestricted sectors of the city. That same afternoon, a more radicalized march was programmed to break through one of the few access routes to the military and police cordon that guarded the closed neighborhood where the heads of state were holding their discussions. The conclusion was swift: the police officers deployed a mysteriously moderate repression, some of the demonstrators destroyed stores, there was an arbitrary round-up, dozens of individuals ended up in police stations, and everything was edited and reproduced by the communications media in living color on the news.

During the week of the Summit, Mar del Plata had remained paralyzed. Not a soul was seen on the downtown streets, nobody in the most remote neighborhoods. Local residents who, out of fear, had barricaded themselves for several days in their houses, or had evacuated to neighboring cities, came out into the streets for the first time to review - curiously, confusedly, confoundedly - the trail of destruction that the afternoon's demonstration had left in its wake.

Mar del Plata, cordoned off under the pretext of a global terrorist threat, while being simultaneously shaken by the street mobilizations, gave birth to a new political movement, adept to these anachronisms and promoting a revolution through affect: The International Errorist (IE). Arising from the bosom of the Etcetera group, Errorism was formed by extension and, in a certain sense, by overcoming the ideas and practices of the original group, and by organizing itself in reticular cooperation with groups acting beyond the - almost transparent - Argentine border. There now follows some fragments of the conversation we had a few weeks ago, in Buenos Aires, with three members of Etcetera and IE: Federico Zukerfeld, Loreto Garin and Antonio O'Higgins (Checha).


Federico Zukerfeld: All this is part of a kind of research we began with the analysis of how the communication media construct an imaginary society, convert determined social subjects into enemies, and use that as justification for their imperial advances, wars and economic interests. Errorism arose, in some way, as a continuation of the Armed people project. In 2004, we noted that that enemy, in Argentina, was being constituted in the shape of the picket. The media created an imaginary concept where the pickets were dangerous, delinquents, different than us, and comprised a new social sphere, which nobody really understands, because they have their own music, their own way of dressing, their own way of talking, their own codes. That "enemy" had to be separated from society, because it could potentially some day form part of a guerrilla force. The main accusation is that they went to the demonstrations armed and with their faces covered. If one takes an image of the pickets and compares it with the Palestinian Intifada, there wouldn't be much difference: the same neckerchief, the same stick, the same gunman, but in different latitudes. Out of that, we made Armed people: photocopies, enlarged to natural size, of different figures that reflect identifiable characters from fiction or reality. It's called Armed people because those characters are armed, and also because they are constructed and disarmable (collapsible).

Loreto Garin: Also because they are figures of the people who arm the communication media.

FZ: When we discovered that George Bush was going to come to Mar del Plata, we thought of one of the slogans that he always used in his revelations: "Wherever they go, we'll hunt them down." That is, that wherever Bush went we would go in order to denounce him. Our main idea was to form a kind of image-mirror of the Middle East. In the same style as other actions of ours, the idea was to appear dressed as terrorists, so that the image would be disseminated by the international mass communications media, who are the same ones who constructed that figure. We sought to have that figure spread a message: "watch out, they are also waging a war there, watch out, this could be the next point." Afterwards, we began to work through theater and cinema. "Errorism" was born because we couldn't speak about terrorism. When we began to research how the terrorists trained and acted, one of our colleagues, Ariel, sent and email entitled "How a suicide bomber from (who knows where) prepares." However, Hotmail blocked it and we became paranoid. We became aware that a very strong censorship exists on the subject, because, either it appears that you are supporting terrorist methods, or you are condemning the entire Muslim society. One day, when a colleague of ours was writing something on the computer, he pressed the F7 spell-check and the first word that appeared was "errorism". This colleague had wanted to write "terrorism". The spell-check said: "errorism" doesn't exist, did you mean "eroticism" or "terrorism"? That's where the name came from. On one hand, it is an opposition to and denunciation of the stereotype. But on the other hand, we had found the right word; one that had its own philosophical discussion on the subject of error.

Santiago García Navarro: Errorism would be a way of disarming that opposition...

FZ: Iím not so sure. Errorism breaks down barriers because it has humor and facilitates debate that would be very difficult to engender otherwise.

LG: Errorism emerged, in large part, with this idea of error, which appeared as a totally random objective. It was the time when the English police killed a Brazilian in the subway and said that it was in error, when the CIA had taken a German citizen to a concentration camp and said that it was in error, etc. Then the word "error" began to be used within the discourse on terror. When we began to write the Errorist Manifesto, we saw that, on one hand, it opened up the possibility of discussing something that is very difficult to discuss because it is found to be completely blocked, but on the other hand, it relativises it to such a level that the debate becomes very complex. Some European friends, for example, liked the idea of Errorism, but not the image of the struggles for national liberation or liberation of the oppressed Muslim woman.

FZ: The argument for the discussion is that upon reproducing that image you would be collaborating with the system that oppresses the women, and to include the weapons would be endorsing their use. The symbol for the weapon is so strong that the people see it as a real weapon. Thatís why we use the "bang", which is an essential comical element. We integrate the theatrical action with a comedy esthetic, by the type of actoral positions, by the characters, by the makeup, etc. Onomatopoeia served for that purpose. The first declaration we made was: "We are all errorists", a play on words with "we are all terrorists".

LG: Terrorism has become a form of control of such magnitude that now it isnít even aimed at those who form part of a given ideology, social class or culture. And the most complex part is that it begins to generate an everyday logic.

SGN: And which type of social configuration believes that it is being defended from a terrorist attack?

FG: At the time of the '76 coup in Argentina, what they installed was State terrorism, which created a situation of permanent paranoia, such that you could denounce your neighbor with the excuse that there were guerrillas who wanted to introduce Communism. Then the concept of "State terrorism" was accepted. However, when the dictatorship made its defense, it said that it had committed errors and excesses, the same speech given by the United States. Now, the next target is Iran, and, perhaps the next after that will be Venezuela or wherever. But I believe that this is approaching Latin America.

SGN: I get the impression that within the IE, the crux isnít really centered in the discussion of global terrorism, but in something much wider, in market terrorism. From the perspective of Argentina and for yourself, what would be the power structures that organize society?

FZ: I feel that the local situation and imaginario is a very fragile area. The integration of certain picket sectors brought about by the Kirchner administration, tends to consolidate an idea of governability and stability. But, at the same time, the specter of insecurity looms, and then the enemy becomes juvenile delinquency, drug-addicts, those living below the poverty line, those lacking cultural or economic tools to facilitate their entry into the social status quo and who must live from state subsidies, etc. With this governability, a liquification of social tensions is produced.

LG: But now there also exists a "positive" stereotype, which emerges from the reconstruction of something that, in the 90s, was very present, which is the image of triumph, consumption and wealth, stimulated by neo-liberalism. The economic system and the present political structure administer a degree of media censorship, at such a level that they donít only create a stereotype, but also foment the absolute ignorance of the society that it supposedly covers.

SGN: In Mar del Plata, I perceived that the people were afraid, above all, of the enormous security apparatus, much more than of the hypothetical threat of a terrorist attack. The fear was that, at any given moment, the security apparatus would become the object of discussion, that it would produce chaos right there, which to a certain extent produced the afternoon demonstrations. The strongest image is that of dozens and dozens of federal police positioned in ranks, in the first of the three cordons that defended the hotel where Bush was staying, and in front of them, the spectacle of a completely deserted avenue, without one person being visible, without one parked car. And so you ask yourself: "Which one is the enemy?" It became very clear to me that the enemy was, to a great extent, a fiction created in order to facilitate control and to keep common people away from the "affairs of state".

FZ: We went to the morning march, and in the middle of the show we acted in disguise for the cameras. We are artists, so for us it worked out well... But when we came to the part with Chavez, it all got heavy. We didnít want to feel like a flock being led. We had our errorist autonomy and we left. We prepared for the afternoon march, and that led us into an internal group discussion of the 25 errorists that were there. I took the position that we shouldnít go, as different sources had told us that everything would turn sour that afternoon, and I thought that we could fall at the first turn. We discussed this for three hours and decided that we had a responsibility as an organization. In the end we went, but without the "weapons". Only with pamphlets and handkerchiefs. However, our participation only lasted five minutes, because, as soon as we arrived at the march, the tear gas began and everyone ran. They started to arrest people and we went to look for lawyers, etc.

The next day, four hours before the Summit was due to close and Bush left, we had already done what we had to do and had some free time. So, we went to the beach and spent the time filming a scene for the film Operation Bang: the errorists that come from the water, the bowing errorists, the errorists with a boat, the errorists on the jetties. We had an inflatable boat and a military green Jeep. And, suddenly someone said: "Hey, helicopters pass over here. Letís aim at them." And afterwards an enormous airplane passed over, and there we were on the jetties, aiming. We didnít know it was Air Force One, where Bush was, and that was the errorist error. Two minutes later, from all sides, sirens could be heard, they began to close the beach and a lot of armed police arrived with dogs: "Freeze, freeze, freeze, freeze, freeze." And we had to say: "Itís an error. The guns are made of cardboard" (because the guy said "drop it, drop it, drop it"). And we said: "Weíre actors, weíre shooting a movie", and we showed them a municipal authorization that we had made ourselves, but which worked. All of that is on film. A police officer said: "Whoís in charge?" And one of our colleagues, el Mota, said: "I am", and the two of them went off to negotiate. Our colleague asked: "What was the error?", and the cop told him: "The error is that we had fifty telephone calls, from cell-phones, from the beach, from neighbors, saying that there were picketers aiming guns towards the sky and we had to come". And our colleague said: "But have you never made an error?" All of this was off the cuff. And the guy said: "Sure, the error I made was to become a cop. I wanted to be an actor but they wouldnít let me." They ended up having this big discussion, and many people showed up, with cameras, and then our colleague, like an Evangelist, began to ask the people who were there, one by one: "And you, have you never committed an error?" And a woman said: "I got married in error, honey", and so on, each of them began to have a cathartic moment. Later, the police arrived with the authorization letter and said: "Itís okay. You can carry-on now". And thatís how it ended. The erroist error consisted, in this case, in aiming our guns at Bush in error, they came to stop us in error, and also in error, they let us go, because the letter was a fake. And there we said: this is the heart of the piece, this is the key. And there also our theory of the spect-actor and the actor-cide was born.

LG: That was also possible because the local situation was very heavy. The summit was a spectacle, with police from several countries controlling different areas. The spectacle of Kirchner and Chavez on the one hand, and, on the other, the feeling of absolute control: both of the populist sector, that did a good job of controlling their herd of marching cattle, and the foreign police control, which was very surprising. And the people, who were so crazy that they couldnít distinguish our toy guns from the real thing.

FZ: The elements we chose for the action are: the handkerchief, which is like the Middle Eastern example except it says: "bang, Errorists", the poetic weapons, the pamphlets in different languages – to the point where there were people saying: "Where are they from? There are people from many countries, who speak very differently" – the flag, the placards, and the Jeep. The campaign began at the Obelisk, in Buenos Aires, then at the Chancillery, then in Mar del Plata, and, finally, in 20th December Street, again in Buenos Aires. All of these elements were always appearing, and we added more and more people to the cause. The elements and the image colors were few and couldnít be more, because they didnít materialize.

SGN: All very organic... (Laughs). How does the spect-actor and the actor-cide actually play out? The theateralization that you usually perform places the actors in a virtual, mobile scenario, which is the street, but in the last instance, the scenario is there. How do you dismantle that scenario so that it doesnít comprise a "work" in front of others who do not directly participate?

Continue reading The revolution through affect. Part 2



Santiago García Navarro writes about art, politics and architecture. He was member of the Duplus group, with whom he published El pez, la bicicleta y la máquina de escribir (Buenos Aires, Fundación Proa, 2006). He lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina. was created to investigate the increasingly globalized proposals in art making, institutional practices and curatorial projects in the field of modern and contemporary art from the Americas. Based in Los Angeles, we expand our interest to include art produced in Latin America as well the regions, countries, and cities it dialogues with

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