Laptop on table with a tea mug, on screen are hands, sensors and breadboard.

Art, online communities and activism - AMRO20 notes


The AMRO 2020 festival happened May 20th–23rd in between the deranged spring 2020 and the eve of Black Lives Matter movement. Topics could not have been more timely. It was very intensive four days with talks, workshops and nightline - all online of course.

The cover photo is from the workshop: hacking & developing modular synth hardware by Noiselab.

Many computer windows open, in each the same picture of three musicians around the table.
Nightline - #Trial1

Sounds of understanding

In the conversation under the interesting term “Zugzwang” the main message was that we are in a tight spot when we have to really act. In the end of May minds were still fully focused on "Corona spring", the state of mind with “new normal” but also on our environment.

Right in the beginning of June, the focus turned fast into demonstrations in the USA and the structural problems towards black people also in Europe and elsewhere. This text is written somewhere in between these two states, watching the world a bit further as a collection of many symptoms of the same issues.

It’s quite hard to say how something invisible looks like, but it’s easier to research how some phenomenon sounds like. Natalia Domínguez Rangel is collecting sounds what people are listening to during the lockdown in different places. As Christina Gruber commented, we can’t hear the virus, so we have to listen to the atmosphere. It is a research of what people are hearing usually, but maybe not putting attention so much on it.

There are also a lot of projects going on what people see right now, what is around them that they didn’t notice before, for example “State of Emergency 2020” where photographers capture their daily life during the crisis. Rangel underlined also that the listening is a process, passive waiting and part of the research, not the result.

Freedom and responsibility of community

From early times of the internet and online communities, there has been need to make some rules of behaviour and statements of responsibility. On the other hand many users might understand that as a place of no responsibilities, only as a place of "freedom".

Rita Graça introduced the Code of Conduct, which is not a legal document, but a tool to be used within a community. I have seen similar texts and tools quite a lot also with event invitations, so the idea is already spreading from online communities to the real world. The responsibility (and freedom) is then shared.

Simon Browne’s speech about Bootleg Library was a good reminder of peaceful activism to make the community stronger and meaningful. I really liked the idea of a library as a collection of texts and readers, because that one word add-on for the definition is making it right away a community. In this case it’s not only readers, but also makers, which make the community to have committed members, not just members.

Screenshot of page with warning that there might be different versions of the Wikipedia article
Z. Blace's project of making Wikipedia more diverse

Similar topic with Black Lives Matter movement was in the talk about QUEERing NETWORKing by Z. Blace, who questioned what is this “new normal” we are jumping in. Usually “normal” is defined by the loud majority of people - or the ones who happen to have the power.

In online platforms and applications usually everybody benefits if it’s designed for all. Strong and narrow categories are making the whole world look very narrow and hard to use versatile. It’s actually a very small minority who fits exactly into the descriptions and categories of “normal” or average.

Recipe for happiness

In society money is always presented as the key element for happiness and good life, but as Nicolas Maigret from DISNOVATION.ORG presented in stats the correlation with income and happiness during 50 years is not so big.

During this spring many people have been aware of the healing and calming effect of nature and have been more focused on the environment and overall surroundings, places we live in.

Usually art has the power to make complicated things visible and even haptic, as the conversation continued under the topic Narrative of Emergency and about climate change. As Nicolas argued, nobody took the virus seriously until it was on the next door, the same it is with climate change: if you don’t face it, you can’t really see its danger.

There would be some job to do with art, science and statistics. Here we come back to the importance of cooperation and strength of communities. When speaking about communities, art, movements and cities, we can’t hide two things: freedom and responsibility.

Virtual space where are virtual plants and tables.
AMRO festival lounge