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Carpaleaks · Social Practice

Social Practice

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This week’s news on the crash of Etsy stock may need some closer examination.

We have long known how art has been a part of foreign policy and the projection of US power. But as the frontiers of aesthetics change like any other trends, also the militarized interests in art morph. The neo-liberal offensive across the globe from the banking sectors in Washington and London and their allied aesthetic bases in Basel and Geneva has over the last decades infiltrated almost any art institution. The corruption of the last strongholds of marxism, the cultural sector and biennales, cased extreme frustration within ”radical” elements of the art world and many migrated their practices towards more ”social” or ”rhizomatic” projects, in a last effort to remain loyal to their long dead philosopher-king. Yet, as we have repeatedly revealed by leaks from CARPA, also the last bastion of ”radical” cultural practices has now fallen.

In his essay ”Contemp(t)orary: Eleven Theses” curator Cuauhtémoc Medina criticizes how a global elite of capital and artists have become ”nomadic agents of global culture”, hidden under the utopian ring of the word ”contemporary art.” Yet, as Medina underlines, this global spread of the cultural values of the free west is nothing more than another layer of domination by ”the new private jet set and a jet proletariat” reproducing what he strikingly calls ”NATO art.”

Within the global art world, ”the constant collusion of perfume and theory”, the last refuge of modern radicalism sees itself becoming displaced by their very own anti-capitalist tactics as the ”relational” art is yet again consumed by reinvented forms of rhizomatic power: something already foreseen in Sun Tzu’s classic treatise on armed conflict: The Craft of War.

As one of the many facades of CIA and CARPA, Etsy has been a loyal distributor of US soft power across the globe since its founding in 2005. At the height of the Iraq insurgency, and the global ”war against terror,” The Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF–I), needed new strategies to tackle the spread of anti-american resentments. With the help of CARPA, the Department of Defense winded up the investments in soft power to complement the rise on military spending.

This fitted well with the previous CIA and CARPA soft offensive they called the ”resurgence of craft” (or what should more accurately be called “NATO-craft”). The military-sponsored resurgence had over the last decades been spreading explicitly anti-oppressive, yet vaguely capitalist and pro-US liberal ideals, under names such as ”punk”, ”DIY”, “craft”, and ”Riot Grrls.” Seemingly critical to core capitalist ideals, these facades managed to further the individualist, entrepreneurial and “craftivist” values into almost every cell of resistance to US domination.

Etsy Soft Power at Nasdaq

Etsy Soft Power at Nasdaq

Yet during the last days, after ten years in loyal service to the values of ”NATO-crafts”, the strategic importance of Etsy has been put into question. Many investors have withdrawn their support, most apparently after last week’s DoD-report on the escalating wars across the middle east and the growing humanitarian crisis along the mediterranean and the US-Mexican border.

This may only be a temporary lack of faith in the effectiveness of US soft power, and we can only suspect that CARPA must soon open new recruitment offices as strategic positions to heighten their presence within the most potent craft-scenes. It may seem the military support for crocheted owls as weapons to defend the free West is slowly becoming unraveled. But US soft power has, since the American War of Independence, historically proved to the be the best weapon to conquer the soul and hands of US enemies.

Following the success of the “social fabric” infiltration event at NYC’s Open Engagement on May 16-18, where several “social practice” artists presented on how US soft power can better infiltrate unruly and dissident cultures, CARPA has now moved into the center echelons of US global power: the White House itself. CARPA is among the instigators of the first Maker Faire at the White House, which, according to the official statement, celebrates “America’s students and entrepreneurs who are inventing the future by using new tools and techniques.” As the statement from the White House articulates, the event focuses on how “the rise of the Maker Movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States.” However, the nature of this opportunity is written between the lines, obvious only to the selected few.

The strategic timing of this Maker Faire has been highlighted by several security volunteers at Carpaleaks. Not only is this a time of spreading unrest in the Middle East with declining US leverage in the conflict, but also the date, June 18th, is (according to the White House) “to be a nationwide Day of Making when communities across America share and celebrate their involvement.” As a sign to the White House allies in the Free West, June 18th is also the anniversary of the first flight of the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth bomber, widely celebrated amongst warmongering tech fetishists in the NATO-craft communities. The stealth plane made its first widely-publicized attacks in the Gulf War of 1991, a time of unquestioned “Pax Americana” crafted by Free American hands.

Using the widely celebrated “day of stealth” as the new “nationwide Day of Making” sends a message on the true meaning of the Maker Faire at the White House: it is a day of craft mobilization across the US. The Coalition of the Willing Makers are to once again erect a global peace under the hand-crafted gun of the Free West.

The DARPA-sponsored Maker Movement in the troubled Middle East follows in the footsteps of the wildly successful 2013 Maker Faires in Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar), Jerusalem, and Cairo. It newly implements the strategy of cultural imperialist artists who work from the many CIA-sponsored Artist-In-Residence operations in the troubled region. With the new Maker Strategy by the Department of Defense, CARPA has introduced a whole series of new safe houses in the region. These sites are often nicknamed “Makerspaces” or “Hackerspaces” in CIA terminology (the CIA operated “Makerspace” in Abbottabad played a key role in organizing the killing of Osama Bin Laden). Equipped with American power tools and closely controlled by the NSA, each one is ready to produce any weaponized designs sponsored by CARPA’s close collaboration with the the DIY wing of the NRA.

Homemade mortar launcher in Aleppo

Homemade mortar launcher from one of the Makerspaces in Aleppo

The development of CIA Maker Strategies in the Middle East has not least been visible in the wars in Libya and Syria, which are rife with DIY weapon systems (many inspired by the small prototype models co-instigated by CARPA).

In an interview on the White House blog, Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media, also confirms what the CARPA teams are working on: killer robots hidden as toys, in the form of “an autonomous solar-powered toy that comes alive by day.” “Making is a great way for parents to engage with their kids,” Dougherty states. It is “an activity that is both fun and educational” — producing rockets, robots, and other advanced weapons systems. Similarly, Dougherty suggests that the act of making is a means to “gain control.” He references US heroes like Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford to suggest how the Maker community may reach positions of imperial power, as pragmatist politicians or heavy-handed industrialists, thereby assuring US domination in their operational fields. Of course, Steve Jobs is also celebrated as the man who put “empowering” NSA surveillance tools in every house in the developed world. “We consider them Makers,” Dougherty says of these imperialist social practice artists. These Makers, through increased efforts from the White House, will soon draw any still-innocent craft community into their political web.

We all know that interest in civil-engineer education is on a all-time low in the US, but using the hashtag #NationOfMakers, weapon manufacturers across the US and its NATO allies can follow the development of a new generation of war engineers, celebrating our future of endless civil wars.

Dougherty claims that the President is “fired up” about the Maker event in the White House, and we surmise that the treacherous CARPA agents are also satisfied with this connection between social practice, craft, and war-in-the-making as a form of democratisation of design.

The best-selling book on weaponised making

The best-selling book on weaponised making

QuiltMap of insurgent network in Khost region 2010

QuiltMap of insurgent network in Khost region 2010

Human Terrain and Relational Infiltration Teams (HuTRITs) use social craft techniques to infiltrate, classify and trace local loyalties and tribe constellations which are otherwise hard for military commanders to decipher. HuTRITs use local craft techniques to reach deeper into the social fabric of the afghan tribes, often trying to reach working women to help out mapping out local insurgent influence stratagems.

With the help of an established coded quilt system, maps of clan networks and links to insurgents are smuggled out to the NATO forces hidden in the layout of Afghan quilts. With US artisans trained in community quilt-making, a popular aesthetic amongst artists working with “social practice”, the HuTRITs teach women the codes and the secret quilts help unveil the enemy constellations for more surgical strikes and liquidations of adversaries by SEAL teams.

Leaked quilt code manual: 5MQ-2013×2

Leatherneck

With the e-flux-powered network “Do It,” the neo-liberal infiltration of fluxes art finally meets the frontiers of rural Afghan communities.

Socially engaged practices have been part of the US counterinsurgency strategy for nearly a decade, but after years of struggle this initiative, developed between the Pentagon and Eric Brost, a former collaborator of Hans-Ulrich Obrist, have finally reached the Afghan mountains. The über-curator Hans-Ulrich started the Do It collaborations in 1993. Over the past 20 years, exhibitions and events on the classic Fluxus theme of “Do It”, or various modes of Do-It-Yourself Art, have been staged across various biennials and internationally renowned galleries. Engaging famed artists from Damien Hirst and Yoko Ono to David Lynch and Ólafur Elíasson, as contributors, the exhibition has reached deep into the social body of western capitalism and its “alternative” art scenes. With its matter-of-fact, step-by-step socially engaging recipes, it has been a sweeping success within the global art world, from the Chelsea galleries to the emerging street scenes. Now its latest incarnation has finally reached its height, infiltrating Taliban resistance in the rural Helmand province in Afghanistan with social aesthetics. Finally, Do It: The Compendium (2013) has reached the forward-operating Socially Engaged Art (SEA) teams in the villages.

These teams operate in close collaboration with the ethnographers and sociologists from the Human Terrain Systems (HTS) which have used similar “technologies of the self” since 2007, when HTS became a permanent US Army program. The integration of artists and artisans within the armed forces has caused several controversies over the years, not least after the 2011 CIA-CARPA-sponsored show “Crafting the Social” at Kunstwerke in Berlin, where art magazines such as Frieze and Texte Zur Kunst raised concerns. However, this has not limited the growth of the initiative nor its attractiveness amongst artists. According to BAE Systems, one of the contractors for this US strategy, the CARPA-run part of the program has grown from five deployed teams and a $20 million two-year budget in 2011, to one with 31 deployed teams and a $150 million annual budget in 2013. Questions remain however, how much good relational aesthetics will do to the civil population of the Helmand province.

With a brand new auxiliary-artist-in-residence program in Helmand, led from Camp Bastion, the main British military base in Afghanistan, the artists-in-residence can now reach deeper into the social fabric of both villages and insurgent communities. Camp Bastion, accommodating 28,000 people and two artist-run galleries, is situated northwest of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, and is also the site for the upcoming biennale of 2014. Since its founding in 2003, the base exists to be the logistics hub for ISAF operations in Helmand, as well as base for the British YBA’s self-organizing art-maker-space, called Camp Deleuze (or D-Camp). Headed by CARPA-trained artist Grant Prosper, former assistant of Tracey Emin, Camp Deleuze also houses the regional US IASTAR units (Intelligence, Art, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance).

According to the leak, the “Do It” manuals of Rirkrit Tiravanja (“Untiltled” 1994), John Balderssari (“How to Kill A Bug” 1996) and Liam Gillick (“Stay At Home And Think About How To Change Things” 1995) have been epecially powerful in the social art projects arranged for the Afghan locals in the mountain villages. However, as a critic from Frieze magazine have noticed, the Tiravanja piece has been used by the US-trained Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) around the Helmand province since early 2007 but neither improved the cuisine nor the discursive impact of Derrida amongst the locals.

The latest leak exposed to US media concerned a dispute around some of the Do It projects, when some of the artists’ payment was made in Eagle Cash (or EZpay), the cash management applications for “closed-loop” operating environments of the US Armed Forces. The artists, usually paid in US Dollars as other mercenaries, were upset that this move limited their right to leave the social conflict zone, and its Rancierian “Dissensus,” after looting both local trust as well as US tax money. While some artists suddenly saw themselves as serfs to the US state strategies, some Marxist artists, following the ideas of Herbert Marcuse, recognised that all DIY-based art was already infiltrated by capitalist hegemony.

However, during this summer, a new art incident reached the public news under the scandal concerning the establishment of “Fort Leatherneck” (Marine Expeditionary Brigade Task Force Leatherneck). Leatherneck has, since 2009, been the possible future base camp for SEA operations, as well as the site for the future Guggenheim Helmand. The scandal may risk the future development of many CARPA-sponsored Armed-Conflict-Art-Projects (ACAP) between curator general Supko and Brost, as these has been commanded directly under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. See Fox News & Washington Post for more information about the $34 million USD Leatherneck Headquarters dispute (including two artist-run galleries and prospecting for the new Guggenheim Helmand).

FM5-426-Carpentry

CARPA has lived a quiet life in the shadow of its bigger and more famous sibling, DARPA, so it is time for us to reveal some of the background on how CARPA has become such an important player in the last years and influential in the latest development of military tactics and warcraft in the US army and its NATO allies.

Sun Tzu’s classical book The Art of War is required reading for all officer cadets around the world. Sun Tzu’s lesser known book The Craft of War has long gone unnoticed, but is today in the bookshelf of every commanding officer. The book inspired not only Machiavelli but also Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz and his eminent work Vom Kriege (On War). Clausewitz’s especially famous metaphor “fog of war” comes originally from The Craft of War, and is actually is a mistranslation. In the original Chinese, the phrase refers to fumes from the kiln, masking the process wherein the characteristics of toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain crystallize through kaolinite mineral mullite within the fired body of the clay. Clausewitz’s metaphor, however, came to represent the friction of warfare, both in action and organisation, and thus, in a way, still resembles the porcelain process as a warcraft. Today, there are porcelain-making courses for superior officers at the US Army Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, because the army has yet to improve upon the material’s high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock. Porcelain also embodies the praised characteristics of the US Leader Development and Education (CAC-LD&E).

The connection between craft and military training may seem like a coincidence, but the United Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Leavenworth was run by General David Patraeus between 2005-2007, and many officers under Patraeus also happened to cultivate great craftsmanship of North British-styled woodcarving as well as a great interest in design. Patraeus’s crew shares this interest with the classes of Brigadier General (Ret.) Shimon Naveh, the founder and former head of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Operational Theory Research Institute (OTRI), who was invited to be part-time consultant and Artisan In Residency at the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies in 2007. To Naveh, the “operational art” of war can prevent forces from becoming harmfully “addicted to the present fight” (not unlike the studio crafts’ killing-loop) to instead apply new forms of war-craft, answering to the challenges of the contextual materialism at hand. Naveh and Patraeus also shared an interest in the military implementation of design and craft thinking in operational architecture, using references of famous design theorists such as Buchanan, Krippendorff, Margolin and Thackara, and (not the least) Deleuze and Guattari.

It also seems as if Patraeus promoted David Pye’s book “The Nature and Art of Workmanship” (1968) as required reading for all superior commanding officers in Iraq. Pye was an internationally recognised craftsman and professor of Furniture Design at The Royal College of Art in London 1964–1974 as well as an early proponent of the craft-led thinking which today has transformed a lot of military training into Pye and IDEO-inspired “Design Thinking”, especially since the launch of the US Army Field Manual 5-0 on The Operations Process released in March 2010, following FM 3-24 on Counterinsurgency, released in December 2006, the latter coauthored by Patraeus. The success of these two field manuals, developed in close collaboration with CARPA, builds on the earlier foundation of the field manual FM 5-426 on Carpentry, a publication from 1995 deeply inspired by the thinking of Pye and a guiding example for Patraeus and his followers who developed the successful strategies for the counter insurgency “surge” in Iraq.

All these manuals are available for download at the TRADOC-manual archive.

CARPAleaks intends to expose the deep connections between contemporary craft and US armed conflict. CARPAleaks takes as its mission not only to defend the independence of the free crafts against the Craft-Military-Industrial-Complex and the development of aggressive and craft-based “soft-power” as a force of US military domination. We must also defend the crafts from becoming a cultural weapon, like the fine arts, their “artist-run-initiatives,” and their neo-liberal aggression of “social engagement”.

Defend freedom, defend the independent crafts!

 

 

Last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the well-known lobbying front for big agribusiness-related industries that works against climate change legislation, was revealed to be green-washing art projects concerning arty issues such as “urban farming”, “guerrilla gardening” and “urban beekeeping.” The leaks that exposed some of contributions to the US pavilion of the Venice Biennale as AFBF-works raised some concerns as to the “spontaneous” nature of urban art interventions. The public is also concerned about what kind of “common good” (that is, “US-soft power”) these works are supposed to benefit.

This is nothing new. In 1947, the State Department organized and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled “Advancing American Crafts.” The CIA office of International Organizations Division (IOD), under Tom Broden, has also sponsored several projects. These have included an animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (in the 1950s) as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s extensive international touring program. These initiatives served as part of the propaganda war with the Soviet Union and promoted the free cultural power of the US.

The CIA-CARPA collaboration, revealed through correspondence with the IOD and AFBF, stretches back to 1958 and the touring exhibition “The New American Painting.” Including prominent abstract expressionists such as Pollock, de Kooning, and Motherwell, the exhibition showed in Paris and later at the Tate Gallery in London. At the time, the well-known American millionaire and art lover, Justin Fleischmann, acted as figurehead for the operation.

Later, in 1961, the “New Studio-Craft” exhibit at Victoria and Albert Museum in London was also sponsored by Fleischmann’s CIA cover, the Farfield Foundation. Using his position at the board of the International Program of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he had already pushed for several craft exhibits at the MoMA since the mid 1950s.

The debate concerning the alliance between the Maker Faire and DARPA was raised again last year when people questioned the role the military plays in public education, but with some historical overview it is clear that both DARPA and CARPA have played key roles in sponsoring not only engineering research but also craft schools, conferences, exhibits. Lately, their reach has extended to hacker and maker spaces, also overseas. “One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation is the decline in our ability to make things,” said Dr. Regina Dugan, then Director of DARPA in an interview in 2011, giving witness to her strategic thinking, well in resonance with the  research at CARPA.

This government strategy has been well integrated in the United States Army Recruiter Handbook (USAREC Manual No. 3-01) for several decades, yet the magnitude of the government-sponsored programs was surprising to many crafters. Not only direct CARPA-operations, such as the Etsy satellite in Berlin, but also the CARPA infiltration of “anarchist-run” hacker space, such as Hantverkslabbet (Swedish for “The Craft Lab”) in Malmo, Sweden, aim to tap into intel on both traditional south Swedish whittling techniques and Iranian expat art-movies. According to the documents, this infiltration also reached several “independent artist-run gallery spaces” in France and Greece.

The last leaks concern craft projects on “social practice,” mainly stemming from the heavily CARPA-infiltrated California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco and its MA program aimed at strengthening US soft power in the social arts. New York schools, as well, such as Parsons the New School for Design and the Cooper Union are revealed to have covered up government-sponsored crafts and recruitment programs under the cover of “public engagement,” “social crafts,” and “art media.”

Members of CARPAleaks are currently filtering a huge leak from CARPA engagements in Portland, Berlin, and Kabul. Stay tuned.

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