Free download of my book Matrimony in English

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CasaJasmina work in progress

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Transmediale 2015, Berlin

Transmediale 2015

Transmediale is an ideal event for taking the moral temperature of the alternative Internet crowd. This year: feverish.

The theme was certainly well chosen: “Capture All”, meaning everything instrumented, everything streaming data under surveillance. The total act of monitoring, the gesamkunstwerk of Big Data: but for who, why, how?

The resilient Berliners have now gotten over the first existential shock of NSA Snowden revelations. They know pretty well where they stand now. The intelligence services are simply in command of the government; no amount of mere political embarrassment is going to pry the spies loose from the switching centers: the spooks are too useful to the politicians, so they’re going to cast aside the pretense of the rule of law and simply brazen it out, Putin-style.

Everybody who matters now knows that Snowden told the truth, and nobody bothers to deny the reality, but the activists of electronic civil liberty are in for a long battle as a sidelined dissident group.

That’s why an outlaw activist like Peter Sunde is now smiled upon by the Berlin artists’ crowd. Sunde just came out of prison. He is not an artist but a well-practiced pirate, a Swedish ideologue who was using national boundaries to hack intellectual property national regulations. The powers-that-be had to invent some method to punish him and arrest him for freeing all those Hollywood movies, and, with much effort, they did. So Sunde and his two Pirate Bay colleagues have all been in prison under some rather far-fetched legal charges.

By inviting Sunde to deliver the opening speech, the Transmediale is showing its awareness that modern can also involve jail time nowadays. Net art is of some hairy consequence now: it’s no longer merely the usual viral and transgressive publicity stunt, followed by empty threats of lawsuits from some offended party, far away. No: the repression has reached new levels, because so much more is at stake.

The intelligence service have learned to hack the democratic order, and of course that activity is just as formally illegal as Peter Sunde’s pirate antics, but so what: it is all “just Internet!” Capture all the hot data you can get your hands on; of course others don’t approve, but they’re neck-deep in it, too, and just as crooked as you are.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the Transmediale basement exposition space, most of the artworks were fantasies of somehow escaping the alarming new reality. For example: elaborate masks that can frustrate compute facial recognition. What is the point of this? It’ s like wearing an “Anonymous” mask in a street rally: it simply focusses the attention of the police, who will promptly arrest you for the act of wearing a mask.

Oriana Persico and Salvatore Iaconesi contributed one of their parodies: “Stakhanov the Big Data God.” This mystic oracle, busily spying on Transmediale guests by combing through their social media profiles, spat out some rather typical prophecies of doom through an old fashioned line printer.

The twilight struggle among our planet’s many booming cyber war spy agencies was recast as a contemporary multiplayer computer game. The NSA and its national rivals and civilian contractors slyly struggled to capture the world, Napoleon style.

Probably the most effective installation at Transmediale was also the simplest: Timo Arnall’s slow motion videos of contemporary data switching centers. These colossal big data barns simply sit humming on the modern landscape, without one human being in sight, structures antiseptic and colossal in scale, fully algorithmic. No comment is made, or is necessary: we’ve built ourselves a giant fait accompli.

As time goes on, Transmediale seems more about presentations and workshops, and less about actual art, or the work of art. The early days of net art, when every art-hacker on the planet seemed to be thriving on the Internet’s abstract, universal, level playing field, have been replaced by the modern situation of distinct social cults and viral clusters of interest. Rather than universal access and universal human rights to broadband, it’s now about underground access, such as the “offline network” activists, who build devices carefully divorced from the Internet’s spooks and property-cops. Plug in a small gray box with some wireless, and presto! fifty thousand art and theory books as text files, fully searchable! Nobody but you and your dearest friends ever needs to know about that.

The new “smart city activists” badly want Big Data, but only as a regional competitive advantage for their own towns. Having your town run “on the Internet” is now perceived as a genuine threat to well-being — you’ll surely get disrupted by the likes of Uber, or bullied by ruthless outlaw hackers, if there is in fact any real difference between the bullies of Uber and hackerdom.

The Maker scene has grown bored and unhappy with anything strictly digital: they want alternative artifacts, gonzo products, functional machines. Perhaps the strangest group are the “quantified self” zealots. These people have zero interest in limitless cyberspace, and a fanatical hypochondriac interest in mapping the interiors of their own bodies.

There was another important virus circling Transmediale this year: good old-fashioned influenza. A Berlin mob of four thousand people tramped through the snow and slush for the opening ceremony. It was a very impressive turnout, with everyone chattering, cheek-kissing and pressing the flesh while sharing wine straight from the neck of wine bottles. The instant result was a high-fever flu virus that ran rampaging through the attendees, as international and borderless as the crowd itself. We survived the bone-aching flu, and we’ll be back for more, but next time we’ll take the viral and the social a lot more seriously.

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<p><a href=”″>Nevermore</a&gt; from <a href=”″>Jasmina Tesanovic</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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No never more
Yes I regret all that mess
all the blood all the bad
they all add
to my nevermore

No nevermore
Yes I regret all the stress
It is present, not swept away
it is here
it is going to stay

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

My memories will lit a desire
my words will be your fire
all my troubles my pains
your only barbed wire

The crimes are not swept away
and all that drama
is here now to stay
no peace for you to pray

No nevermore
yes I regret all the mess
all the blood all the bad
they all add
to regret nevermore

No nevermore
Yes I regret all the mess
because all my life
all my joys
ended with those
unpunished wars ( rapes)

And the raven quoth nevermore

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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A Home of One s Own

Virginia Woolf used to recommend that every woman who writes should have “a room of her own.”  I write a lot, and I’ve lived in palaces and in squats.  But, to tell the truth, I’ve never lived in any place that felt entirely like my own home. We all struggle to feel happy and comfortably sheltered, but when are we ever entirely safe and protected in this changing world?

Sometimes we can lose an entire homeland, like my ex-Yugoslavia, or we might suddenly gain a home.  I inherited my parents’apartment, and there I was with a place well-suited to elderly people from another generation.  Baffling, nerve wrecking, heartbreaking! I had to clean the place of dead appliances, get rid of outdated personal rubble, empty the closets and attics of supposedly precious “stuff” that nobody needed or remembered.

Even in historic Italy, which is covered with UNESCO World Heritage centers, there is no storage big enough to keep history alive.  Qualities like “personal” or “public” make no difference to the passage of time. Entropy requires no maintenance.

It’s painful when you choose to modernize, and having modernity forced on you is worse.  As their heiress I did my best with my parents’ heritage, but the sorrow made me reckless.  Burdened with emotion, I threw away things that should have been kept, by impulse or mistake.

Once it was done, I felt free. But who needs to be absolutely free?  Free of what, free of life itself? An absolute and useless freedom is a philosophical starting point, but I can’t actually live inside a point, even as a seasoned world travel-writer who does well with a suitcase.   A hotel room has often been my “room of my own,” and when it comes to gazing into the clouded future, this can be advantageous.  Every era invents some  basic new ways of meeting the evergreen human need for a home.

What would my own home look like if I started from scratch?  What if I put aside the material culture of the past, and tried to use my own frank ideas to meet my own genuine needs?  The banks would help me buy property, but only if they themselves can profit by transacting in real estate.  The cities, provinces and nations all have rules and regulations about housing.

Who can help me to think and act about housing in a fresh way?   My allies have to be other people who share my modern situation. I’m a woman who wants a home, yet I’m also a global nomad who lives and works on the Internet.  I still need plumbing, electricity and heat, but it’s the flows of wireless information that seem to get always faster and more complicated.

I’m also the native of a city — Belgrade — where the economy and state collapsed in warfare in my lifetime.  The citizens had to hack and re-make their material world: cars without petrol, faucets without water, flats without heating and shops without food. I even learned how to fix a glass light bulb, since, when the filaments broke, there were no new ones to buy! The knack for survival is a source of enlightenment sometimes.

It’s my own interest in re-making and hacking that made me a fan of Arduino.  When I first saw an Arduino, it was in the electronic art scene.  As a big Internet user involved in video, films and music, I had strong interests in new media art.  With Arduino, though, Internet art was suddenly re-appearing as installations, devices, working objects I could pick up and touch.

Arduino appealed to my Belgrade can-do instincts,  just as Arduino appeals to Indian and Chinese  design and device hackers.  There’s so much to learn and do — interactive arts, digital crafts, three-d printing, you can even make music with Arduino (I did).  Open source luxury!

As a traveller with tech-art interests, I have seen a lot of “fab labs.”  The Torino Fab Lab — a cradle of Arduino — appeals to me because it looks like Italian civilization, and not like some cold, grimy garage.  Most Fab Labs are cold grimy garages (because that’s what open-source hackers can afford), and at first the same went for the Turinese one, which is situated inside a derelict car-factory warehouse.

That was before the people appeared in the Fablab, the intelligent brave geeks and geekettes, the best of the future Italy. Of course they had problems, but these were the problems that I myself actually shared.  It’s the approach they have that is new:  open source, transparent: shareable.

I learned all these categories. Even programming doesn’t bother me — I don’t think I’ll write a lot of code myself, but I’ve seen Arduino programs done by small kids.

Yes, it’s about the future, home life, and women.   All women: travelers, housewives or artists…  mothers or grandmothers.  Home electronics may be in the mansions of the rich but they’ll also be in every suburb and every favela — wherever a woman carries a phone in her purse, the electronic home will also be there.

For the first time I realized that I need to participate.   I need to be an activist about my own house and home.  I can’t wait around for it to be sold to me for a bank loan, or distributed by some government apparatus.  I will think about every detail/item in my daily life, even if I need to make it with my own hands and a three d printer.  The household items sold to us women through mall stores or an Amazon are not there for our female benefit.  Why should a well-equipped new kitchen cost 30,000 euros?  Do we live there or are we just commercially exploited there?

I remember when my grandma first saw an electric vacuum cleaner. She didn’t need feminist training to exclaim from her heart: Wow! I can grow old without fear of dirt!

That’s why my Roomba robot is the first inhabitant of CasaJasmina.  I know this device is not perfect — it’s not even “smart” or “intelligent.”  It’s a set of algorithms connected to motors with actuators.  I know that because that’s what Arduino is — it’s an actuator that connects algorithms to motors.

So the branding doesn’t impress me, and neither does the plastic shell.  I’m impressed because it helps the health of me and my family.  A device that moves on its own,  collecting all the dirt of a polluted city. It even protects us from the natural pollen of spring allergies.  I told the other feminists from my surrounding: now we women can grow old with household robots! We’ll keep out dignity and independence, we’ll give our adult children a break, we’ll defend ourselves from our careless governments!

The Roomba is not high-tech — it works because it’s ten years old!  It works in the way that all domestic appliance companies used to work, before the Crisis.  The Roomba  is not open source, it’s certainly not cheap, it is only partially hackable, and it was designed and made for the rich early-adopter, never for the old and poor…  It’s American technology because that’s what American technology looks like when it comes out of the labs of MIT and goes through the warehouses of Amazon.  Is that the way the Turinese really want to live?  No.  And neither do I!

In Italy we need to intervene creatively, and not wait around passively for some kind of future fantascienza dystopia. CasaJasmina is not a science fiction utopia or dystopia, it is a home for a woman with a family and pets and houseplants, who is not afraid of technologies but who also wants her grandma’s cutlery in the drawers, a woman who wants real books, real art, some real, slow, genuine food and something comfortable to sleep on. Something also pretty!

Open source luxury!  Lusso open-source.  A life of civilized refinement, that’s what Torino has that Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon offer to nobody.  No Google Googles, no Facebook spies, no NSA, no spies and lies about clouds that store our data in order to sell us as their products.  Is that a kind of future home life that’s worth having?  Well, why not try?  What else are we doing, the brave geeks and geekettes?  If we don’t know what we really want, we’ll just be sold whatever we are told to buy.

We will try and fail, and fail and try again. Small steps, big discoveries and a lot of fun and pleasure, I hope.

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In guerra andrai/ To War You Go

<p><a href=”″>In Guerra andrai/ To War You Go</a> from <a href=”″>Jasmina Tesanovic</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Now you are here
Then off you go
To war you go
But I don’t know why

Now you are here
Our last kiss my only bliss
Don’t you cry amore mio
I won’t cry it s not an addio
Our love will never die

The red roses you gave me
I keep close to my heart
I am already missing
Your loving heart

Choo-choo train is hissing
Waiting for us to part
I am already missing
Your loving heart

I know you will come back
Because i am your true love
Our love will never die

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