Free Software on the Surface, Behind the Screen and in a Cultural Kaleidoscope: X-Devian.
By Jacob Lillemose
In 1999, when the art and technology festival Ars Electronica awarded The Golden Nica, first prize in the â€.netâ€ category, to the programmer Linus Torvalds for his development of the Linux operating system, it was pointing in general to the relationship between free software and art, and more specifically to the affinity between free software and that part of contemporary art which is concerned with softwareâ€™s constantly increasing influence on social, economic and political conditions. Like Linux, this part of contemporary art works against the proprietary software industryâ€™s standardization, repression and rationalization of the software culture, and instead explores alternate possibilities for freeing the software culture through more open, expressive and speculative processes.
On a more indirect level, Ars Electronicaâ€™s choice of Linux also emphasized another relationship between free software and this contemporary art, i.e. the idea informing both that software is not just a question of programming, but of producing culture – of understanding and using technology as a means of engaging in a social context. According to the founder of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Richard Stallman, free software is about â€practical material advantagesâ€ but also about â€what kind of society we want to live in, and what constitutes a good societyâ€. 1 Stallman himself imagines an extremely collective and creative society founded on the freedom to â€use, study, copy, modify and redistribute softwareâ€. For him, the free softwareâ€™s fundamental abolishment of intellectual property rights represents a chance to structurally and conceptually â€reprogramâ€ society for the better, and this is an opinion he shares with much of contemporary art.
Ars Electronicaâ€™s linking of free software and contemporary art turned out to be almost prophetic. What then was still limited to a few isolated projects has since developed into a far-reaching and agenda-setting discourse, so that free software and related trends today make up an integrated and considerable part of artistic practice and theory. Free software code is translated to aesthetic principles for the development and renewal of social conditions, ranging from material interpretations of open sources and digital challenges to intellectual copyrights to a general interest in independent networks and self-organized communities based on collective production and sharing.
â€Distributionâ€ and â€™Distributionâ€™ of Linux
The installation X-Devian. The New Technologies To The PeopleÂ® System (2005- ) by the Spanish artist Daniel Garcia Andujar and his company Technologies To The PeopleÂ® 2 is a literal and at the same time fictionalized example of this exchange. Of how free software as a thematic field, model and ethic can inspire contemporary art to take new directions, and of how the visual, spatial and conceptual language of contemporary art can stage free software on an abstract level and discuss its meaning in relation to general problems in society. For, even though Stallman emphasizes the societal perspective, free software in the broad public consciousness is still a specific, and for the most part, unfamiliar question of programming. Only a few understand free software as a living, inclusive and creative culture where it is possible to change important social relationships. And precisely this challenge to and expansion of the general awareness of free software â€“ and for that matter also the free software communityâ€™s self-understanding â€“ is at the heart of X-Devian. Using information, criticism and staging in equal measure, the work creates an alternative interface to free software â€“ one that invites you to reflect, assume a position and participate.
The installation is built up around a two-part â€storyâ€ of the operating system X-Devian, which unfolds in an advertizing campaign in which you are introduced to X-Devian as a product, and also in a sort of laboratory environment in which you have access to hands-on exploration of the operating system and to various information on free software. The two narratives exist as parallel and independent thematizations of specific aspects of free software, but the installation also establishes connections between them that are complex, problematic and subversive. And, in these connections, in the encounter bewtween the two narratives, exchanges, correlations and fractures emerge that open possibilities for new conceptions of free software, in the general consciousness as well as in the free-software-environmentâ€™s self-understanding.
Formally, X-Devian is a so-called â€™distributionâ€™ of the Ubuntu operating system, which within the free-software community refers to a variant of a system based on GNU/Linux, e.g. Ubuntu3. X-Devian is also a distribution, in that the installation hands out the newest version of Ubuntu on CD-ROM, so that visitors can take the program home and run it on their own computers. As a variant – in the technical sense â€“ the work does not differ from Ubuntu; the software is identical. But as the name indicates, X-Devian is also a special â€variantâ€4. As a work, X-Devian is an actual distribution of GNU/Linux via a narrative of a fictional variant of a system that exists â€onlyâ€ as an artwork and whose representation and conceptualization of the system is substantially different from Ubuntuâ€™s own. In the free software community, program development is the primary focus, while representation and conceptualization have limited interest aside from logo design and the formulation of licenses. In X-Devian, the focus, on the other hand, is on representation and conceptualization as a strategy to discuss free software in relation to a number of themes that do not deal with software alone, but also with software culture. With the ability of the artistic language to bring meaning into play, the work develops the cultural stories, pictures and concepts that form our ideas (and use) of free software and constitute a part of the â€™distributionâ€™ that is just as important as the actual program development.
As a part of this representational and conceptual development, the work utilizes a number of components that are more or less directly related to the X-Devian operating system. There is the software itself, a graphical profile, a homepage, a promotional video database, a collection of licenses, specially designed tables, scrapped hardware, and workshops. The individual components can be combined and modified in relation to the indvidual exhibition and as such, the work does not have a fixed form, but constitutes a flexible and changeable entity.5 In its aesthetic form, X-Devian thus reflects free softwareâ€™s idea of changeability and adaptability in relation to specific situations (utilizing local distributions as far as possible). In a wider sense, the form also reflects that the distribution of free software can take place on many levels at the same time and in a network of various ways of developing, understanding and using it. Rather than isolating free software as an essence, the work unfolds free software as an assemblage of contextual practices and discourses.
The installation of X-Devian in the Ã…rhus Kunstbygning involves both the advertizing campaign and the laboratory and connects them in a more literal way than in Andujarâ€™s earlier installations of the work. The words â€Access to Technology is a Human RightTM â€ â€“ the slogan for Technologies To The PeopleÂ® – are displayed on the one side-wall that runs through both â€story roomsâ€ so that you have to move from one room to the other in order to read the entire sentence. The slogan thus forms a unified, conceptual statement that the activities in both rooms are played against, a sort of theatrical backdrop for the workâ€™s two acts. Technologies To The PeopleÂ® introduced this slogan in the mid-90s when the company ran a pioneering business on the internet with a series of projects that with style-conscious irony and political attitudes thematized the internetâ€™s potential democratization (and parallel hyper-commercialization) of the technological culture, e.g. a campaign for the product iSAMTM, a portable credit card machine for beggars.6 The slogan expresses the companyâ€™s understanding of technology as being based in universal principles of a freer and more equal world, as a progressive social process, in contrast to technology as a profit-generating product that is only for the technically initiated and economically well-off. As indicated by the company name, Technologies To The PeopleÂ® works for technology for the people â€“ not the people in the traditional national sense, but the global, civil population that arose together with the information and network society. The company is especially interested in the part of the population that is otherwise unempowered and excluded â€“ precisely because they do not have access to technology. In connection with iSAMTM the company describes its target group in this way: â€Technologies To The PeopleÂ® is aimed at people in the so-called Third World as well as the homeless, orphaned, unemployed, runaways, immigrants, alcoholics, drug addicts, people suffering from mentally dysfunctions and all other categories of â€™undesirablesâ€™. Technologies To The PeopleÂ® is for people denied access to the new information society and new technologies. Technologies To The PeopleÂ® wants more people to be networkedâ€.7 According to Technologies To The PeopleÂ®, technology can activate this global populationâ€™s civil, autonomous and creative engagement in the network society. At the same time, the slogan also echoes Stallmanâ€™s concept of software as an ethical set of rules and the idea that technology should serve the cause of goodness and justice.
But â€Access to Technology is a Human RightTM â€ also introduces the double-sidedness or rather the ambiguity that characterizes all Technologies To The PeopleÂ® projects, including X-Devian. For, can good intentions be presented in a slogan and be trademarked? And, doesnâ€™t the proprietary software industry market itself as enriching the life of the individual as well as society in general, while exploiting them in their own interest and to profit? What is the sub-title of the slogan, the actual reference in the symbolic statement? It is, in any case, unclear, just as Technologies To The PeopleÂ® as a company cannot be immediately identified. As has been written about it, â€one canâ€™t completely determine whether TTTPÂ® is in fact a politically correct company or whether its engagement in social and cultural issues is just a strategy to control the market?â€ 8 The ambiguity signals that technology in itself is not characterized by any inner â€necessityâ€, but is a tool whose â€politicsâ€ is dependent on its usage. Technology can just as well serve controlling powers as it can free human beings individually and collectively, depending on how one defines for example â€access to technologyâ€ and â€human rightsâ€. Therefore all technology-hype and utopia, whether formulated by dotcom successes or â€techno-hippiesâ€ such as Stallman, must be countered by a dual consciousness, political discussion and critical practice. Otherwise there is a risk that (the understanding of) technology gets lost in ideological dead-ends. Besides connecting the two worlds of the work, the slogan dramatizes a general uncertainty and ambivalence that encodes the access to X-Devian with a mixture of skepticism and idealism, distrustful and visionary views.
Hacking the â€Worldâ€™s Most Advanced Operating Systemâ€
The first part of the installation is centered around a larger-than-life picture of a hand displaying a CD with a white â€Xâ€ on a black background. The stylistically clean graphical design forms an easily identifiable and powerful visual framework, while X-Devianâ€™s slogan â€the evolution of the speciesâ€ â€“ which is also written on the CD â€“ signifies that this product is the most advanced in the software industry / culture and a natural part of human progress. To the right of the picture a promotional video is playing in which an enthusiastic programmer (wearing a suit and dreadlocks = serious yet relaxed) at high speed and accompanied by dramatic, synthesizer music talks with other creative users about the operating systemâ€™s many fantastic features. They are informally gathered in front of a computer in a boutique landscape that, with its glass walls and hectic activity signals that X-Devian addresses itself to an open and dynamic environment. To the left of the picture is a physical version of the CD, placed on an illuminated podium almost as if it were a work of art itself. This part thus has the character of a convention stand, that – using the same rhetorics as commercial software products â€“ is meant to attract attention, fascinate and stimulate a desire for the operating system. It does this quite literally, for the logo and video have been appropriated from Appleâ€™s campaign for its Mac OS X operating system. Andujar has simply manipulated the video by replacing the screen shots and logo. He has done the same thing on X-Devianâ€™s homepage, where under the slogan â€advancing the worldâ€™s most advanced operating systemâ€ you can read about Debian and free software instead of about Mac OS X from whose homepage the slogan and design have been appropriated.9
Appropriation is a both an act and a genre in modern and post-modern artâ€™s confrontation with the idea of the original and unique artwork â€“ a work that is created from nothing, that has no references except to itself and cannot be reproduced. However, these kinds of art-philosophical problems, even though they constitute an implicit condition for the work, are not Andujarâ€™s focus in X-Devian. Its appropriation strategy lies rather in an extension of hacking (in the non-criminal sense!) and hacking-inspired phenomena such as culture jamming, adbusting and tactical media.10 And art-historically, this has connections to the Situationistsâ€™ concept of dÃ©tournement and the media-conscious Latin-American conceptual art, especially Cildo Meirelesâ€™s Insertions into Ideological Circuits (1970) in which the artist wrote political slogans on empty Coca-Cola bottles becoming visible only when the bottles were filled up again. Here we have appropriation of a rather different, society-oriented character where symbols and rhetorics should not be understood as aesthetic elements â€“ as a question of style â€“ but rather as carriers of meaning, an integral part of questions of politics, power and ideology.
This form of appropriation also characterizes other earlier works11 by Andujar and express a general preoccupation with â€hacking the systemâ€ – whether that of the dotcom culture, the surveillance society or â€“ as with X-Devian â€“ the proprietary software industry. Hacking a system refers to informal, artificial and often humoristic tactics where Andujar, instead of criticizing the system from a dialectic or confrontational opposition â€“ by being directly against it â€“ intervenes in the system in order to operate critically from the inside, for example by taking the systemâ€™s own logic to an absurd consequence or by simply taking over the logic. He turns the systemâ€™s own resources and values against itself, while at the same time â€“ which is especially clear in X-Devian â€“ he symbolically reverses the sign and the actual content. Instead of accepting and allowing himself to be controlled by the systemâ€™s conditions, he uses the system in other ways and for ends other than those the system prescribes ( parallel to the way various free software licenses appropriate prevailing copyright laws in order to cancel out these very laws). The system is not determinational, self-maintaining and balanced in the classical scientific sense, but is understood as an open, heterogeneous quantity that can be formed via interacting analyses and interpretations.
X-Devian intentionally misreads Appleâ€™s â€Xâ€ as a symbol for the undefined and potential, an essential figure for the development of free software â€“ instead of reading it as an exact character for the description of Appleâ€™s operating system. The work takes Apple at face value and utilizes the Xâ€™s ambivalence with subversive cleverness. The systemâ€™s identity is disturbed and transformed to a schizophrenic matrix. The appropriation reconceptualizes the closed system that the product Mac OS X represents in relation to a radical open network. It cancels the unity-character and limitation of the product by establishing connections to spheres of meaning beyond the system â€“ for example to free software, to Technologies To The PeopleÂ® and to the art institution by force of being exhibited there.
Andujarâ€™s use of appropriation is furthermore relevant in that the work thematizes the very meaning of intellectual property and copyrights â€“ not only in relation to the software but to language and codes on a higher, societal level. A classic hacker motto is â€information wants to be freeâ€ (by the way, a motto that harmonizes with the slogan of Technologies To The PeopleÂ®â€™). The freedom of information thus relates not only to programming communitites, but to the information society generally â€“ which is a basic point in X-Devian. For, by appropriating Appleâ€™s campaign, rather than its product, the workâ€™s first part focuses not on software as information, but on information about software, i.e. its visual and linguistic representation and the software-cultural concepts, mythologies and politics it is based on and generates. As representation the campagn is meant not only to stimulate a desire to buy a product, but also to introduce a specific user, a specific use and a specific culture which you are meant to identify with, in case you buy it. When Appleâ€™s campaign talks about â€improving the most advanced operating systemâ€ that is â€built up around you to make your life even easierâ€ it is defining some extremely ordinary conceptions of software in regard to a specific product, a commercial brand and a proprietary software culture. Neither Apple nor other proprietary software firms, however, have the property rights to use such concepts and define what they mean.12 Free software can just as well be the reference for these concepts, and the meaning would then be totally different both in relation to the â€productâ€ and the culture. When Andujar appropriates Appleâ€™s campaign, itâ€™s to show the importance of conceptualizing the representation of software in relation to the principles of freedom that underlie free software itself. Just like software itself, information about software must be distributed and developed beyond any form of intellectual ownership by way of an open and shared process of hacks. By hacking the representation of software â€“ in the sense of setting it free â€“ X-Devian displays free software as fundamentally different, partly as a differently distributed form of discourse than the centralized form that the proprietary software industry uses, partly as a different social and autonomous cultural context for conceiving of â€the most advanced operating systemâ€.
In the free software community, as indicated above, the representation is considered secondary, if not actually irrelevant. Part of the communityâ€™s identity has been to distance itself markedly from the spectacular and speculative representation of software that characterizes the proprietary software industry. The Free Software Foundationâ€™s and Linuxâ€™s homepages are symptomatic in this respect: they include no pictures (except the minimal reproduction of their respective logos) or other aesthetic elements, but consist purely of text. Though this distance-taking has profiled the free softwareâ€™s â€othernessâ€, it also seems to have limited the integration and possibilities of free software in a wider software-cultural context.13 For in this context, free software is to a large extent a consciousness-phenomenon, not just software. Therefore, free software is not just about using a different program, but is about creating other stories, pictures and abstract ideas of software and other interfaces. For it is not by way of a concrete installation of the operating system on a personal computer that the understanding of the use of free software begins, but rather in the abstract cultural meanings that the various interfaces in the â€shopâ€, in the media and on the net generate. And it is these interfaces that X-Devian hacks in order to create what you might call an artistic interface to free software. Though it is ironic both in regard to Apple and free software, it is still a serious attempt to represent and conceptualize free software as more than just data. It uses artâ€™s freedom to create ideas of free software which are based on and deal with human experience, imagination and play. And by including this field â€“ artâ€™s field â€“ the work points towards new symbolic, imaginary, and conceptual horizons for the development of free software.
Information and the Community Behind It
In the second part of the installation, you get behind the X-Devian interface to the software itself and the free software as environment, network and activity. The transition is â€illustratedâ€ by using significantly different information-aesthetics and by a significantly different relationship between the work and the public, the software and the observer. This part has the character of a mixture of an amateur laboratory, a temporary classroom and an undefined public space. Spread about the room there are tables with online computers â€“ running X-Devian â€“ on which you can aquaint yourself with the content of the homepage and experience how the software actually functions. One of the computers also contains a video database on free software, where you can see â€“ among other things â€“ interviews with Richard Stallman. Lying on the tables are various parts from disassembled computers, interconnected in a non-functional way (another look behind the interface), as well as books and texts about programming, software and â€free cultureâ€. Finally, on a black-painted wall, across from the wall with the â€Access to Technololgy is a Human RightTMâ€ text, hang photocopies of various free-software licenses that you can take down and read.
While X-Devianâ€™s first part communicates using visual and linguistic simplicity (symbolized by the black-and-white graphics) and focuses on â€the productâ€, the workâ€™s second part is much more complex and non-centered (symbolized by â€“ among other things â€“ the blacked-out windows and the inscrutable configurations of computer parts that are spread out on the tables). Here you can explore texts, programs and video-files about free software. Here free software constitutes a space for activity integrated in a physical reality of material, human beings and energy (Itâ€™s also here that Andujar runs his workshops). Here thereâ€™s no advertizing for a fictitious piece of software. Here you are invited and challenged both on a personal and collective level to participate in an actual existing software culture.
With its connotations of a â€workplaceâ€, X-Devianâ€™s second part sets the scene for an interactive round with free software. Not in the banal click-and-see sense as other software and much digital art prescribes, men in an expanded sense as the choice, acquisition and interpretation of information. The public is not addressed as a uniform mass of consumers, but as a multiplicity of independent users, knowledge producers and cultural critics. Nor does the work dictate a particular reading of the information, but rather underlines its availability and potential.
While the first part presents software as a finished product, the second part presents free software as an informational database that does not â€belongâ€ to the work, but participates in the work by way of its connections to external informational processes and networks. X-Devianâ€™s homepage links only to project homepages â€outsideâ€ of the work, e.g. The Free Software Foundation and The Debian Project â€“ and in the collection of video clips other voices are heard besides Technologies To The PeopleÂ®, for example Stallman. In other words, the database refers not to a particular product, but to a culture of possibilities that instead of uniformity and standards is characterized by a fundamental openness and diversity.
This point is also illustrated by the different variations of free-software licenses that are hung on the one wall. Free-software licenses â€“ as opposed to the â€all rights reservedâ€ licenses under which proprietary software is issued â€“ are not a universal text, but rather a question of continued interpretation and development in relation to a concrete (con)text, to variations of practice.
All in all, this prominent placement of licenses in the work accentuates their importance as cultural tools – not only as legal documents (their hanging is a strong allusion to the hanging of tools) but also as texts that enable and stimulate further activity and the creative and collective use of software. They are printed on ordinary paper and thus contrasted to the exclusive color print in the initial room. The aesthetic contrast signals that free software operates with a micro-information-economy both literally and figuratively, and that money is not the decisive premise for participation in the culture. It is an inclusive and generous economy, where engagement counts. In its expression and its thematizing of information economy X-Devian lies in extension of installations by conceptual artists of the 60â€™s such as Joseph Kosuth, Mel Bochner and Art & Language. However, even though there are formal aesthetic similarities, there are also significant differences between X-Devian and these works. While they consist predominantly of self-referential texts and symbols, Andujar refers to a world and activity beyond the work. Instead of internal organization and structuring, the information economy in X-Devian is based on activeness, production and relations in a non-institutional context.
Another aspect of the installationsâ€™s information-economy is, in this connection, questions concerning information on and education in free software. As an informal â€info-standâ€ and framework around workshops, the work-part anticipates an acquisition of free software via hacks of information â€“ comparable to the â€hardware sculpturesâ€ lying on the table â€“ rather than through acquiring definitive knowledge by learning. Here, to hack means to interpret and use the available information in new independent ways which are not necessarily functional, but can nonetheless contribute to the development of an abstract knowledge and understanding of free software. So the encouragement to hack is also a criticism of the rationalization of information and a rationalized software-culture and an argument for the potential in the irrational, the speculative and the experimental.14 Even though a certain amount of knowledge is needed if you want to use free software, the work also shows that free software is not just something you can read about in a manual. It is also something you â€writeâ€ yourself as you use it and an expression of an active attitude-taking to â€“ rather a passive acceptance of â€“ the software culture you are a part of. The knowledge of free software, which the work presents, is not defined by a system, but generated by a collective intelligence which does not let itself be disciplined, directed or controlled. Andujarâ€™s installation Information Society (2000) contains a corresponding point. In a mixture of a surveillance center and a library, the public here has access to information found on the net on how you hack various systems, for instance mobile telephones and UNIX operating systems, as examples of the alternative and free use of information. Through irony and drama, the installation presents information, software and the net as powerfully politicized phenomena (in opposition to the industryâ€™s and stateâ€™s picture of them as politically neutral) linked to questions of freedom and control, possibilities and limitations. In that way, Information Society and X-Devian are â€role-modelsâ€ for a non-authoritative culture where knowledge is produced in an exchange between autonomous subjects in a network. And therefore, a free-software workshop is naturally an integrated part of both works.
X-Devian also emphasizes the collective character of free-software. While the content of the installationâ€™s first part (officially) is produced by Technologies To The PeopleÂ®, the second part is produced by an unnamed and unregistered community of autonomous subjects who work neither for a company nor for the installation itself, but for a common unowned project – a situation reflected by the workâ€™s appropriation of the content. Instead of inscribing the content into a foreign context, connecting it to a product or brand, the work makes it freely accessible, i.e. without copyright protection and, one might say, includes the community on its own premises.
The community behind X-Devian produces (by way of) communicative relations and processes across borders and as such is defined only by its multiple activities â€“ by professional and social rather than financial or geographical interests. Several theoreticians have argued that this community in a certain sense is a concrete expression of Marxâ€™s concept of a General Intellect, the social brain whose production does not rely on machinery and factories, but of life as lived. X-Devianâ€™s production facilities reflect this relationship. The second partâ€™s informal, intimate, open character signals that here information is produced by free subjects working together.15 And the presence of several tables indicates in a simple way that the information that the community produces is to be shared and thus cannot be appropriated by Capital, the State, or for that matter, Art. The meaning and value of the information will aways exceed such institutions and their attempts to freeze information into objects. The community produces information that helps to develop and strengthen a dynamic common culture. While the first partâ€™s promotional video appeals to the creative â€do-it-yourselfâ€ mentality, X-Devianâ€™s second part â€“ both in spirit and practice â€“ is characterized by a concept of â€do-it-togetherâ€, by cooperation as the foundation for the alternative development of software culture as well as software aesthetics.
Technological Art beyond the Technology
X-Devian distinguishes itself from much of the technological art that is today presented at festivals such as Ars Electronica. In spite of the fact that Ars Electronica in 1999 emphasized a connection between free-software and contemporary art, this is not a connection that the festival has since concentrated on to any appreciable degree. To the contrary, the technological art and technological aesthetics promoted by the festival are often characterized by a fascination with hardware and a positivistic celebration of technologyâ€™s formal (read: scientific) evolution. The cultural, conceptual, critical and collective perspective on technology that free software represents â€“ in itself and as art â€“ seems to have disappeared from the horizon. And thus to a great extent the human and societal dimension as well. Technology is understood and exhibited predominantly as valuable in itself, and the function of art is reduced to aesthetics â€“ to embellishment.16
But perhaps such festivals are not the right context for X-Devian, just as it might be a misunderstanding to comprehend the work in relation to â€technological artâ€. For even though the work involves and is about technology, its focus is the cultural discourse in which technology takes part. Andujar works in the conceptual tradition of the 60s and 70s, where formal categories and problematics are secondary in relation to the societal themes and contexts that a work contains and is part of. It is a tradition that is not specifically technological â€“ or even media specific â€“ but comprehends art as a general conceptual capacity to give form to analytical, critical, and speculative discourses.
It makes more sense to understand X-Devian in relation to that part of contemporary art which – also in continuation of the conceptual tradition â€“ is engaged in the social field where human experience and cultural politics meet â€“ and often works with installations and interventions, both inside and outside the art institution. A large number of exhibitions have presented this art under the heading of â€contextualâ€, â€relationalâ€ or â€politicalâ€ and have argued for artâ€™s transformation to social (aesthetic) practices and functions. An aesthetic discourse like this flows through X-Devian, but the work does not express a wish to identify art with the social field, as the neo-avant-guarde tendencies in contemporary art do. It maintains a concept of artistic autonomy, not in the sense of being formallly self-referential, but as an independent and privileged space for information processing and knowledge production in relation to the social field. The work does not directly reproduce the social field, but produces artistic interfaces to it, specifically to free software as a social field. These interfaces are not oriented towards functionality and usability, but towards open reflection. Therefore, the workâ€™s positive attitude to free software as a force and a value are not decisive. Even though X-Devian is an idealistic statement like Stallmanâ€™s, its emphasis is the aesthetic staging of free software as a cultural discourse where meanings are in play. For that matter, the staging is an affirmative hack of free-software culture (in contrast to the workâ€™s subversive hack of the proprietary-software culture) that, on an abstract level, opens new cultural possibilities for critical, imaginative and social development.
1 See www.fsf.org
2 Technologies To The PeopleÂ® is a conceptual framework in the form of a non-profit organization with identity as a company which Andujar uses to sponsor and market his projects. Technologies To The PeopleÂ® functions, however, also as an independent work in the form of a conceptual statement with its own merchandise and its own promotional video. See http://www.irational.org/tttp/primera.html.
3 Ubuntu is based on another distribution of GNU/Linux, Debian which is referred to in the workâ€™s title. See www.ubuntu.org and www.debian.org
4 The name X-Devian refers to the use of programs from another free software distribution, namely Debian.
5 Therefore X-Debian can both be an installation and a setup.
6 iSAMTM was a bogus product that existed only as a promotional video. Nontheless, the work resulted in an inquiry from Apple who wanted to know more about the product, while in connection with an exhibition in Germany it provoked a â€left-wingâ€ art critic from Texte zur Kunst to make sarcastic remarks regarding the cynicism of technological art. See http://www.irational.org/tttp/*siteTTP/dpro.html
7 Technologies To The PeopleÂ® Annual Report 2000. Technologies To The PeopleÂ® Publicity Department, Alicante 2000
9 Since Andujar exhibited X-Devian for the first time, Apple has updated Mac OS X several times, and the homepage that was made for the installation in the Ã…rhus Kunstbygning is thus from the newest version Mac OS X Leopard, while the promotional video is for Mac OS X Panther.
10 The three phenomena are closely related and all refer to cultural practices where you penetrate an existing media structure and subversively distort their expression. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adbusters, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_jamming and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_media
11 For a poster for iSAM, Andujar appropriated Appleâ€™s multicolored iMACs.
12 That they nevertheless attempt to do so â€“ with intellectual property rights as an instrument â€“ was shown by Andujar as early as 1997 in the work Language (Property) Remember, language is not freeTM, in which he charted the TM-registration by these firmsâ€™ â€“ and TTTPÂ® â€“ of the sentences that made up their slogans as if they were a line of program code. In this way, companies tried to lock and unify meanings in the discussion of the internet and the software culture â€“ almost before it had begun.
13 In this connection, it is interesting that Ubuntu, the one that works with the cultural interface, is the most popular distribution.
14 This attitude also characterizes the spirit of the web-collective irational, of which Andujar has been a member since it started in the mid-90s and which hosts most of Technologies To The PeopleÂ®â€™s projects. See http://www.irational.org.
15 An indirect reference to the 70s hacker environment which, among others, included Appleâ€™s founder Steve Jobs. This experimental collective, which had a decisive influence on the development of the personal computer, operated out of cellars and garages, under totally different conditions and according to totally different principles than those of the official computer science.
16 By its installation character and intermedial function, X-Devian differs from â€software artâ€, where the programming and the code are all-important in terms of artistic expression and the computer is the primary medium. The category â€software artâ€ was introduced in connection with the festival read_me in 2002. See also the platform www.runme.org for works and texts.