A REACTION TO TACTICAL MEDIA
Sfear von Clauswitz
Tactics vs. Strategy
History is no more behind us than we can walk through time. There is no destiny and no vanishing. Tactical media makes no promises.
The spectacle and spectacular media are forms of tactical media, even more so now than in the future. Newer forms of media production and distribution: computers, cameras, the internet, etc. are not tactical. They exist as ballistics in the war of art, as does detournement and heretical juxtaposition. How these armaments are combined in conflict constitutes tactics.
These tactical conflicts culminate towards strategic goals. Strategy is defined by Clauswitz as a collection of battles in a war regardless of who the actors are.
Thus, strategy exists outside of nation-states and other such boundaries, just as Terrorists wage a war outside of such boundaries. As individuals become empowered with the ballistics of nations, so strategy becomes more useful for describing their activities. Individuals begin to enter the global strategic theater.
Strategy is not political, and cannot be in opposition to tactics. Strategy outlines a discourse of interactions, at times political, military, or aesthetic.
Tactics is no more a tool of resistance than a tool of the state. Isnt it enough to say it is a tool, and begin to explore its uses? How can we discuss the exchanges of tactics other than on a plane of strategy?
Artists & Hackers
While many artists and hackers use tactical media, the divorce of these battles from the strategic and logistical landscapes renders such actions less significant than similar tactics in use by national and business actors.
EBN and Negativeland developed beautiful munitions (heretical juxtaposition), and both Adbusters and RTMark expand arts reach and capacity into new theaters. All of which is necessary for the expansion of art on the conceptual landscape.
However, much of this work has been fueled by the political agendas and affiliations of these artists. While alliance with the activist, anarchistic, and anti-globalization syndicates has enabled these developments, it has also created linguistic partisanship that prevents arts expansion into the strategic and logistical theaters.
The Study of Tactical Aesthetics
As tactics, subversion of a dominant is no more valuable than submission to a dominant, outside of a specific theatrical context. In this way, both diversion and alliance, as tactics, might serve a particular end at a particular time.
The super-empowered artist does in many ways resemble a Terrorist, but the association is superficial in as far as it perpetuates the political roots that modern aesthetic warfare technology was developed within.
Many noble sciences have been detoured by militaries to serve very different political ends than their creators had intended. It is with this detachment from originating political bias that aesthetic warfare must be studied.
Information warfare (future war) deals heavily with propaganda. Aesthetics enables propaganda. Advanced practitioners of aesthetic theory should then be adept at the creation of propaganda, whether they work for Indymedia, themselves, or the government.
Propaganda neither hijacks the media, nor the deed. Deeds no longer exist separate from information media. The process of recording mediates the phenomenal and thereby defines informational theaters. Propaganda, tactics, aesthetics, and strategy-all require a recorded or informational value.
Digitization is one trend that contributed to the passage of warfare from the physical to the informational landscapes, but one of many. Death of distance, identity fragmentation, mass mediation, the deconstruction of language, and copyright law all contributed threads.
However, once all aspects of warfare can be translated into flows of information, a language of aesthetics reveals the way that information can be used as warfare. It is aesthetics that enables information. In this way, tactical media is a form of aesthetic information warfare.
Artists are now in the best position to leverage their aesthetics to create a technology gap between art and rival conceptual frameworks. Tactical media may well be the most overt part of this larger process.
Modes of Warfare
Clauswitzs tactics enable both the weak and the powerful. However, by embedding class opposition into the language of military art, de Certeau destroys the usefulness of the terms describing modes of conflict outside de Certeaus specific theater.
Clauswitzs strategem and Tzus war of maneuver are both useful tactics, in their time and ours. An artifice of diversion is a method of using information for tactical advantage. It is one of many tactics used by the mainstream and many others, but to limit arts investigation of warfare to one tactic, or to tactics as a dominant mode, limits arts ability to maintain viability in the conceptual landscape.
The battle between the mainstream and the alternative cannot trace the full spectrum of media tactics, but even if we were to concentrate our investigation there, how could we foresee a victory or lasting resituation without considering the strategy of this particular theater?
Also, the language of economics permeates our telling (and recording) of this conflict, and yet the language of logistics is missing. Perhaps this is due to de Certeaus politicizing of the modes of conflict, but then perhaps we have just not looked hard enough.
The continued viability of tactical art does require global participation, but it also requires a language to describe and refine that global participation-how it is gathered and distributed, authorized and synchronized. This language is the de-politicized language of strategy. A language that must be developed separate from the paradigm and perspectives of any specific theater, most of all the theater of activists, from which the vast majority of its practitioners emerge.
The preconceived opposition forms an essential context within which to discuss a particular theater. The specific economic and political intensities of a theater do form the essential difference between tactics as employed by different groups. Economic and political intensities are useful and even essential when recording the story of a battle.
But while these intensities are valuable we do not seek a history of the political winners. Nor do not seek a lexicon of potential media tactics. What we seek is art, an art of war, the beautiful forms of information that can be applied to shifting theatrical contexts. We seek a way to describe the exchange of informational flows within the theater.
We seek these things because it is the only way art agents will be useful actors in the quickly shifting landscapes of the future, and advanced practitioners of aesthetic informational warfare and tactical media may be the only way for art to remain a viable conceptual framework.
Response to "Language of Tactical Media". This article was produced as part of the Subliminal Propaganda Institute's annual roundtable on the nature of art in 2025. If you would like to participate in the 2003 SPI Roundtable, please contact Timothy Edward Warner at www.artafternext.com.
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