Social crisis, movements, ideologies
The “Onda Anomala” (Anomalous Wave) is the more important social phenomenon seen in Italy in the last years. It started from the school’s ground, from the protests against the so-called “Gelmini reform”, but its value doesn’t seem to be limited to that: it looks like the manifestation of a new process of global social mobilization. The material, cultural and moral uneasiness that starts from the problems of the school, is beginning to concern wider thematic: work, redistribution of wealth, lifestyle, democracy and equality .
The movement crosses different social and generational layers: university and college students (surely until now the majority of the people) teachers and parents of the primary and secondary school, precarious teachers and researchers of the university. This last component shows that bases are being set for a generalized rebellion against the new indecent ways of working in the so-called “cognitive” or “immaterial” capitalism. It is of course an open question if a massive movement of the temporary workers will rise, in Italy and in the whole Western world. But at least the bases and the premises, with the explosion of the Onda, have been placed.
The movement starts from the school because schools, in the Western world, have almost remained the only places of socialization, in which people get in contact outside of the TV control on the Imaginary. But it grows because we are seeing the failure of thirty years of neo-liberal politics, of privatization of whatever can be privatized. The strength and the cleverness of the Capitalism are impressive , but also the movements that it produces against itself are strong. What caused the beginning of the ’68 movement is back, after 40 years, in a different shape but with the same substance. And with a still bigger capacity, it seems, to escape the traps of ideology and cleverly move in the terrains of imaginary, language, use of technology.
“To many demonstrations organized by the Extreme Left and by the Social Centres, as the Minister of the Interior has confirmed, take part violent people”. Thus the present premier Silvio Berlusconi commented the first demonstrations against the Gelmini reform of the beginning of October 2008. What should make us wonder (and ponder) of those early reactions, is not so much the light-hearted declarations of intervention of the military, but rather the readiness with which the public (television, but not only) has moved the attention from the real reasons that have brought hundreds of thousand of people to take to the streets, to an “ideological” explanation, based on the spotting of reassuring categories in which to enclose the demonstrators.
These definitions have caught on the public opinion with extreme facility, and they have often become the focal point of different debates. This can be a surprise only to whom considers ideology as a superficial misrepresentation of the facts, that would be relatively simple to fight and to dismantle only by re-establishing a mythical truth.
Things, alas, are not so simple. If the public opinion so easily falls prey of a grotesque and superficial explanation of complex social movements (“there are violent people that cause trouble and feed discontent”), it is because ideology has structural, and not only super-structural rooting and strength (to use a “Marxian” terminology)
This has already been clearly explained by Guy Debord in the 1960s: “Ideology is the intellectual basis of class societies within the conflictual course of history. Ideological expressions have never been pure fictions; they represent a distorted consciousness of realities, and as such they have been real factors that have in turn produced real distorting effects. This interconnection is intensified with the advent of the spectacle – the materialization of ideology brought about by the concrete success of an autonomized system of economic production – which virtually identifies social reality with an ideology that has remoulded all reality in its own image.” [The society of the show, 212].
The ability of the capitalism of “remould all reality in an ideology’s image”, that Debord calls “materialization of the ideology”, is even more evident if we see it from the point of view of the biopolitics, namely of the direct management of life by the political powers, that therefore become a biopower. From this perspective, the practice to identify different groups of people through objectifying categories becomes necessary, in order to keep a check on productive and social processes. In the political field, the presence of various subjectivities is useless, so it doesn’t have any importance that a wide variety of people has been demonstrating. A shear character is built that doesn’t have anything in common with the various singularities, but is instead a dull generalization of the crowd. What do we mean by this? That further to economic mechanisms, political instruments, military structures – that of course have a primary role – it is a linguistic device that guarantees the citizens’ compliance of to the “leading values” of a society. With the – much ideological – presumption that language faithfully describes and represents the reality without any margin.
Surely, when the situation grows tense, when reality claims its own autonomy taking non anticipated roads (when the economic crisis gets real, for example), then also the linguistic device hampers, then the statement that language faithfully represents reality appears deceptive and groundless: the declarations of politicians, newspapers, televisions, the intellectuals’ stories and regime comedians’ shows, appear all of a sudden pale and out of focus.
Possibilities are born of different linguistic games, of different behaviours, of nonconformist practices. An Anomalous Wave appears, and inside it like bubbling foam, characters are born that are capable to speak different words, to use languages and technologies for different purposes from those for which they were conceived. For example, Anna Adamolo appears.
Anna Adamolo: history of a new collective identity
Anna Adamolo first appeared on the pages of the social network Facebook, in which she presented herself as an alternative to the Law 133 of the Gelmini reform. The images, similar to those of an any political campaign, represented a woman in her fifties with violet-rimmed glasses. At first look it could seem just another candidate, but the users contacted by her received a particular request: “If you become a friend of Anna Adamolo, we ask you to change your name, your profile or your current state by showing her name and her logo instead of yours”. In the mean time, a blog was founded (http://annaadamolo.noblogs.org/) where it was possible to download various materials and to get more information about the objectives of this operation. Anna Adamolo, actually an anagram of Onda Anomala, recommended herself as a collective name through which tell one’s own story or to claim protesting actions against the measures of the Government.
In that same period, newspapers and televisions had shown a particular interest for the social network Facebook in relation to the intervention of different political groups on that medium. Particularly, the presence of numerous groups against the decree or against Gelmini herself, and of fewer groups instead supporting them. A number of days before the appearance of Anna Adamolo, the first account named for Mariastella Gelmini had been created, one among many named after famous or political characters, but the first one to bear the name of the – by then – famous minister.
Easy to imagine, all users who joined the account (“friends” in Facebook slang) mostly shared the political positions of the minister. The different messages appeared more or less similar to this: “Unfortunately, once more, it is as President Berlusconi has said: students get manipulated!”: users, in short, reintroduced the same kinds of categorization promoted by the government. It was evident that the definitions given by the ideology, had become reality for all subjects linked to that political credo.
Anna Adamolo was born as an answer to those mechanisms, it proposed as a not normalized imaginary able to express the different subjectivities beyond the instruments of materialization of the ideology used by the institutional and economic authorities. The project’s objectives were made clearer on November 14, 2008, when “more than 300.000 students arrived to Rome with trains and buses from all over Italy , started a march from the Sapienza, for the national demonstration organized by the Universities. The objective had publicly been announced more than a week earlier: to surround Palazzo Chigi, to shout ‘in the face’ of the illegitimate government those weeks’ slogan: ‘We won’t pay your crisis’ ” (from the site www.uniriot.org).
In the previous days, Anna Adamolo showed up in the Milan train station during the protests of Milan ‘s Onda Anomala, in order to obtain special trains for Rome ‘s demonstration. In that circumstance, false discounts had been issued to reach the Capital.
In the morning of the 14th, the most important Italian newspapers received hundreds of very peculiar emails. They arrived from the web domain ministeroistruzione.net and were graphically arranged like an official press release from the Ministry office. This was the text of the e-mail: “I am Anna Adamolo […] Today students, teachers, parents, workers and citizens occupy side by side with me the website of the University and Research Ministry”. Just a few hours later, the websites of La Repubblica , of AGI (Italian Journalistic Agency) and of other newspapers headlined: “SCHOOL: HACKER IN THE WEBSITE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION”, linking the hacked website www.ministeroistruzione.net. Probably they did not catch the sense of a sentence written at the bottom of the e-mail: “Today, we symbolically build on the Net a new Ministry, the Ministry that we all would want to have in Italy , where the voices of the temporary workers, of the students, of the teachers, of all the citizens, are finally heard.”
Not a “Shadow Ministry”, therefore, but a “Wave Ministry”. Of course, it wasn’t an action of defacement of the official website, but instead an action of hacking of the informatic systems. The official website had on purpose been cloned on another selected domain so that it could be confused with the official one. After a few seconds on the website, a full screen video started with images of demonstrations of the days before. With an unexpectedly calm musical background, a female voice began to speak saying: “I am Anna Adamolo. I want to bring all these voices inside this Building.” That same voice multiplied told the different experiences of the demonstrators and finally stated: “Now, we are in politics.” The users were rerouted then on another website in which it is still now possible to listen to the phone calls and read the emails sent from whomever feels to be Anna Adamolo. Some of these emails were recently published in the book “I am Anna Adamolo. Voices and stories from the Onda Anomala”, of the editions NdA.
At the same time of the emails to the newspapers, a message was released online in which the internet users were requested to contribute to an action of googlebombing by linking in their own site or blog the address www.ministeroistruzione.net with the words “Department of Education.” A couple of weeks later, the objective was reached, and the “new” website of the Ministry got at first place in the searches on Google, overcoming the official website.
The same day of the demonstration in Rome , while declaring a symbolic occupation of the Onda Anomala, the Facebook account of Mariastella Gelmini was changed by replacing the name of the Minister with that of Anna Adamolo (which demonstrated that the account had not been created by Gelmini herself, but it was a fake). This happened while tens of people paraded toward Palazzo Chigi wearing violet-rimmed glasses downloaded from the blog, and spraying the logo of the new Wave Minister on the walls of Rome .
A movement that since the beginning refused any outside representative, ironically struck the various politic parts, and played with the mechanisms of representation transforming each and every demonstrator into Minister.
In the following weeks the initiatives branded Anna Adamolo multiplied. The Wave Minister showed up in flesh and blood storming on the stage of Piccolo Teatro Studio in Milan to replace Minister Gelmini by now absent from any official circumstance.
In this complex operation have also been involved arts groups like Les Lien Invisibiles and I/o cose and the graphic duo ParcoDiYellowstone. The project AHA: Activism-Hacking-Artivism has supported the operation in all different phases, directly involving different members of the mailing-list email@example.com. Besides this, the different groups and student collectives have been fundamental, firstly the collective Aut Art of the Accademia di Brera, but also the collective of Political Sciences in Milan, the self-formation collective from Bologna, Chainworkers, Diversamentestrutturati from Milan, the students’ coordination of the university of Ferrara, the student collectives of Trento and many others. It was a dense net of collaborations in which were shared experiences and competences, in order to accomplish a national-scale project.
Anna Adamolo between hacking, artivism and linguistic guerrilla
The experience of Anna Adamolo brings new life to the Italian activism scene and, at the same time, it converts in actions those pulses of the dissent that had been consolidated by decades of hacktivist practices. Anna Adamolo plays with language, but also with the concept of collective identity, becoming an icon for those who try to rewrite the codes of the reality through the détournement of the symbols. A tradition that in Italy was born in the nineties with the multi-individual Luther Blissett and, ten years before, worldwide with the open-pop-star Monty Cantsin, multiple entity of the neoist (anti)movement. Unlike Monty Cantsin, an individuality used as a nickname by the Neoism exponents and therefore connected more to specific subjects than to a wide collective, Anna Adamolo is the voice of a network. A network of people that involves young students and researchers, temporary workers and teachers, all those people who want to be Anna Adamolo to make real activity of a political, cultural and social Utopia.
The networking component is therefore central in Anna Adamolo, and its net is inspired by the anonymous one created by the Luther Blissett, but with different objectives. Although they represented a plurality of individuals, the Luther Blissett operated independently from any political movement, insinuating like a virus in the bugs of the media system and in the drifts of the urban legends. Instead Anna Adamolo was born within the movement of the Onda Anomala, it has no face but at the same time has many faces, deeply rooted in political and social battles. Faces that bear manifold aspects, while fighting for a common objective. Anna Adamolo interprets Monty Cantsin and Luther Blissett by playing with language and with the labyrinths of politics, and by making the state bureaucracy open and possible. Its answer is the creation of an “intimate bureaucracy” (Craig J. Saper 2001) creatively re-interpreting the structural elements of the everyday life, like years before did the Mail Art and other avant-gardes. The institutional symbols are overturned – official websites, stamps of the Department of Education – in order to make them something shareable and creative. Signs and marks of a net of subjects that changes and determines its own rules, that wants to autonomously build its own education and its own future.
Anna Adamolo becomes the symbolic kernel of a precarious movement that in the past had already showed its radical appearance through visual messages, and turned the heaviness of the traditional politics into a spiral of ironic activism: St. Precarious, the Saint of the precarious workers, and Serpica Naro, the stylist of the imaginary are other examples. The message has finally reached a community of varied subjects, not only belonging to the hacker, activist and guerrilla marketing movements, and is directed to all people who want to transform our present. In this sense, Anna Adamolo was the true semiotic revolution, because it successfully tried to reach those who, for the first time, decided to measure against the possible alternatives by demonstrating and actively operating on the internet.
Conclusioni: for a new language and a new politics
It seems evident, from everything written above, that the operation Anna Adamolo is a meaningful episode of a not-new tendency (it was already evident, during the 1900s, from the Berliner Dada to the slogans of the Parisian 1968), but proposed with new strength and new awareness by the Onda Anomala. We can synthesize it this way: no revolution or change is ever possible in any level of the human activity, if the revolution or the change don’t start with language. The main reason for this affirmation has been exposed as clearly as possible by Giorgo Agamben: “Since it is clear that the show is the language, the ability to communicate is for a man being linguistic. This means that the Marxian analysis must be integrated, capitalism (.) was not only the expropriation of the productive activity, but also – and above all – the alienation of the language itself, of the linguistic nature and communicativeness of the man itself, of the “logos” in which a fragment by Eraclito identifies the Common. The extreme form of this expropriation of the Common is the show, that is the politics in which we live. [George Agamben, ” Glosse in margine ai Commentari sulla società dello spettacolo “, SugarCo, Milan 1990, pp. 242-243]
The strength of Anna Adamolo, same as that of every collective name, of every aware operation of net art, is in the ability to reset the bond between language and world as operated by tradition and by power, and to create the conditions for the creation of a new world. Every time a person, a human being, visits the website www.ministeroistruzione.net and leaves a message that begins with “I am Anna Adamolo…”, it acts on the most difficult linguistic ground, but also on the more powerful. Enunciates like “I am XY”, “my name is XY”, are the clearest and most dangerous form of the so-called “performative enunciates”, that is of those affirmations that complete an action in the moment they are uttered, and that the 1900 linguistics has studied with the various “linguistic actions” theories (from Wittgenstein to Austin to Searle).
This is exactly why the “denomination” operations (from the registry office to the baptism) are reserved in our societies to the official powers, i.e. State and Church. It is again Agamben that clarifies the linguistic challenge that the society of the show-business, the society of global and Omni-pervasive capitalism: “What prevents the communication, is the same communicability, the men are separated by what unites them (…). In the show-business society (…) not only language is constituted autonomously, but it doesn’t even reveal anything of all things (…). The times in which we are living, are also those where it becomes possible to men, for the first time, to experience their own linguistic essence – not some content of the language, but the language itself, not some true proposition, but the fact itself that we speak. [Giorgio Agamben, op. cit., pp. 245-246]
It is the complexity of the linguistic fact, its new tangling with the economic, productive and mediatic mechanisms, that gives us the chance to radically re-discuss the devices of domination that capitalism shows us as natural and obvious, first of all the linguistic mechanisms. To regain one’s own “language capacity” means therefore to escape the alienation of the language that perpetuates and makes those devices possible.
That’s why Anna Adamolo is not only an interesting and useful container for all the proposals made by the movements (from self-education in the schools and in the universities, to a guaranteed social income), but it is also an attempt to build a new language of the collective action, of politics, starting from its softer and deeper ground, that is the mechanisms of communication. It is a long and complex job, that however the Onda Anomala (and Anna Adamolo with it) has already started.