What is C6

 

C6 : THERE IS NO SUBCULTURE ONLY SUBVERSION

It may help the reader to understand the eclectic mix of articles gathered here by explaining a little about the art group who were the driving force behind this book. Then again it may not.

They have been defined as art wankers, outsiders, pranksters, tactical artists, guerrilla marketers, chaotic instigators of subversion, art terrorists, mind openers…who or what is C6?

A RANDOM SAMPLE OF C6 ACTIONS

Man in a box (1998) www.c6.org/box
One of C6 members locked himself inside a 2.8m by 2.8m box lit 24/7 and under constant surveillance CCTV cameras. He stayed there for 7 days with no food, just water. The entire event was broadcast online and relayed to the gallery space and the adjacent street via monitors for the whole 168 hours of its duration. The event brought 50,000 visitors to the site, crashed servers, attracted world press coverage and caused mayhem to the Brighton street where the gallery was located. Survival meets surveillance in this very public and controversy-stirring experiment in endurance, being watched and being forced to a stripped-bare core of existence.

see press pictures here

On the fly (2003) www.c6.org/fly
Rampage on the London Underground: a mobile action/installation stencil campaign that resulted in 1260 buzzing flies spray-painted on the windows of a Central Line carriage. From the onset of its planning, it was clear that this campaign would have been as joyously risky as highly temporary, due to the curatorial polices of London Transport. At dawn during the hottest weekend of the year the C6 nucleus made its way to the tube. Advance logistics had suggested as the most suitable tracts the farthest points of the eastbound Central Line as the distance between stations allowed more time to act on the carriage windows. Even so, the two fly-men had only 9 minutes to cover each side of the carriage with two stencils cut to size and sprayed in red and black. 9 minutes to create the first mobile commuter installation.

Want & Need (2005) www.c6.org/wantandneed
A pseudo-guerrilla marketing campaign using sms, street graffiti, stickers, badges and the culture jamming of local telecoms advertising. The combined attack of these hyper-pervasive media tempt the public into sms-ing a phone number with a word/s describing their wants and needs. These texts in turn generate google-hunted images to be displayed in the gallery through a software that recreate them by using the original text sent by the user. It is the latest C6 work, exhibited at the detox exhibition in Oslo, Norway.


Whether C6 are producers of Tactical Media or practitioners of Strategic Art is unclear. Their distaste for the latest buzzword bingo of the art fields is only matched by their aversion for the pin down classification that increasingly characterizes the assimilation of creative output into the well-trodden and funding bodies-proofed of what can be called “application art”. However, they like to refer to themselves as 'conceptual marketers’. Indeed, ‘conceptual marketing' seems to be quite a suitable definition for the proffering of non consumer-oriented concepts that rely upon multi media broadcasts to elicit active audiences' participation. This is done by invading, reclaiming and subverting consumption-occupied territories both in virtual and real spaces. If you are thinking that no matter how sleek its situationist veneer may be, C6 strategies bear uncanny similarities to those of the advertising and marketing world we are all too familiar with, think again…The beautiful catch is that there is no C6 product or commodity. Not only was C6 set up as a no-profit making organization; it actually makes a point of consistently making a loss: 'Make a loss. It is good for your soul' was a notorious 1998 strap line.

This is connected to another crucial aspect of C6: the creation of liberated zones of gift economy where C6 members donate free limited edition works to passers-by as a way to instigate public collaboration, feedback and critical engagement. This random circulation of C6 promotional gifts wants to question the status of private ownership of goods and the commodification of the artwork, while instead providing a-functional powerful relics of instantaneous chance encounters and potential collaborative actions. C6 have called this tactical practice E.D.A.A. (Event Driven A-functional Art). EDAA emerges when an audience is provoked into taking part in a counterproductive system whose aim is never simply machinic exchange but full-fledged entropy that brings all participants to awareness through dysfunction. Any process that engages the audience in unpredictable usage of media sow the seeds for a new awareness of the broadcast medium and message. Examples of this can be seen in C6 works such as Want and Need, Nest, New Media Spy and Fuck you.

This creation of a multi layered and unpredictable dialogue back and forth between the artist and the viewer is central to C6 practice, as it is the reclaim of public, virtual and mental space through multimedia based invasions of territories to create localised reactions and disturbances in the everyday. None of this could be achieved without C6 trademark and lopsided irreverence, though. Used as a tool to reverse conventional usage of media and as a trigger to provoke and disorientate, an irreverent dumbing-down of technical layers of communication leads to a different, lateral awareness of the processes involved, for instance the circular networks built to destroy data in Nest (Network Examination of Serendipitous Transfer) or the faking of an ATM machine online.

For design critic and curator Max Bruinsma, who has included C6 in his Deep Sites. Intelligent innovation in contemporary web design, published by Thames and Hudson (2003), C6 are “the raw life of London’s artistic scene beyond the famed Brit Pack”. For us, C6 are a cell of like minded agents provocateur whose unrepentant mission is to trigger events, actions and operations that invade establishment-held territories with their specific brand of counterproductive art. Somewhere in between interactive and activist, C6 resolutely invite the audience to take part in their enterprise, which has been described as vandalism, marketing, media pranking or apolitical activism. Nevertheless, they always present it as radically anonymous art. A typical C6 event happens in multiple arenas, often linking the street web and gallery with phones, computers and mobile devices. They have exhibited websites, written network software, stenciled cities all over the world, created spoof companies and marketed unprofitable concepts, mixing digital work, performance, graffiti and stencils campaigns, printed media, stickers, badges and t-shirts, magazines, fly-posting, sms, answer machines and small ads, in pubs, clubs, galleries, in the streets and on the web.

Take for example their ‘Bomb Soho’ campaign, something of course not be meant literally – especially after the vicious bombing of a gay pub in the Soho district in 1999 that left three dead and many injured – however, it makes clear C6’s zero concession to PC politics and their aversion with all the ‘media whores’ sipping their frothy cappuccinos behind ‘ergonomically curved desks’. Indeed, C6’s online shop sells a very limited edition of highly politically incorrect T-shirts.

From their operative visual, tactical and psychogeografical departments in London, Sweden and New Zealand, this anarcoid collective of artists, coders and designers mix a Dadaist sense of humour with political propaganda, high art with pranks, media experiments with cultural subversion. Since their beginning in 1997, they have exhibited in the UK, Romania, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Iceland, Italy, US and New Zealand. Their website gets around 50,000 hits a day mostly due to the very popular Toogle (www.c6.org/toogle)

Not only C6 is resolutely anti-copyright. It also actively promotes and encourages any sort of participation, contribution, association and name-usage from like-minded spirits. This means that you can happily use the C6 anti-brand for your projects, events, tactical disruptions or the like. Just get in touch with artwankers@c6.org for further details of un-coordinate operations and get involved with the C6 fine art sausage machine!