<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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2008-07-13

>> CrimethInc., "Recipes for Disaster", 2004

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recipes_for_Disaster

allusion to "The Anarchist Cookbook" from 1970 (William Powell), but also declaring that it was "not composed or released by anarchists, not derived from anarchist practice, not intended to promote freedom and autonomy or challenge repressive power--and was barely a cookbook, as the recipes in it are notoriously unreliable."

It includes sections such as: "How to Make a Bicycle into a Record Player", "Stenciling", "Squatting", "Independant Media", "Mainstream Media", "Reclaim the Streets" or "Billboard Improvement".

Review by Steev Hise: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/03/313237.shtml
"Recipes for Disaster: an Anarchist's Cookbook, is is the newest book by Crimethinc, a somewhat mysterious collective of activist publishers I've respected greatly ever since I read their "Days of War, Nights of Love" a few years ago - a book which I'm sure would have changed my life irrevocably if I'd been about a decade younger, and as it was still gave me tremendous energy and inspiration (although their "Evasion" books are a little less worthy of praise, but that's another story). Shortly thereafter I began hearing that they were working on this cookbook, and had been looking forward to it with mixed feelings ever since. The reason for my doubts was the title and the association it implied with the original Anarchist's Cookbook, published back in the 70s, which I procured long ago in my youth but had come to believe was actually a CIA cointelpro project, putting out sloppy and intentionally dangerous (to the reader and friends) information about bomb-making, sabotage, and the like. Some say this assertion isn't true, and is itself an attempt to discredit the book so that people won't try to use the information in it. In the end I don't know what to believe, but of course it points to the simple rule that one should never blindly follow any single information source. For example, anyone looking to make a pipebomb should probably double and triple check with multiple books and people until they really know what they're doing. Of course I myself have never had a need to make a pipe bomb, or even spike a tree, though I do have a certain curiosity about these things. (as Crimethinc says in their disclaimer at the beginning of the book... "really, officer!!")

Which brings us to this new anarchist's cookbook. The short review, for anyone who has read Days of War, Nights of Love, is this: Days of War is the theory, while Recipes for Disaster is the practice. As such, the new book is full of inspiring and visionary prose and wonderful graphic design, like in the previous tome, but arranged into more practical step-by-step directions, and interesting accounts of actual applications of the methods described.

I bought the book immediately as soon I saw it - that's how much high regard I hold for Crimethinc. But after I got it home and started really reading it I thought, wait a minute, I don't do black bloc actions, sabotage, or shoplifting. Why did I get this? However, I soon realized that, contrary to the original Anarchist's Cookbook, Recipes for Disaster is about much more than "fucking shit up." There are entries on affinity groups, dealing with the media, security culture, collectives, undermining opression, and all sorts of other very useful activities for any radical activist, things that aren't neccesarily oriented toward explicitly illegal activities.

In fact, even in the chapters like "Surviving a Felony Trial' and 'Sabotage', the authors are surprisingly even-handed and calmly wise. Cautionary words about being absolutely certain you are comfortable with the level of risk and involvement that you're participating in, and advice to fully examine the consequences of what you're planning "if everything went completely wrong," are liberally (oops, no pun intended) spread throughout the book. This book is no irrresponsible manifesto intent on riling up the kids with no regard for their safety. It's an extrememly measured, intelligent take on how to do direct action and other radical activism in smart way that will keep you in the game for the long haul, not burned out, in prison, or dead in a couple years. And advice along those lines is extremely important for the movement right now.

As others have commented on, the book's format (long, skinny, and thick) is awkward, and it's price ($12 or even more in some stores) is possibly prohibitive to many unless they go in on a copy with their collective or something. But the inside of the book is what's important, and I think everyone (whether you explicitly identify as an "anarchist" or not - another reason I still have a problem with the title) who is engaged somehow in the very real battle against opression and global capitalism can get something out of this book, from the nuts and bolts of molotov cocktail design to tips on starting an independent media center."

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.