Radical Openness and #LiWoLi 2012

Tomorrow I head to Linz, Austria to participate in LiWoLi 2012.

LiWoLi: 24-26 May 2012
Location: I/O Stadtwerkstatt, Kirchengasse, Linz, Austria
LiWoLi is a community festival, open lab and annual meeting spot for artists, educators and developers using and creating Free Software (FLOSS), Open Hardware and Open Design in the artistic and cultural context. This event is all about sharing artistic skills, code and knowledge within the public domain and discussing the challenges of an open practice.
This year’s edition will have a special focus on artworks that can be created, performed or exhibited outdoors and in public space. Like every year, numerous activities such as lectures, workshops and audiovisual performances will take place during the course of this three-day festival.

Thinking about “the challenges of a open practice” gets me thinking about what “radical openness” could mean. On the surface, it could just mean really, really, extremely, very open. But that’s a overly colloquial understanding of the word radical, as in “totally rad,” as opposed to “radical critique.”

Extreme or drastic is not necessarily radical. Radical requires a fundamental transformation, change so deep it goes to the root, the “radix”. Radical has the a same linguistic root as “radish,” the edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family.

Thus, to be radical, a practice has to get at the root, to work towards a fundamental transformation, no matter how moderate or gradual.

Radical openness would not necessarily mean being as open as one could be, but rather working towards removing the fundamental obstacles to openness that exist, perhaps even in ways that are not open, or less open than we might like.

To be open, we need to be safe and we need to be alive.

To be safely open requires us to have the freedom and privileged to speak our mind, to do as we please. When what you want to say, or do is unwelcome by powerful forces, perhaps because what you are saying
or doing is something they consider threatening to their interests, you can not be safe. So long as inequality and intolerance exists in society, any chance we have to get the freedom to pursue radical openness requires us to have privacy, requires us to be able to chose
when and with whom to be open. Not having privacy means that we will have less openness.

Radical openness requires privacy.

To be alive we require food and shelter and the necessities of life, and in a capitalist society, what we do, our practice, is largely formed by our participation in the labour market, in order to obtain such necessities. As such, not only the practice, but what becomes of the results of our work, is determined not by our own wishes, but by the logic of capitalism. This logic means that in most cases we can not chose either the conditions of our labour nor the terms of distribution of what we create. For the masses, openness in terms of their productive life is simply not a practice they can chose. This means that the degree of openness that we can have is not determined by individual choice, but by collective struggle.

Radical openness requires collective struggle.

In this light, radical openness can only mean the collective struggle for a more open society, which is a society where open practice is not threatened by repression or economic consequence.

Which means that radical openness must be closed to violations of privacy and to economic exploitation.

I’ll be at stammtisch {2} this evening around 9pm as usual.

{1} http://liwoli.at
{2} http://bit.ly/buchhandlung