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Under the Influence: Barcelona Beckons with Media-Art Fest

Next week, three-day media-action and radical-entertainment festival The Influencers returns to Barcelona’s Center of Contemporary Culture for its fifth edition. Touted as “a talk show that can’t be seen on TV,” the event is dedicated to guerilla communication, culture jamming, media interventions, and, of course, art.

Since 2004, The Influencers has presented a pack of renegade projects, archived on its website with statements, videos, and links to the artists’ sites. Anti-consumerist preacher Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping was a first-year highlight; prankster group the Yes Men and social-activist magazine Adbusters were 2005 standouts; cultural remixer Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, and DIY merchandisers/musicians Chicks on Speed took part in the 2006 lineup; and video gamer Brody Condon and social agitators Laibach participated in last year’s mix.

The 2009 festival — featuring BLU, Improv Everywhere, Julius von Bismarck, Survival Research Labs, Swoon, Wolfgang Staehle, Wu Ming, and Ztohoven — is curated by Net-art pioneers Eva and Franco Mattes, aka 0100101110101101.org, who have been involved since the Influencers inception, and event producer Bani.

Italian graffiti artist BLU, one of the stars of last summer’s celebrated street-art show at the Tate Modern, and New York scene causers Improv Everywhere, fresh from a hilarious January pants-off invasion of the NYC subways, kick off the first day of presentations. Beside making audiovisual presentations, BLU is tagging Barcelona with his massive murals, while Improv Everywhere teams up with local activist group Enmedio to construct a new “mission” for the city’s unsuspecting public.

Day two has Berlin-based Julius von Bismarck demonstrating his Fulgurator, a hacked analog camera that projects images, rather than capturing them. He uses it to place invasive imagery, invisible to the eye, in public settings, so that it appears in other people’s pictures. Up next is Italian writing collective Wu Ming, followed by German video artist and The Thing founder Wolfgang Staehle. The latter is showing some of his real-time video projects, which use concealed cameras and computers to screen vast, ever-changing landscapes onto gallery walls. One of Staehle’s exhibitions was on view during the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, projecting the tragedy on the wall of New York’s Postmasters Gallery.

Wrapping up the festival, Czech media-hacker group Ztohoven, who placed an atomic-bomb explosion in the middle of a local TV weather program, discusses its political interventions; the creative technicians of the heralded Survival Research Laboratories reviews its long history of mechanized performance between machines, robots, and special-effects devices; and renegade Brooklyn-based artist Swoon recalls her sailing journeys with a rabble crew in handcrafted rafts, on the Mississippi River in 2006 and the Hudson River last summer — expect to find a few of her signature wheat-pasted graffiti works on the walls of Barcelona for some time to come.

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