The winter of 2013-14 will be remembered by the worst storms to affect Britain since records began; homes damaged, lives lost and continual electrical black-outs leaving many without access to essential services. As images of flooded villages and submerged cars spilled across news networks around the globe, the British Government’s emergency response committee COBRA convened in Whitehall. Over the next three months COBRA would meet over thirty times, chaired by a number of different politicians. During this same period COBRA RES invited a selection of artists, filmmakers and writers to respond to the ‘emergency event’ or the existence of the COBRA committee itself.
This publication and DVD, bring together those film and text based responses.
To buy COBRA RES 1.3 please visit the COBRA PRESS SHOP
You are warmly invited to join us for the screening of a selection of short films made in response to the recent deluge of COBRA committee meetings, about the winter flooding affecting large parts of the United Kingdom. This will also be the launch of ‘COBRA 1.3 DVD + Book’ that contains all the films and newly written text based responses.
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– Online bookshop
– COBRA 1.1. book gallery
We are happy to announce that the Institute of Contemporary Art – London- bookshop will be selling the COBRA 1.1 publication.
COBRA: A Critical Resposne 1.1 is a new publication containing a series of artistic and written responses to the British Government’s emergency response Committee COBRA.
To buy the new COBRA 1.1 please click on the image below
or visit our secure online BOOKSHOP
COBRA convened on 22nd and 23rd May 2013 in response to the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, South London.
Following that first meeting, COBRA: A Critical Response invited a broad spectrum of individuals to respond to the COBRA meeting within nine days.
COBRA 1.1 is a collection of those responses.
Image gallery for COBRA 1.1 Book
The British Governments emergency response Committee COBRA met yesterday and the day before on the 22nd and 23rd September 2013. It seems that they have held three meetings in recent days in response to the ‘Kenya stand off’ (BBC) at the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. This comes exactly four months, to the day, since their last meeting in May.
We are asking for submissions of creative or written responses to this recent series of meetings in relation to COBRA and/or the situation in Kenya that it is responding to.
Once received, all work submitted will be individually vacuum-packed and stored in the COBRA archive for the next four years until the final COBRA exhibition in January 2018. At the opening of the exhibition, the packages containing the work will be opened live in public and hung along side all past COBRA submissions from 1.0 – 5.?
Please fill out and enclose the COBRA 1.2 Submission Form (see form attached). These forms will be hung alongside the work to provide title, name etc. (email address will be deleted when exhibited)
All forms of works will be accepted but should your submission require any extra technical equipment, such as DVD, audio, plinth etc, please write this on the outside of the package so we can prepare this for you in advance.
Deadline EXTENDED – FRIDAY 18th OCTOBER 2013.
Submissions should be sent to:
372 Old Street
Alternatively, if you are attending the COBRA 1.1 book launch at Mayday Rooms on Fleet Street on the 3rd October, you can also submit your work at this event. (Please make sure the work is well packaged and sealed.)
For more information about COBRA: A Critical Response, and to view past submissions, please visit www.cobra-res.info
COBRA 1.2 is an open-submission, please forward onto those who you think may be interested.
Follow us on twitter: https:twitter.com/cobrares
h+corp were invited to write a series of ‘slow responses’ to COBRA. Below is the third response.
I’m afraid I have been finding you rather unresponsive to my letters but I will not bear a grudge. Perhaps all creation requires some degree of autism and so I will continue to address you. I am writing you because I had been quite in awe these last weeks , witnessing reality slowly and gracefully disintegrate to the soft-spoken yet determined words of Ed Snowden spread over international headlines and news-casters alike. I’m assuming that all of a sudden it has become quite acceptable to speak about in public what was subject to an implicit ban and taboo in the public sphere for years. I admit that I am rather surprised by this given that (perhaps incidentally) most of my casual conversation partners as well as the press equally would have considered allegations about the existence of an elaborate infrastructure as revealed by the documents to be no-less than delusional(1).
Perhaps, we are yet to fully comprehend the traumas inflicted upon politics through the documents leaked by those soft-featured men Private Bradley Manning and NSA operative Edward J. Snowden. Of course, it is not news they fed into the info-circuits .(2) News is merely the mass audience exposed to the operations of the secret state. There seems to be some, yet maybe remarkably little shock at the becoming social form of that unspeakable suspicion which slowly diffused intoxicating the fairytales of the Flat World, anonymous and equal, that we had grown up to believe in: Nourished by data-scandal after data-scandal citizens come face to face with the knowledge that they have intimate digital shadows reified and locked up in heavily guarded dessert mega-complexes: that everything they did online under the illusion of anonymity has been recorded. All of a sudden through the misty dawn of disinformation thus surfaces the amalgamate corporatist entity of security- and high-tech industry longtime subliminally programmed by science fiction to be the government of the future. To add to the grotesque of the situation, the PR machine of the undead liberal democratic process continues to inject the cocktail of relativizations, denials, and staccato admissions in hope of catering to the atrophied attention spans of the television-and gluten clouded masses. They’re offering the bribes of indifference and the temporary feeling of security in return for allegiance, a somatized perspective certainly more pleasing than facing the corpse of democracy, which had been quietly decomposing infested with state of emergency legislation and some precise marketing slogans of urgency and necessity. Concurrently, the cool flame of imperial warfare had for too long molded a mass of souls with sinister depth who upon return from the war-torn periphery found no match or place in an increasingly surreal and directionless peace. Snowden draws the curtains: If the services monitor and store the totality of communication, the logical conclusion is to assume the existence of a transnational(3) government which operates through the permanent possibility and actual use of blackmail. The ridiculous tabloid pictures of Petraeus’ extramarital shenanigans(4) become the anecdotal illustration of a system where with the help of social puritanism non-events are hypertrophied to eliminate political adversaries. Scandal, which may also take the form of a selective exposure of the reality of politics, becomes the means to induce (self-) censorship of the political class.
But, despite the publicity, will there be a reaction to the revelations? Or will the leaks and their subsequent mediatization become the immune reaction of the system to its own modification and radicalization rather than generating the critical mass of discontent fracturing the empire of indifference. After all, the information had been available for quite a while. In a near absence of political protest, is the state revealing itself to a public, reinforcing its corporate communications organs which had long lost credibility with the masses due to their detached and eclectic regurgitations of state press releases?
Unprecedented modification of the liberal order: to sustain the system of free flow (capital, labour, goods, social mobility) democracies needed to block the free dispersion of information. The internet as a system of informational entropy and collective memory (ultimately approaching a free flow of information) meanwhile modifies the nature of the system of free flows: by exposing them as nothing less than invalid propaganda it shakes the liberal democratic imaginary at its core. Of course, the Anglo-Saxon model had rather been a system of guarded openness and controlled flux: forcing open waters, borders and brains when favorable, impeaching when detrimental.
With informational liberalism the game changes. A meritocracy of dark intelligence emerges as users crowdsource the task of historiography. Every day agents vaccinate themselves with newly emerging revisionist history subverting the normative and symbolic order of the empire. The state loses grip upon what had been the effective emotional monopoly on trust, nobility, and pleasant feelings through propaganda in its various forms (from architectural emanations, to people magazines and uniforms); its secure and quiet strength challenged through crowd-sourced discovery and accumulation of the collateral in the imperial organization of space.
If the Gulf War had initiated the buzz of a hyphenation of reality with the tropical fever of the military dream-machine, the informational renegades of the internet are certain to serve the nasty hangover of counter-narratives composed of carelessly discarded information toxins. Perhaps, neither the Libyan nor the Syrian War are Taking Place but no Mediterranean Sea separates us in the long run from Misrata’s and Aleppo’s numeric corpses; even if presidents employ their best fiction writers(5) and conduct their concert of medical(6) , psychological and technical research(7) against the algorithmically calculated and data-mined popular brain.
The gentry observes and fears this very development of a resurfacing of information within a class which is structurally disidentified from the imperial ambitions of the shareholders. Quoi faire alors? Some agents advocate the closing of Pandora’s Box of information in an alliance of IP-industry and an emerging social puritanist hysteria initiated by the status fears of a drowning middle class. Porn filters for the UK and abandoning net-neutrality would be a convenient first step in disadvantaging “extremist” websites and system-hostile memes.
The sheer impotence of such a ban could cast some hope. The horrific version of the future would rather be the integration of the open and unstoppable flux of information into the very fabric of government. Propaganda 101 has always put the lesson of orthopraxy over orthodoxy(8) . The control of thoughts is only a secondary luxury for the prince. Primary importance resides in the destruction of all forms of independent collective organization. Perhaps this objective finds its most economic emanation in the fragmentation of the individual itself increasingly self-obsessively glued to the smart-screen: Facebook is substance D disconnecting the brain through attention span atrophy neuroplasticism. A panoply of addictive tech fills the void of proximity with surrogate sociality where paranoia reigns supreme.
The social networks provide the illusion of a cozy global village in which the tokens of design are the canvasses obstructing the cameras from view which would otherwise expose it as global laboratory. Today it has thus become less and less tenable to sustain Saatchi & Saatchi’s millionaire candy tokens and the self-indulging psychologist misery of state-funded expressionism; even for a moment: Art is dead and today reincarnates as social-, economic, political technology.
And it has too under suchlike conditions of imminent and charmless dystopia: Divine opportunity arises when the rumbling death-machine of the techno-industrial state radicalizes society into subdued info-cyborgs and the last agents of history.
(1) Allegations were of course up to this point considered to be belonging to the domain of „conspiracy theory“ and thereby considered inacceptable for official discourse. See my 2011 article min(e)d control discussing NSA data collection.
(2) Technically Wikileaks can merely be credited with providing a very plastic example of the intoxication and dehumanisation of US soldiers along with the everyday reality of the war in the „Collateral Murder“ video, the low-level classified documents released with the „cablegate“ affair have provided no genuine news to the public. The gist of Edward Snowden’s revelations meanwhile had been brought forth years before through NSA whistleblowers Russel Tice, Wayne Madsen, or James Bamford.
(3)Transnational because of the links and multilateral cooperations of secret services dating back to World War II through occupation networks such as Gladio.
(4)Of course Petraeus was to punished for his role in the 9.11 Benghazi attacks.
(5) Ben Rhodes earned an MA Fiction Writing at NYU. Hence intense discussions at what point Green Square had really been taken during the destruction of Cathargo.
(6)Today of course, the epitome of psychological research is a combination of Harvard and Guantanamo.
(7)Similarly today, university disciplines of psychology, political science, anthropology, and sociology are blending into neuroscience.
(8)No need to believe in that which you are currently doing. See for example Jacques Ellul’s classic- Propaganda-The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1973, p.27)
The Metropolitan Police’s former anti-terrorism boss, Andy Hayman, talks about his concerns for the government’s emergency planning system, known as Cobra.
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– book images
– link to COBRA PRESS
COBRA met on 22nd and 23rd May 2013 in response to the killing of the solider Lee Rigby in Woolwich, South London.
The first COBRA meeting on 22nd May was chaired by the Home secretary Theresa May.
The 23rd May committee meeting was chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron.
In attendance at the 23rd May meeting were:
- The Prime Minister, David Cameron
- The home secretary, Theresa May.
- The defence secretary, Philip Hammond.
- The mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
- The commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Bernard Hogan-Howe.
- The Met’s assistant commissioner, Cressida Dick.
- Minister for faith and communities, Lady Warsi.
- The communities secretary, Eric Pickles.
- “Intelligence agencies.”
COBRA: A Critical Response have creating a response in the form of a publication.
h+corp were invited to write a series of ‘slow responses’ to COBRA. Below is the second instalment.
No.2 on Cobra. No. 2 because I want to talk about that thing which is the state. Last night I read about the suicide of Guantanamo attorney Andy P. Hart, federal public defender. He’s leaving behind an eleven year old daughter.
Trail of (the) suicide(d)
Dr. David Kelly (UK Government whistleblower) – SUICIDE
Sean Hoare (News of the World whistleblower) – SUICIDE
Garry Webb („Iran Contra“ investigat. journalist) – SUICIDE
Aaron Schwartz (cyberactivist) – SUICIDE
Phillip Marshall (9.11 investigative author) – SUICIDE
Mark Lombardi (artist investigating money flows) – SUICIDE
What you see here is a list of deaths which have officially been deemed suicides. What they all have in common is that the persons, in one way or another, were involved with the most intimate pursuits of the state. This selection is small yet delicious, comprising only a small number of those who rushed through my mind whilst contemplating the issue. It appears to me as if those who occupy themselves with the strategic kernels of the power structure loose their nerve and kill themselves
leaving behind sons, daughters, families as well as their unsanswered questions into the structures they were investigating. Could we construct a phenomenology of the state by contriving a map of those suicides happening at its fringes- A pluridimensional cartography of metadata connecting art, science, politics, technology and journalism: how would it look like ?
Let me return to my list: Is the information on their suicides plausible? Resolute voices and dignified posture cluster as op-ed pieces around the news-items which are burrying the death in surrogate certainty. They discount all speculation deviating from the officially accredited explanation as the product of paranoid delusion. The mannerly media-consumer concords with such forbidding voice (a voice he is intimately familiar with because it is his own forbidding voice) – because the government he knows holds no possible motive in perpetrating disdainful acts. Films, documentaries, tailored suits, and spectacular office complexes have taught him and his elders to admire this entity decades ago. Meanwhile the suicides will confirm to him what he had already fathomed: that the very act of opposition to this thing itself is most intimately amalgamated to an ailing and sickly spirit; that opposition is compulsive and of the domain of pathology. He will consequently guard the appropriate distance from it – unconsciously yet all the more resolutely. Why investigate? Why diverge? Could we conclude any advocacy from these mechanisms and formulate a presumption about the nature of the state?
Perhaps that what we’re calling the state is a type of polarizing energy setting examples and creating zones of fragmentation and ambiguity which organize, attract or repulse information and allegiances; perhaps that state-action (if we were to advice an organizational principle for the PR of government agents)need always be construed according to the principle of plausible deniability- that non-space where information is neither affirmed nor denied: Because this ambiguity serves well its function in confirming to all who know that they know what they know. The state is that information which ensures the daily conduct of affairs and need not be proven because it is self-evident for a part of society sufficiently numerous to stabilize reality. Its strongest foundation is the collective will to narcosis of the masses. Opposition to that information therefore is what needs to clarify itself, be eloquent, explicit and in detail. The detainer of myth and commonplace need not be specific.
What lesson for an artistic response to Cobra? What lessons for a political project of art and design? Art as a political project naturally confers its ambigousness and thereby plausible deniability onto the information space of oppositional politics. Art as the ultimate domain of freedom must help politics to think closer to the fringes of reality and acceptable discourse again- it energizes political opposition where the latter has previously become toothless in a modus operandi of cautious critique; it lends its flamboyance where opposition has been rendered limp and confidenceless by the penetrating gaze of the inquisitional tribunal of power.
That’s why from today on my speech is pure fiction…
Art is the last remaining space of freedom and its future is grand because its social function is the commodification and reinsertion as capital of broken hearts and shattered spirits and today the viral exuberant sprawl of urban creative expression renders evident the therapeutic necessity of artistic practice and everyone who came into our white cubes could feel that there was air to breath much more than in skies soiled with black helicopters, tracking signals, and aluminum dust and that we managed to corrupt all the sons and daughters of those sitting in the control rooms of democracy until they found nothing short of ridicule in their fathers’ bent backs and petty projects of global reach and that when finally and in the end they were raiding the premises they found only black splattered walls with cryptic narratives and unreadable signifiers undefinable yet so dense they broke the spell with which reality was taken hostage and that’s a response to Cobra and that’s my response to Cobra.
© COBRA RES 2013