Call For Accountability And The Criminalization Of Research

In the past few weeks, a number of developments have occurred in relation to the art/research practices of bang lab and Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), which we wish to share with the public in accordance with our long history of radical transparency.

  • Since November of 2009 the Transborder Immigrant Tool has become a media event with many groups and individuals, such as Congressman Duncan Hunter in his Op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune, calling for the defunding of the Transborder Immigrant Tool. The University of California system began a financial audit of the project on January 11, 2010, in which they requested that every member involved be interviewed by Audit & Management Advisory Services (UCSD). The exact investigations (they claim that there are multiple) under way have yet to be clarified by UCOP or other UC entities, but in the interviews thus far, TBT members have been questioned about the usage of the funds and the originality of the project. The investigation has ‘arrested’ TBT’s developmental process and core research matrix.
  • To add injury to injury, due to widespread media coverage of the Transborder Immigrant Tool, members of bang.lab and EDT also have been receiving copious hateful email and paper letters, some including threats of physical violence and murder. The racist, xenophobic, classist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic “excitable speech” of the threats has been as clear as that of the correspondence received in recent weeks by national representatives who voted for health care legislation. Hardly a tea party!
  • On March 2nd, Markyudof.com publicly declared the resignation of UCOP Mark Yudof in a gesture of minor simulation to encourage the imagining of other possible futures. On March 21st, bang.lab received notice that a faculty member at UC Riverside was being investigated in relation to this action.
  • On March 4th, bang.calit2.net hosted a virtual sit-in against the UCOP website, providing a space for many people concerned with public education to embody their dissent online. As a result, UCSD IT Security shut down our server’s access to the Internet for eight days. Shortly thereafter, we were informed that an investigation of Ricardo Dominguez by the Senior Vice Chancellor (SVC) was initiated by the UCOP to determine if criminal charges were in order for the virtual sit-in, despite the legal precedent that a virtual sit-in is political speech, not a DDOS attack. This investigation—itself in the service of a denial of distributed free speech—has been framed by SVC as potential reason to end Professor Dominguez’s tenure.
    These events are of a piece with a number of troubling trends in the current transnational struggle for education (and more equal distribution of resources, generally speaking):
  • A disregard for the academic freedom of cultural producers engaging in research trajectories of art, literature and technology (that, for instance, the Visual Arts Department and CALIT2 considered valuable enough to earn Professor Dominguez tenure)
  • The use of bureaucracy as a weapon, to prevent the aforementioned research from continuing by bogging down its practitioners in endless meetings with accountants and investigations.
  • The criminalization of dissent: across the UC system and the world on March 4th people engaged in actions, including civil disobedience, to try to restore public education, stop the budget cuts and work towards a better future for education. We are among hundreds of people facing charges for engaging in dissent from the very institutions that claim to foster independent thinking (connect the dots—consider the group of students recently threatened with 6 month suspensions).

While we believe that poetry, walking art and queer technology cannot be “spread-sheet Excel-ed,” we, in bang lab, harbor our own concerns for the lack of accountability that enables the UC system to continue transforming a public university for the state of California into a private corporation, accessible to a select few. The selective lack of accountability, that bedrocks that hubris, fails to count the number of deaths tragically enabled by the continuous gerrymandering of international borders for instance. To perform our own due diligence in the spirit of accounting for the here and now, we seek to “queer the census”: if you feel that you are a part of the bang.lab or have participated in any of our activities in mind, body, spirit (in real or virtual timespace), get up, stand up!, sign your name and/or comment.

Update 4/1/2010: Yesterday, March 31st, 2 UCPD detectives showed up at Ricardo’s office at Calit2 to question him, indicating that they were investigating criminal charges at all levels, city, county, state, federal. The harassment is increasing in severity.