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Live Blog: Field Trip – Hosted by a Public Domain

Hosted by a Public


The field trip through the maze of the public domain with an expanding group of people. Linda Hilfling had invited a bunch of people to present or give a workshop at some ‘public’ locations throughout Utrecht on the subject of the public domain. From the hectic Utrecht Central/Hoog Catharijne, to a corner in the library, a corridor in City Hall accompanied by people needing to pass by or use the copy machine, a parking construction to finally turn to the heavens at the observatory.

It all started at the meeting point underneath the big blue screen. Linda Hilfling was supposed to give a presentation on her ‘a Public Domain’  work at the frantic shopping mall Hoog Catharijne, however her interventionist network got constantly thrown-out by all the other networks in that area. This is why we diverted to Theater Kikker for her presentation. Linda Hilfling questions the ownership of language, especially the dynamics of trademarks. Her project consists of a free – seemingly normal – wireless network that anyone can log-on to. However when you browse through a site there are words missing. In actuality you haven’t logged-on to a server that directly connects you to the internet but you are passing through Hilfling’s computer which filters out all the trademarked words from any site you might visit.

When she first started the project in Denmark she tried to get excess from the local Danish trademark office to use their information, however the people there were reluctant and only offered the (public) information against a notable amount of money. Hilfling opted for a different route and used an program to obtain the data. After collecting the data, she needed to create a new code and her own (local) network.

This piece of intervention is one that presents you a legal world, one in which you’re not infringing upon someone’s word. It gives you the words that are for all, in other words public domain.

If you want to create your own public domain you can visit Linda Hilfling’s site and download a package.

French artist Aymeric Mansoux brought us to a corner in the public library, where next to a book sorting machine, he gave a workshop on the meaning of the word common. A small booklet called ‘A Common Dictionary’ included three words that needed a definition and a question ‘Is YouTube an Open System? Why?’ at the bottom of each page. First you had two minutes to give a definition to: Public Domain/Common/Creative Common, after which you needed to join-up with another person and come to a consensus on the different definitions, when that was finished you needed to join with another team of two and come to a final consensus. In order to create a dictionary on the common. Conclusion: creating a definition on the common in a community is nearly impossible.

Tucked in a corridor between a coffee and copy machine, art critic Fredrik Svensk gave a lecture inspired by Hegel’s work and Garrett Hardin’s 1968 article ‘The Tradegy of the Commons.’ The principle being the tragic nature of being in a state or community, presupposes an sacrifice of the very thing you want to uphold by forming this community. In order to survive and have freedom we form a bond of the state, which in turn asks from us to give in freedoms. This freedom by limiting your freedom is, according to Hegel, a higher freedom then the one the initial, solitary person, possessed, because the collective can create more than one single individual could, thus making all more free. In the realm of the public domain debate the question is: isn’t it a type of tragedy that is immanent to the sphere of the state? The utopian idea would be that all is public however as we have seen in Linda Hilfling’s project this isn’t the case, language is owned. This ownership is the state at this moment in time. We could all move to a cabin in the forest or up in the hills and leave the state, but is this really a way out?

In a concrete parking construction our group experiences an almost religious experience through the mesmerism’s of  Goodiepal aka the Århus Warrior. Sitting in a wheelchair, because of an accident he got involved in while biking from Moscow to Utrecht, he started his tale at a hypnotic pace. The act of giving. A story. A performance. An experience. All going out on a whistle.

It is difficult to transcribe in words, as one of the other people on the trip commented: ‘just write Awesome’, but even this wouldn’t suffice the experience.  

Ending it with the stars. Alejandro Duque shared with us a self-made antenna which he had kept in his backpack during the entire trip around Utrecht. And tried to find an ancient satellites [read an US-military satellite from the 80’s] that Brazilian truck drivers use to talk with each other. In the observatory under a clouded nights sky he discussed the last frontier of free public space: outer-space. Apparently these antennas are easy to make yourself and a free way to communicate, so whenever you’re planning to start a new revolution but communication systems are shut down you can always turn to the good old antenna.

With tired feet and dazed by the experience the fieldtrip ended there in the observatory looking over the City we had just passed through.