CODE : RED
CODE : RED
by Tadej Pogačar
CODE:RED is a multidisciplinary, multimedia, collaboration project, which discusses and researches the informal economy models, self-organisation, global sex work and global trafficking.
The economy of sex work is a vital source of income for numerous segments of the population on all continents, segments that are excluded from the dominant economy. Most commonly the underprivileged social groups (women, children), who symbolically and realistically live on the boarder or outside of society and are stigmatised and without any basic human rights are forced into prostitution.
When we discuss globalisation, we most often talk about the hyper-mobility of capital and services, the influence that new technologies have on the production, distribution and communication and less about the other side of the same phenomenon: the new international division of work, the new forms of slavery, new gender divisions, etc., which are a consequence of the economic demands that the developed world has from the third world countries.
The occurence of the new international division of work is decisively dependent on the so-called womens work, which is closely tied to migration and the current phenomena of feminising migrations. In this context prostitution and trafficking in human, i.e. the numerous forms of slavery, play an important role. A great increase in this type of criminal activities and the redirection of organised crime groups into this field point towards the great profit that these activities create. The globalisation of prostitution, as well as logistics and communication networks, which surround the community of migrant sex workers show that we can not expect any great changes in the migration tendences in the future.
CODE:RED encompases various forms of joint operation with experts, scientists and activist groups, from research, activation, self-help to public maniestations, actions, exhibitions, etc. The project takes place within and outside the art context. P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art co-operates at these acttions according to the principles of teamwork and establishes equal partner relations with groups and individuals. The project CODE:RED actively intervenes in the existing conditions of things and searches for new ways and forms to change them. It also opens the artistic space for dealing with the issue and changing social, economic and political issues.
As far as content is concerned the first four years of the CODE:RED project could be divided into three phases: conceptual phase (1999/2000), which inclided the preparation, study, concept, and similar; activist phase (2001-…. ), which included public operation, establishing links, actions and interventions and the phase of cartography of the global trafficking
(2004 - …). The short crossing of activities between the years 1999 and 2004 can be structured around the following chapters: models of connections and activism, autonomous media, public actions, mobile architecture, cartography.
One of the basic questions is how to survive outside the mechanisms and the frame of global capitalism. The project CODE:RED researches also the issues of self-organisation of the marginal groups and communities, which take place outside the dominant social, economic and political frames. As in the past, there still exists a clear division in the contemporary society between those groups that are within the society and those that found themselves on the outside of it. In order to survive the excluded are forced into self-organisation. The self-organisation of the excluded is radically different from those, the identity of whom can enter a "legitimate" social structure.
Models of connections
I. World Congres of Sex Workers and New Parasitism, Venice 2001 / The Ultimate Sex Worker Conspiracy Soiree: Conference and Party, New York 2002
The two most complex examples of connecting were organised in 2001 and 2002 in the form of "congresses" and "conferences". The I. World Congress of Sex Workers and New Parasitism was the first public manifestation of the CODE:RED project. Due to the excellent organisation the action achieved great attention and extensive media coverage from the official media. The project emerged as a consequence of our co-operation with Comitate per I Diritti Civili delle Prostitute from Pordeon, one of the leading organisations for the protection of sex workers in Italy.
The I. World Congres of Sex Workers and New Parasitism took place within the frame of the 49th Venice Biennial, between 6th and 8th June 2001, on a public space at Giardini in a tent, or the so-called Prostitute Pavilion (Padiglione delle Prostitute). The list of the participating groups and organisations included groups, activists and individuals from Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Germany, USA and Australia. The congress was conceived as a creative frame for connections, exchange and informing. The activists and groups presented the current situation on the sex market, the strategies of the fight for civil rights of sexual workers, however, their emphasise was on the presentation of the principles of organization, education, self-help and protection. This was performed through conversations, video projects, exhibitions, documentary publications, performances, activist street theatre, appearances, etc. One of the main emphasis was oriented towards Asia, where the sex industry has been experiencing one of the greatest boosts during the last few years.(4) The Taiwanese activists from the group COSWAS presented the successful rebellion of Taiwanese sex workers. Through demonstrations, media appearances and inventiveness they achieved a victory against the town authorities in Taipei, who tried to adopt a new restrictive legislation. Apart from the Cambodian activists (CWDA) and those from Vietnam also a representative from the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) from Bangkok participated. GAATW has deep roots in the fight against abusing prostitutes in Asia and heads an educational programme as well as medical and legal help, etc. In 1996 GAATW adopted the so-called Dutch model, which understands sex economy as an industry in which all participants have the right to legal protection by their syndicates.
The main purpose of The Ultimate Sex Worker Conspiracy Soiree: Conference and Party, which took place as a part of the CODE:RED USA project in the bar True in New York was to connect and create a direct reaction towards the local, national and international problems of sex work.
At the conference representatives from various organizations from New York, Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles participated. The conference was organised in co-operation with organizations that fight for the rights of sex workers (PONY, COYOTE and SACRD), homosexuals (HOOK) and transsexuals. Through mutual co-operation between the groups that fight for the right of different sexually oriented and operate within all branches of the sex industry a very positive co-operative and solidarity atmosphere was created. Due to its criminal status in USA sex work and prostitution are experiencing a special transformation, for they are moving from the social public space into the virtual space. Following the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the sex workers were exposed as a fairly suspicious and problematic group and the city major practically gave them the same status as terrorists. The Ultimate Sex Worker Conspiracy Soiree: Conference and Party was organised in co-operation with the most important activist groups and held over 20 speakers. The theme of the short dicsussions and round tables, which were attended by experts, scientists, activists and sex workers were the following: the rights of sex workers, gender and sexual identity, race and class in sex work. The performances and short appearances, which deal with the sex industry were contributed by writers (among others also Tracy Quan and David Sterry), poets, actors, artists and the radical activist unit.
The homepage CODE:RED USA / Sex Worker newspaper / A Monument to the Unknown Prostitute, Ljubljana 2002
The homepage CODE:RED USA was conceived as a basic informational and communication tool of the project, for due to its anonymous nature (formal legislation) the information as regards the actions was not mediated through the public media. The homepage was officially accessible to the general public on the Internet from midnight of 15th April 2002 CET onwards, i.e. 6 am New York time.
The homepage included the basic information on the project, the most up-to-date announcements of actions and interventions, a public forum, the project history and links.
During the Congress in Venice the first thematic issue of the Sex Worker newspaper was published. The newspaper was distributed free of charge to all passers-by and the public of the A+A Gallery. In it one could find the official manifest of the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art and Comitato per I Diritti Civili delle Prostitue, information on the congress programe, the participants, etc. The second themativ issue of the newspaper was published at the project CODE:RED Sector Zagreb and dealt with the issues of global migrations and presented a new arhitectural model of mobile architecture intended for independent sex workers.
The Monument to the Unknown Prostitute was set up between 1st and 5th February in the centre of Ljubljana. It was set up within the frame of the Agent of Change project in the INternational Centre of Graphic Arts. The Monument to the Unknown Prostitute was accompanied by the round table Globalism and New Exclusions and the public unveiling, which summarised all the elements of the symbolic opening ceremony.
The form of the »temporary monument« deals with the issue of the public space, a specific location and the idea of monumentality, The »temporary monument« is fragmentary and heterogenous. It emerges spontaneously, non-lineary and subjectively. At its construction it uses recycling, collages, direct information, participation and everyday, used or cheap materials: one say that it follows the ethics and aesthetics of the everyday and temporariness.
Red Umbrell'as March, Venice 2001 / Golden Shoes of Times Square, New York 2002 / Stripping with Marx, Humboldt University, Berlin 2002
The Red Umbrella's March is an example of a manifestation march, which actively and publicy demonstrates its presence in city. In order for it to be better heard and seen it uses requisites, such as megaphones and red umbrellas, thus loudly drawing attention to its situation and not differing from the usual forms of political demonstrations. The march with the Congress participants, local organisations and accidental sympathisers starte dat the Congress tent and went to the A+A Gallery, going through the city centre on its way. The march crossed the city in order to cause an interruption, a sound and visual disturbance in the routine and continuity of the city panorama. Apart from the realistic, manifestation side it also ha dan important symbolic side.
With the joint walk the new geographic points of the city were defined, the points that are otherwise forgotten. This is the geography of the social history of sex workers, from the famous Venetian courtesans Veronica Franco and Gaspara Stampa right until today.
THe action Golden Shoes of Times Square was carried out on 1st May 2002 on Times Square in New York. Similar to The Red Umbrellas March this action also took advantage of walking, but in a different way. In this action walking was in itimate act and the action took place only for the attentive passer-by, for the actor was lost amidst the masses of visitors and tourists. The walk took place at a slow pace and in silence. The actor walked around the entire square, and while doing so he pulled a pair of golden womens shoes behind him on a string. The Times Square location was was not not chosen by chance. This is an important symbolic location of New York sex industry, which was in the second half of the 80s changed into a symbol of its criminality and in the beginning of the 90s into a symbol of its disappearance. Since 1985 the city government has started to publicly incriminate peep shows, theatres acinemas that showed films with sexual content. All of this was performed in the name of »safety and health«. In 1990 the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani (with the help of the Walt Disney corporation) »cleared« the city centre with a series of new restrictive laws.
In his work Times Square Red, Times Square Blue Samuel R. Delany states that the decision that the Times Square should be »cleared« had little in common with the true struggle for public health. It was mainly based on corporate greed. At the same time it announced the victory of the new repressive mentality currently governing New York, which in the name of hygiene forbids social contacst and communication between people of various races and classes on an urban public space.
The public performance Stripping with Marx was conceived within the frame of the project Ostensiv: Free Art of Eastern Europe, in the great entrance hall of the Humboldt University in Berlin, in front of a staircase, which carries the famous quote by Karl Marx: »Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur vershieden interpreziert, es kommt aber darauf an, sie zu verendern.«
A local stripper performed in this performance. For his performance he used a number of costumes. From a monster (the unknown, evil) he changed into the figure of male film and literary heroes, who stereotypically present power, goodness and natural, i.e. Superman and Tarzan. The University location (reproduction of knowledge), quote (demand for action and the change of the situation) and sex worker (representation of male stereotypes) created an interesting triangle of meanings and divisions.
Working Unit Z 01, Zagreb 2003
Working Unit Z 01 is an architectural plan, which arose in co-operation with the architect Anja Planiscek within the frame of the project CODE:RED Sector Zagreb. With the co-operation of the historian Petra hoblaj and the International Organistaion for Migrations (IOM) we prepared a round table on forced migrations, which are very common inthe territory of the Balkans.
Through the model Working Unit Z 01 we (for the first time) dealt with the housing problem of a marginal group. The new model of mobile architectur should function as a basic module, completely adjusted to the independent work of sex workers. The camper Working Unit Z01 can be easily assembled, is mobile and adjustable. It enables simple transport and simple inclusion into the existing energy sources and sanitary pipelines or can be adjusted for self-provision systems. A nuber of linked units can form larger units or even well rounded urban solutions. The interior of the basic module is composed from five zones: the hygiene zone, the reception room, the lounge, the kight zone and the working zone. It is furnished with functional furniture, a barthroom, video and audio appliances and a security-communication system, which enables a direct link with the police.
For the first prototypes we selected three potential urban and suburban locations in Zagreb and its suburbs, where we also developed this model. In most aspects they were in line with the functional demands and parameters (accessibility, safety, infrastructure, autonomy) for the setting up of the first complexes of working units.
The Working Unit Z 01 module was insired by numerous (utopic and real) urbanistic and architectural models from the late 60s, for example the concept of the Plug-in City by Peter Cook or the diametric concept of the New Babylon, which were conceived as collective, social projects and operated predominantly as a specific projective frame for creating new situations.
MONAPOLY - A Human Trade Game, 2004
In the early 70s Oyvind Fahlstrom created works that invited the spectator to reach into them, to actively change them. Amongst the best known was also the Monopoly series (CIA Monopoly, World Trade Monopoly, Indochina Monopoly). These were all remodels of the original game, whic critically dealt with the American foreign policy, global trade, the arms industry ad the topography of American military interventions throughout the world.
The game MONAPOLY is also a remodelling of the most famous capitalist game. Visually it follows Monopoly and the basic scheme of the game, but the contents are completely new. While playing the players obtain new information on the global sex work, important loctions, activist organisations, organised crime gangs that organise the white slave trade, etc. The players can finance the constuction of a safe house, support the operation of groups that are fighting for the rights of the sex workers and their programmes or can save a sex slave from Moldova.
MONAPOLY is a new cartography of sex work and white slave trade. Instead of accumulating capital, it explains to the players the geopolitics of sex work in the period of late global capitalism and new economy.