A Colourful Ruse | oliver's blogpost @ Memefest
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A Colourful Ruse

It has been a while. But I must say I have enjoyed the break. Blogging since 2003 is not always easy, although it is mostly fun, rewarding, interesting and satisfying. Sometimes though, a break is nice and good to have. No matter how I turn it around, and how much technologies change the media sphere, still- communicating through autonomous channels is one of the key elements of a public sphere worth the word public.

The digital silence on memefest.org does not mean we have not been active. We have been, and very much so, but mostly we were off line. Although considering that Memefest is a collective/network and its members are living all around the world – it seems there is no way not to go online in order to stay in touch and do stuff together. But than again, this is not really true. So we are mostly busy this days with conceptualising the new Festival theme, we started working on some redesign issues of this website, we are building new networks and have made some new wonderful friends. There is more to say about this and other things and we will very soon.

One thing that made me thinking a lot lately is something I came across while reading an interview, a conversation with Hito Steyerl. (You should read her essay “A Thing Like You and Me” and you should also watch this http://www.ubu.com/film/steyerl_andrea.html) So, she is interested in post representational politics and claims that this is where true participation can actually happen. I wrote once a text “Beyond the Image and Towards Communication” in which I discussed the inability of visual representations to develop participation (http://tinyurl.com/nsn9ybj) and I liked what I was reading a lot. But what kept me busy thinking and felling about how we communicate for the last two weeks is when Hito Steyerl was talking about the pressures of the current dominant (media) culture “to represent and be represented”. This made me even happier for not posting things online for some time. And I think she is right- isn’t this what’s happening? And it happens in ways where both things somehow merge- we represent and are represented while representing. Seriously, I think this is a damn good description of what’s happening on Facebook and actually more and more in our every day life… and to be clear in alternative communication/design/media practices as well. The ghost of self promotion rarely is not hunting our actions, it is as if the act of representing ourselves is a condition for to be able to represent something we think is worth the effort and is important to be communicated. But self- promotion does not really describe completely what’s happening… it is also more than that…

The other thing that kept me busy thinking and made me smile with a serious face was the fact that Subcomandante Marcos, spokes person and de facto leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has announced his end as a powerful symbol, a representation of global proportions and huge symbolic capital. In a speech commemorating the death of compañero Galeano he announced the end of subcomandante Marcos and the birth of subcomandante Galeano. Now, it is a old Mexican tradition to take on the names of fallen compañeros, José Doroteo Arango Arámbula did it also and became Pancho Villa. But this is much more. In 1994 the Zapatistas made Marcos the public image of their movement – for good and for bad, but the strategy they developed during the twenty years of the Zapatista struggle is nothing less than amazing. We know the Zapatistas became strong to a big degree due their use of the Internet and media in general. In that sense they were ground breaking and I remember how much the media activist scene was looking at them and learning from them. While realising what he or better his image, his representation has become, this very image is now being destroyed.

But in the process of destruction there is an act of deconstruction, not unlike the one theorised in the principles of Socially Responsive Communication, as one of the seven principles being: “It self deconstructs in the communication processes with the purpose to establish a critical distance of the public to the communicator. “ But when and how, this is the question. It seems it had to be twenty years for Marcos to become Galeano. First what needed to be done is the invention of Marcos as a media image or as Marcos puts it “a hologram”. The purpose, it seems, was to create a language that those who are blind- as corporate media are- could relate to: “They can only see those who are as small as they are. Let’s make someone as small as they are, so that they can see him and through him, they can see us.” A colourful ruse as Marcos describes his own character: “So then, as I mentioned, the work of constructing this character began. One day Marcos’ eyes were blue, another day they were green, or brown, or hazel, or black — all depending on who did the interview and took the picture. He was the back-up player of professional soccer teams, an employee in department stores, a chauffeur, philosopher, filmmaker, and the etcéteras that can be found in the paid media of those calendars and in various geographies. There was a Marcos for every occasion, that is to say, for every interview.”

His speech, which destroys and deconstruct creates a critical distance between the Marcos image and the close and far publics. He speaks to his own compañeros and through the media to a global public. And of course there is immediately misunderstandings, non -understandings by big media reporting Marcos has “stepped down”, as BBC did or Marcos has “retired” as Reuters did.

The whole speech is online here (http://tinyurl.com/pygsyzp), and it’s a fascinating read as fascinating as the images you will see that have been taken at the event are.

Marcos’ image became extremely strong as a pop cultural media icon. Not far from the famous image of Che Guevara. The bar I liked to go to in Brisbane had a huge 3m poster of Marcos on the wall and it was a Hipster bar.

Marcos as an image became problematic. As a common, it became too common and it therefore created a distance. Digested by the media machine, empty rhetoric’s of politicians, the standardisation through the surface of the designed image and commercial pop culture…and … the pressure to represent and being represented.

He came to this final act of his own visual identity with some new visual elements- have a look at the eye patch and the glove: ”If you will allow me one piece of advice: you should cultivate a bit of a sense of humour, not only for your own mental and physical health, but because without a sense of humour you’re not going to understand Zapatismo. And those who don’t understand, judge; and those who judge, condemn.”


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7 years, 1 month ago

Actually, I'm working very hard!

7 years, 1 month ago






Oliver Vodeb






I am a member of Memefest communication/art/theory Kolektiv, and founder, curator and editor of Memefest Festival of Socially Responsive Communication and Art. Iam also facilitator of Memefest online social network.

I am an Academic at RMIT University, Melbourne. I teach and research mostly in the field of communication design. I approach design/communication from a critical inter/ extradisciplinary perspective and I investigate theoretical, strategic, conceptual and "hands on" practice.

I enjoy working in many different media including visual and text.

Books I have published :





This was my studio in Slovenia (2004-2012): www.poper.si

CV (sort of): http://www.memefest.org/en/about/who_we_are_oliver_vodeb/

You can read some of my texts here:

I have joined the Memfest community becasue i am interested in

I have been here from the very beginning of Memefest. I am interested in communication/design for social and environmental change.
I name such communication socially responsive communication.

Broadly speaking I am interested in visual communication, photography, sociological aspects of communication, design and media.

Iam interested in institutionalised forms of communication like for example communication done by design/communication studios and advertising agencies as well as non institutionalised forms of communication like tactical media or broader aspects of media activism.

In a slightly more academic language:

I am interested in how critical social theory can illuminate the complex processes of production, distribution and reception of public (visual) communication in order to generate public communication as a responsible social, political, economic and cultural practice.

I am particularly interested in relations between concepts of response-ability and communication effectiveness, and the social construction of design and other forms of pubic communication as profession, practice and praxis within academia, the market environments and non-institutionalised communities.


was studiing at Faculty for social sciences University of Ljubljana


PhD in sociology of communication and design

Working place

RMIT University, School of Design, Master of Communication Design

Music I like

Flamming Lips, Pixies, The Black Crowes, Demeter, Porno for Pyros, Ry Cooder, Junior Kimbrough, Townes van Zandt, T-model Ford, The Dirty Three, Bonnie Prince Billy, Primus, Faith no More, Bob Dylan, RHCP, Alice Donut, Faith no more, Mark Lanegan, Reigning Sound, Total Control;

Books I like

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Confederacy of Dunces, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, PanikHerz...;

Films I like

The man who wasn't there, No country for old man, Genova, Zidane a 21st century portrait, There will be blood, Il Postino, Festen, Straight Story, Wild at heart, White Ribbon, Dog tooth;

Communication projects I like

I like stuff we did at Poper studio. I like posters from Inkahoots. I like the zine project 23/56 from Kevin. I like many things that were submitted to Memefest, I like stuff from Cactusnetwork, I like the work of Image-shift.

Websites I like

poper.si, memefest.org, magnumphotos.com, mubi.com, ubu.com, http://twotheories.blogspot.com, brianholmes.wordpress.com, www.lensculture.com, www.burnmagazine.org, www.bagnewsnotes.com, www.cactusnetwork.org.uk, http://www.image-shift.net, www.inkahoots.com.au/

People I like

My dear family and my wonderful friends.