Popular notions about regionalism derived from the 1930's and belief in the cultural integrity of regions lie shattered beneath more recent onslaughts from corporate America. The tentacles of their ubiquitous and homogenizing force, as personified in TV, radio, and print media, have penetrated deep into the domestic sphere, exhorting us to buy it, speak it, think it.*
The Aggressive School takes for granted that physical region no longer has much relevance and that our geography is much more tied to technology and the region it occupies. We recognize that we already exist in a world where multiple, overlapping mental and psychic regions occupy the same geographic space. This is the region whose size must be taken into account.
Not surprisingly, a new breed of cultural worker has developed who takes these geographic and psychic disturbances as the context from which much of their work springs. We are speaking here of the concept of the networker and the network.
The networker is someone who respects no borders, brooks no artificial barriers in his or her quest to celebrate the most basic of human acts: communication. Connected with others across the country and around the globe, networkers generate dialogues of many kinds, from play to collaboration to propagandizing. It's a defiant and subversive culture constantly slipping its message through the postal system in the form of xeroxes, underground zines, audio cassettes, videotapes, and computer discs. More recently, the fax, modem, and computer bulletin board have been added to the networker's repertoire. Indeed, all the duplicative technologies and any other available means of transmitting information are potential tools for the networker.
Emphasizing decentralization and collaboration in a spirit of respect and exchange, the networker bridges the isolation of geographic and cultural boundaries. The network is an open system that spits in the face of bureaucracies, respects no political system, and rejects the hierarchical nature of the established commodity art system. The complex and ever-changing mosaic of the network at any one moment is the sum of all its participants and their interaction throughout the network.*
Decentralization has a primary position in the philosophy of networking. For the networker, it's a call for the dismantling of the power vested in the hands of a few (corporate and cultural) and its equitable redistribution so individuals can take control and responsibility for how they shape their own lives. But there's another factor of equal importance about decentralization for networkers - many of them are quite literally decentralized geographically. The network becomes the link and medium for all these people.
It's a very responsive network, as the Aggressive School of Cultural Workers - Iowa Chapter (ASCW-IA) discovered at the end of last year. Early in December 1990, we issued an international call for submissions for a show against war in the Persian Gulf. By the time the show opened on January 15th, 1991, we had received 150 submissions from 25 countries. Opening on the eve of the war, the show was reviewed prominently in the next day's local newspaper. At the very least, this served to counteract the blazing war headlines and served notice that some people were not going to be swayed by the jingoistic hysteria that consumed the country for the next couple of months. In cases like this, the network provides a ready mechanism for an aggressive cultural response that can be organized at short notice and mounted anywhere.*
The ability of the ASCW-IA to organize a show like "Lies in the Sand" in a place like Iowa City attests to the pervasive reach of the network and its ready embrace of far-flung geographic locations. Since mounting an effective and timely cultural offense is possible for networkers, it was disappointing to see that before and during the war, few others took up the challenge to resist in this manner. There should have been hundreds of shows like this in small towns across the country - for these are precisely the kinds of places where a dissenting voice was most needed. All it takes is one person with a mailing list, some stamps, and publicity.*
The Aggressive School also recognizes the importance of a critical regionalism that is grounded in an understanding of the specific local issues affecting each particular community and the necessity of bridging these issues within a broader inter/national perspective, for they are inextricably linked.*
These are linked in the same way that General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., and his father, Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., are linked in their service to American oil interests in the Middle East. Schwarzkopf, Sr., a retired police officer, was an adviser to the Iranian national police when Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh announced the nationalization of the oil companies. He also worked with the CIA's Kim Roosevelt, who coordinated the overthrow of Mossadegh, the return of the Shah, and the installation as Prime Minister of Schwarzkopf, Sr.'s assistant, Fazlollah Zahedi, who spent World War II interned by the British as a Nazi sympathizer.*
The Aggressive School of Cultural Workers-Iowa City was formed in November 1990 and is an ongoing project with a revolving membership.