Garcia began the discussion by contextualising the Tactical Media movement he was personally involved in in the 1970s and 80s. Garcia spoke of the AIDS epidemic that tragically struck Amsterdam and subsequently gave rise to several political and artistic attempts to raise awareness of the issue. Garcia, along with several other individuals involved in the Tactical Media project, recognised the potential to intervene in certain media environments such as television and radio. The Tactical Media movement attempted to set up collaborations with organisations such as Act Up through the creation of a festival that would deal with queer politics, media savvy artists and attempts to reformulate the potential of hacker culture in order to inhabit the political sphere. Despite attempts, the collaboration was rejected, yet Garcia and several other activists did not ignore the burgeoning possibilities of digital media and technological formalism. The Tactical Media activists understood the power of media platforms and embarked upon a project to bring politics to media platforms.

The discussion then moved to the topicality of the exhibition and the possibilities of Tactical Media in all of its forms. The event successfully involved not only discussions between the panel, but the audience as well, who often gave refreshing opinions and raised excellent questions to open up the discussion. One audience member raised the issue of identity politics and the rising sense of exhaustion in this area, which in turn led to considerations about the corrosion of institutions of truth that we as the public heavily rely upon. The discussion raised profound questions such as ‘where does the power now lie?’ and ‘how real is real?’ that were left partly unanswered to encourage contemplation.

Successfully, the event fostered a dialogue surrounding the shift in news sources, identifying the role of social media as a primary news source and the problems and benefits that arise from this. Cramer suggested that this shift could be potentially problematic, as media news sources lose their role as mediators, relating this contemporary issue to other historical contexts such as the tactics used by the Nazi party to cut out the middleman as a propagandistic strategy. Cramer identified a shift in dictating the news directly from the source to the people (banishing any mediating influence) and how historically this had been used as a form of censorship and control. The general consensus was that this new environment of information and news needed to be taken control of, somehow.

All three speakers recognised how the right have understood, in recent times, how much better to ‘surf the chaos’ of media culture and discussed how the movement from macro news sources to micro news sources (via social media) created a radical multiplication of single points of view. Audience members brought to light the potential dangers in the immediacy of social media platforms as being ‘too instant’ and how limited time to reflect upon ideas may ultimately have negative effects upon re-politicised public discourse. The discussion panel acknowledged the constant fears that often follow new technology and suggested in order to combat this a greater sense of media literacy must be achieved. Challenging topics such as the ‘weaponising’ of DIY media, the discourse of alternative facts and battle between cultural identification versus empirical truth were discussed and left open to contemplation. Overall, the relationship between art and politics was addressed whole-heartedly which neatly tied into the themes of the exhibition. The ending comments summarised the way in which technology as a platform is often defined by paranoia following a rise in surveillance culture and asked the audience to consider the potential for a re-imagination regarding these relations.

The event raised interesting and intellectual discussions surrounding fiction and reality in public discourse, misinformation and deception. It served as a great example of the importance of fostering inter-disciplinary dialogues in order to discuss urgent contemporary political and social issues. The on-going programme of events at FACT demonstrate the necessity of raising challenging questions, taking risks and aligning visual arts with discourse to create spaces in which to bravely consider meaningful topics such as the future role of digital technology and the media.

Find out about other activities relating to How much of this is fiction., showcased at FACT until 21 May, here.