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A Short Interview with artist Shannon Spanhake about the DoEAT group.


Q: So, let's start with the basics of Who, What, When, Where and How. How did The Department of Ecological Authoring Tactics, Inc. (DoEAT) group start?

A: It began with some food projects I had started, thus the acronym, but it grew out of wanting to relieve myself from the institutional burden of being solely responsible for my thoughts and actions and to offer others this same shelter. It is not total anarchy, it is actually quite organized, it is simply adopting a methodology that many artistic, governmental, and corporate entities use to decentralize authorship.

Q: Who are the members at this time?

A: Rather than thinking of DoEAT as a group of individuals, I think it is more interesting to consider DoEAT as 'space' to be inhabited, not a physical space, but a conceptual plane that intersects with other planes (both physical and conceptual) in different ways to create alternate spatial ecologies and conceptual geographies. I am more interested in the idea of a template that is fixed around an ideology and a process rather then a group of people collaborating, where the realizations and articulations embodied by this template are variable. In much the same way that Rtmark, Al Qaeda, or even the Zapatistas statements regarding the name "Marcos" and his claims that the name doesn't inhabit the individual but rather, many individuals can inhabit the name. Our names aren't a secret or anything, currently at this very moment there is Shannon Spanhake, Camilo Ontiveros, Roberto Freddi, Jason Moore and Steve Rioux, but this could change in ten minutes or in two weeks, I like to think of DoEAT as an open-source twiki notice the "t", because its not about anonymity, its about collaboration.

Q: What are art_activist influences on the group's gestures?

A: The Situationists, Dada, Hans Haacke, Richard Serra, Temporary Services, WochenKlausur, Yes Men, Natalie Jermijenko, Electronic Disturbance Theatre, Helen and Newton Harrison, Superflex, Indymedia, Not in Our Name and the Anarchist Cheerleaders. There are so many organizations not recognized in the art world who have found very creative and interesting ways to proactively build awareness to issues, I mean look at Seattle – I wish that was my thesis show! There are also many artists who are recognized in the art world that seem to be doing little more then projecting propaganda. But, this is what makes this space such an interesting one to work in, it is a real challenge to have the intentions of an artist and an activist simultaneously.

Q: What are of some of the DOEAT projects?

A: "Digestion: Changing the Nature of Nature" LINK

This project consisted of a quasi-gourmet buffet with produce found in supermarket dumpsters, served as a graphic realizing different statistical data.

First we go dumpster diving, we choose to use only supermarket dumpsters as it exemplifies the imbalance of food distribution so clearly. We then research where the food was grown for comparison to where it is wasted, followed by generating a formula for both the composition of the food and graphic outlining the way the food would be served.

"Digestion" worked on multiple levels, the first was to shift the trajectory of this dumpster food by transforming it into quasi-gourmet food sculptures. And second to compose a meal using statistical data as the "recipe" to make a Map that was realized through both sight and taste. This project was an exploration into alternate ways of internalizing information. We were interested in connecting various types of data to create an information map that expressed both questions and answers in a pedagogical way.

"Cure Hunger, Eat Poor People" is a pasteurized and bottled juice made with supermarket dumpster produce, which is formulated according to the poverty levels of the countries where the produce is grown. The idea is to create a product derived from information alluding to the injustices committed, which can compete with products of the very corporations committing the crimes.

Rather then a juice made from exploitation of workers in South America, why not make a juice from information pointing this out. The title of the project is quoted from the amazing Galeano's "Upside Down". An anecdote: I asked someone to taste test the juice and they took a sip then said, "ick, there is too much lime, cant this be fixed?" and of course the reply was, "yes certainly, this can be resolved by adjusting the poverty level in Mexico where the limes where imported from." had we been realizing another type of data and the same ingredients the over-all taste of the juice would have been completely different.

Project 3

"Airwaves" is a project in progress that involves integrating wearable pollution monitors within the social infrastructure of the San Ysidro border street vending communities. The devices are hacked mobile phones that transmit the information to a database which reacts, if the national standard is exceeded, by interrupting a radio broadcast with respiratory sounds from the street vendors.


Also, here is the link for the Pollo Project (Chicken Project) which is still in development:


The plan for the future is that Tata, the chicken, is currently being fitted for a cluck activated, pheumatic, shit canon.

Q: The DoEAT projects can be framed as activation maps that push beyond formal aesthetic questions. To what degree does the question of art enter into the projects? Beyond that you are all artist - a question that seems to always haunt the artist-activist gesture.

A: Yes a very haunting question...The question of artistic merit enters the dialogue in every one of our projects, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail but we always try to be mindful of it. We are constantly trying to find ways to answer this question, right now my answer is that the work can operate on multiple levels.

Recently, I have been experimenting with this idea of what I call as "pokemon pedagogy." The marketing of “Pokemon “was really brilliant, you can make your own playing cards by doing well in the video game, you could get pointers for the video game by watching the cartoon on television, the cartoon advertised discounts on the toys, the toys came with teaser bonus cards to win the card game, and the card game motivated the need for the video game. this is very interesting because it offers so many levels of access which all become interdependent. Each entity has its own narrative, and also as a whole it is a continuous narrative that takes different forms and mediums to complete the entire story. The first iteration of this was done with the catered food visualization and bottled juice projects and now we are working through 'The Ear of the Pollo' project which has become really complex. I don't want to give too much away at this point as it has a long way to go. but layering projects with various types of interdependent articulation seems like a good resolve to answer this haunting question.