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ZTOHOVEN, we are not biometric data
ZTHOVEN, Citizen K Neural 39 > p.13 > hacktivism > Ztohoven, we are not biometric data, interview
#Can you tell us what ZTOHOVEN is? What are the organization’s aims? ZTOHOVEN is a platform that brings together people who don't want to stay passive to the problems of the social environment in which they live. At the moment there are 11 of us involved in the current project, “Občan K.” aka Citizen K. (Občan K. sounds similar to občanka in the Czech language, which means ID card). We don't want to put answers on the table, but prefer question marks. In a word, we don't want to do art for the sake of art, or just think about problems with a glass of beer in hand. We want to live and investigate problems through our projects. This is a sociological aspect of our practice - we set our bodies and minds on researching problems we consider crucial.
Would you also describe yourselves as artists? Our projects are locally-driven and problemdriven. Our aim therefore is not to be just another body that produces a kind of art. Each project starts with an important problem that we are facing. We don't care if we are artists, criminals, guerillas or gorillas. The question is not who we are, but what our projects can tell people. For us, it is important to ask how we can contribute to the world in which we live in. We don't need to be categorized. We don't ask ourselves what we are and if we were asked each of us would probably give different answers.
You have said that your projects are locally and problem-driven and all of them have so far taken place in your country. Do they solely address the inhabitants of the Czech Republic? Our motivation to do projects is locally-driven in that we can only react to the problems we go through. Are other people faced with similar problems? Not only in Czech Republic, but all around the world? Maybe I could try to answer by referring to some examples: Our first project (in 2003) concerned the end of the presidency of Vaclav Havel who was a symbol of apolitical politics. During the Socialist era he was a dissident and after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 he was elected as president. A big shining heart was installed on the roof of the Prague Castle, a dominant monument in the city, at the end of his presidency. Believing that a question mark would be more appropriate as a symbol of the period, we covered up half of the heart and a big question mark appeared over the castle. People loved it and Havel even rescued us from the police. He said he would be happy if there was an open debate about public space in Prague. This was actually possible in the Havel era, but we now live in another world full of destructive neoliberal politics that likes neither question marks nor hearts. For our second project in the same year, we covered up almost all the city lights in the Prague subway. The point of the subconscious project “Raped” was to show to the people the power of advertising in public spaces. Please note that there was no advertising during the Socialist era. For our third project in 2007, we simulated an atomic blast on Czech TV, highlighting the problem of the manipulation of reality in media, especially on TV. In our current project we are looking into the issue of identity. It is up to a reader to ask her/himself if problems like advertising, manipulation of reality and identity are invading everyday life and privacy.
What do you think characterizes your country today and what do your interventions fight against? Would you say that there is still a certain national and social identity under formation? I cannot answer this question, because there would be as many answers as we are in number. But my opinion is that our country is still a very good and free place to live and we fight against various forms of power that try to disturb our feeling of freedom. I think not only Prague but the whole country is a good place to visit for someone wanting to experience a spirit of lightness. We try to guard this quality as many other people and groups do all around the world in other interesting localities. I would say that identity is a crucial, timely theme and a problematic concept at the same time. I am sure that in every era there are powerful subjects who try to influence the construing of identities. In our last project we tried to question why people allow various invisible subjects to participate in the construing of their identity. That's why Citizen K. states: “How frail and how easily abused is that which should serve us. We are not numbers, we are not biometric data, so let us not be mere pawns in the hands of the big players on the