Introductory Notes to THE FILE ROOM

Was there a time or place in history in which censorship did not exist? Was there ever a group of human beings that was able to survive without censure? These questions precede and introduce The File Room, and locate censorship as a complex concept ingrained in our conscious/subconscious reality. Despite the impossible nature of attempting to define censorship, The File Room is a project that proposes to address it, providing a tool for discussing and coming to terms with cultural censorship.

The File Room began as an idea: an abstract construction that became a prototype, a model of an interactive and open system. It prompts our thinking and discussion, and serves as an evolving archive of how the suppression of information has been orchestrated throughout history in different contexts, countries and civilizations.

The process of suppressing information -of people in power attempting to hide images, sounds and words- must itself be viewed in perspective. The organizing principles of The File Room archive recognize acts of censorship in relation to their social settings, political movements, religious beliefs, economic conditions, cultural expressions and/or personal identities. The means of censorship are understood in equally broad terms and techniques, from behind-the-scenes structural censorship that regulates and controls access to the means of production; to obvious physical restrictions of single instances; to subtle, pervasive, and often invisible psychological methods.

Countering the closed circle of power systems, this project gains its meaning through a group effort of individuals, organizations, and institutions. Naturally, this project must be self-critical and self-reflective about the contradictions and possibilities of its own organizing system, the nature of subjective editing, and the limited amount of research that can be accomplished in a given period of time. The File Room, rather than being presented as a finished work, is being made publicly available at the point of its initiation. It is an open system that becomes activated, "filed" and developed through the public process of its own existence.

Installed at the Chicago Cultural Center, The File Room references this building's past as a library, a public repository of what is thought to be important. The interactive process of Internet (which remains at this moment a free system for dialogue and information) allows The File Room to become a social sculpture, as it moves back and forth from its 3-dimensional installation to an unknown dimension in the Net. When people activate and contribute to this artifact, they will challenge these dimensions and the questions, contradictions, and limitations of attempting to define censorship. The interactive technology is being utilized to add new points of view, complete missing information, challenge notions of authorship, and to reflect direct voices and opinions wherever possible.

As the debate over free and open telecommunications grows, so too will The File Room reflect decisions of why, how, when, where an individual point of view may be removed, can't be seen, heard, or read -each decision resonating with the implications throughout past and future of new technologies, marketing strategies, political decisions, and... "moral" control.

As Hans Magnus Enzensberger has written, whoever "believes censorship to be an abuse has not understood. Without its tireless twin, self-censorship, censorship could not work... "Self-censorship outruns in elegance and shrewdness everything that the most vicious (censor) could imagine... Its target (often met) is the prohibition to think... "Whoever believes that they are immune, is the first victim." Let's consider The File Room as a cultural project: an open prototype where participation, possibilities, and challenges will be tested.

- Muntadas and Randolph Street Gallery, May 1994

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