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TRAVELOG

The City in the Age of Touristic Reproduction
Boris Groys
The tourist and the city dweller become identical.

Can the art world really do Hollywood better than Hollywood?
Steven Rand
The hypnotism
of technology: where is the end?

Mobile Utopia
Charles Esche
A utopian day-trip through two views of humanity 400 years apart.

FEATURE AND WRITINGS
LOOKING FOR A HUSBAND WITH AN EU PASSPORT BY TANJA OSTOJIC
ONLINE
Light Type Writer
Constantin Luser


THEORY

Utopia with Lara Croft and some other monsters and Aliens
Marina Gržinić
The re-direction of desires, facts & bodies in the global world.

THE EMPIRE AND ITS UTOPIAS
Žarko Paić
How to envision utopia, and not run away from society’s real repression / depression into a ghetto or exile for fantastic outsiders?


ZERZAN VON TARZAN UND TAXIS - FASCISM OF DESIRE OR FASCISM OF OBJECTS
Zoran Roško
The rejection of human will, civilisation, & the search for what we have left.




ART WORK
SYSTEMS
The Average Citizen     The Average Citizen
ONLINE
The Average Citizen
(screen details from website)
Mans Wrånge
   

The Average Citizen
Mans Wrånge
Overview

A socio-political experiment that aims to change society in accordance with the opinions of a statistically average citizen.

Marianne - A person who happens to correspond with the statistical averages most frequently used by the Swedish authorities. In the project The Average Citizen, Marianne is given access to the same sophisticated methods used by politicians, special interest groups and major corporations in order to change public opinion: professional opinion-forming and lobbying.


BACKGROUND

“It is, in point of fact, contempt of reality that makes it possible to change the world”
–Hannah Arendt

“When you begin to work with averages and indices, you lose so many considerations. What happens then is that from the technically oriented social policy discussion a new sociopolitical ideology begins to grow”
–Gunnar Myrdal, 1932
(Professor of Political Economics, Swedish Minister of Trade 1945-47 and Nobel Laureate in Economics 1974)

“The old Swedish model seems ... to have become incorporated in and transferred to the new political landscape, which is more influenced by lobbyism and medialization .... Both lobbyism and opinion formation are on the other hand forms of participation that even single individuals can exploit regardless of the actions of other individuals”
–Demokratiutredningen
(a report on democracy commissioned by the Swedish Government)


The notion of an “average citizen” – that is, a fictive person supposed to statistically represent a larger group of people – has been one of the most influential ideas in the construction of the Swedish welfare state. By incarnating the modern project’s dream of translating a complex reality into a rational and transparent model, statistical averages have laid the very foundation of the Swedish art of social engineering.(1)

The averages produced form the basis of research, social debate and the authorities’ planning in most of the social sectors that influence the daily life of the citizens – for example housing, infrastructure, education, health, and the care of children and the elderly.(2) But other segments of society too, such as trade and industry, the media, advertising and the service sector, to a great extent adapt their products and services to the average preferences of the clientele on which they focus.(3)

Last but not least, the principle whereby an individual citizen is allowed to represent a larger population group in fact forms the very basis of representative democracy, inasmuch as politicians are elected in general elections. But the present democratic system is facing a number of serious problems in Sweden (as in most other countries). Election turnout – which has traditionally been high in Sweden – is decreasing, and poorly educated and resource-poor groups are voting less than well educated and well-off ones.

The democracy report commissioned by the Swedish Government, Demokratiutredningen, states that the political involvement of citizens has diminished, and that the interest in political issues that despite everything does exist has abandoned traditional party politics in favour of “single-issue organizations”. According to a democracy study by the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies the established parties will be non-existent by the year 2013 if their membership figures continue to fall at the same rate as today. At the same time the political influence of business and the major interest organizations, as exerted through professional opinion-forming, has increased and the political parties are becoming more and more dependent on the media and on effective marketing to attract any attention at all to their political issues. The individual citizen’s potential for getting his or her views out to the general public is similarly minimal.

The Average Citizen is a project whose aim is – in all modesty – to present an answer to this question about the fate of democracy. The project can be seen as a political experiment with an alternative democratic model based on a different type of representation from the current type of democracy. Since elections are held at relatively long intervals, opinion polls and statistical research are among the authorities’ few ways of sampling the views of the electorate. Often it is precisely to the average voter that they adapt their political programmes. Statistics and opinion polls thus already function de facto as fundamental and sometimes crucial criteria for political decision-making.(4)

The project The Average Citizen takes it point of departure in this consequence of Realpolitik, and takes Swedish social engineering’s quest for scientific objectivity to its logical conclusion. Instead of the citizens electing representatives in general elections on the basis of whether they think the candidates represent the views of the citizens, an individual is chosen to represent the citizens by virtue of statistically representing the whole population. This is a method that is independent of the statistically representative person’s political contacts, social networks, media charisma and financial resources – factors that are becoming increasingly determinative in Swedish politics.

The alternative democratic model in The Average Citizen has been structured as follows: with the aid of the Swedish Central Bureau of Statistics, a statistical “average citizen profile” has been created by collating the averages most frequently used by the Swedish authorities. Subsequently a headhunting agency has advertised in the media for a person who corresponds to this statistical “average citizen profile”: female, 40 years old, single, childless, living in a two-room-and-kitchen apartment, with about SKr 248,300 a year in income, etc.(5) A person who fits this statistical profile has declared her interest in participating in the project. Her name is Marianne and in the project she will be known in public only by her first name in order to preclude any exploitation of her private life. The aim of the project is instead to focus on Marianne’s views on how society can be changed, and to disseminate these ideas back to the Swedish public which she represents statistically. This will be done by giving Marianne access to the same sophisticated methods used by politicians, interest organizations and the business world to bring about changes in society: professional opinion-forming and lobbying.

In cooperation with a political lobbyist and the rest of the project group (which includes a dramaturgist, a copywriter and an expert political consultant to the Swedish Government) a long-term strategy has been drawn up for how the average citizen Marianne’s views are to be grafted on to Swedish society and in the longer term influence public opinion. Marianne has been interviewed in depth on how society can be changed, and these views have later been gathered in a data bank of opinions In collaboration with Marianne herself, a political speechwriter has summarized and formulated her views in the form of brief, impactful slogans. A broad spectrum of Sweden’s most influential persons from fields of activity with a high opinion-forming value – for example politics, advertising, culture, the media and popular culture – have then been contacted by the project group with a view to persuading them to cooperate with Marianne by disseminating some of her views in contexts appropriate to each.

As with all effective lobbying and opinion-forming, Marianne’s views are presented indirectly so that the public is not aware of the identity of the originator of the views. As an example, one of her views has formed the starting-point for an editorial in one of the major morning newspapers; it has been presented as part of the dialogue in a popular TV series; it has been quoted by an influential politician; and it has appeared in a nationwide advertising campaign. The Average Citizen thus benefits from the legitimacy that these established channels of communication confer on views, as opposed to if it had been presented for example in a letter to the press.

Unlike other artistic projects with the ambition of changing the world – an ambition that few would espouse in today’s post-Utopian cultural climate – The Average Citizen will be able to objectively quantify and scientifically document the society-transforming effect of the project. During the course of the project, regular opinion polls will be conducted before and after a view has been introduced to the public, in order to ascertain what specific effect Marianne’s views have had on public opinion. When for example one of Marianne’s views was stated in a line of dialogue in one of Sweden’s most popular TV series, it was seen and heard by 28.6% of the viewing population in Sweden. An opinion poll commissioned by the project then established that precisely this view had convinced 6.2% of the Swedish population. Marianne’s view had in other words had brought about a scientifically documented change in public opinion.(6)

 

 
ONLINE
The Average Citizen
(installation view -- a project presentation at MANIFESTA as an installation which consists of a bust in plaster of the average citizen Marianne)
Mans Wrånge
  (in-situ -- a monument to the average citizen Marianne erected in front of the Goethe-Haus in Weimar, Germany)

1. Sweden has the longest continuous history of statistical surveys, and no other country is as well mapped statistically. Tabellverket, the predecessor of today’s Central Bureau of Statistics, was founded as early as 1749.
2. The cost of all Swedish state statistical work has been estimated as 0.2% of the national budget.
3. In avant-garde culture and philosophy, however, ‘the average person’ has aroused little interest. On the contrary, thinkers such as Freud, Nietzsche and Foucault have focused on the marginal rather than the average, and the avant-garde has traditionally been contemptuous of the average human being – profanum vulgus. Nevertheless it has been dependent on her in order to define its own special status.
4. For example Bill Clinton’s aide Dick Morris tested all the Clinton administration’s proposals in opinion polls before they were presented to Congress.
5. Although Marianne in purely statistical terms corresponds to a majority of average values in Sweden, and thus by definition represents the “normal”, she nevertheless belongs, as a single middle-aged woman without children, to a relatively marginalized group in society. Marianne could in fact – paradoxically enough – be regarded as a threat to the value hierarchy of the traditional nuclear family which in many respects is still dominant in Sweden.
6. The project is being documented continuously and will be publicized in stages in the form of several exhibitions, a book, a CD-ROM and a film. The development of the project can also be followed on its website www.averagecitizen.org, where the visitor can exchange views with Marianne and will have the opportunity to influence public opinion through her. Finally, Marianne’s future political significance has already been commemorated in the form of a bronze bust of Marianne on the square of an average town in Sweden.


Mans Wrånge (SE)
Artist and professor at the Department of Fine Arts at Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, Sweden





CONTENTS








ART WORK
The Average Citizen
FILM
The Average Citizen
Mans Wrånge

SYSTEMS

The Average Citizen
Mans Wrånge

Agora & AgoraX-
change

Natalie Bookchin, Cynthia Madansky & Jacqueline Stevens

Evolution-
Äre Zellen

Finger

Distributive Justice
Andreja Kulunčić

I am addressing you man to man
Dalibor Martinis


TOPIC AREAS
SYSTEMS

SYSTEMS
 
TRANS.MISSION
 
PERSONAL
 
MECHANIZED
 
MICRO-UTOPIAS
 

CONTENTS




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