Review of Guerrilla Networks: An Anarchaeology of 1970s Radical Media Ecologies
Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, NL, 2018
416 pp., illus. 25 b/w. Trade, €99,00
The counter cultures of the 1970s used both politics and media—radio, music, film, video, and television—in the struggles to produce transformative change. Many approaches had only small numbers of followers. Often, they were focused on radical change from the status quo, or advocated or utilized violence. Most were effectively hidden from mainstream cultures. As a result, they seemed to emphasize ecologies of radical media and political practices, guerrilla media networks.
Guerrilla Networks: An Anarchaeology of 1970s Radical Media, a new book by Michael Goddard, tracks these efforts as part of its focus to explore media ecologies during the decade. "What was a stake in all these ventures," writes Goddard, "was the use of available technical means of expression in order to produce transformative effects, whether these were located on the levels of affect and perception, or on the social and political plane, or, as was frequently the case, on both these levels at once" (11).
Goddard considers interconnections of many factors—technological, social, political, subjective, affective, and perceptual—to be at the basis of any media ecology. This is important in order to comprehend "media practices in the context of their aesthetic, social, political, and subjective surroundings of which the fragmented and fragmenting categories of producers, institutions, audiences, and the phases of media production, distribution, and consumption are incapable" (13). That said, what we have to examine are therefore "unstable collections of textual, material, and audiovisual fragments that are as revealing in their gaps and absences as in their remaining material traces" (13). The art of media archaeology, and this book, is to construct a coherent vision from these fragments of the worlds these media ecologies attempted to construct. Those worlds may not be verifiable, but they can be consistent with what we know of their presentations.
Upon this framework, Goddard undertakes a deep and well-informed examination of media (an)archeaology, ecologies, and minor knowledges as fields and methodologies that inform his book. The result is to position media ecologies as "unpredictable processes or events in which subjects and objects, beings and things, movements and blockages are caught up in and are transformed" (49). This contestation provides introduction to the remaining chapters.
Chapter 2 considers armed guerrilla media ecologies from Latin America to Europe, including the Baader Meinhof Complex, the June 2nd Movement, Weathermen, the Weather Underground, and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Chapter 3 follows autonomy movements—Italian Workerism, Autonomia, and Punk—to rebellious and free radio, concluding with the media ecology of Radio Alice on which was broadcast "an extreme heterogeneity of materials" (189). This free flow provided channels for expression and feedback that fed political pushback against the Italian government and led, in 1977, to the station being overtaken by Italian police.
Chapter 4 switches the focus from radio to militant anti-cinemas, minor cinemas, and anarchic film. Chapter 5 deals with ecologies of radical and guerrilla television.
At conclusion, Guerrilla Networks moves from Latin America guerrilla warfare across North American and Western European guerrilla cells, radical political movements, punk music, free radio stations, militant, collective, and minor forms of cinema to guerrilla television. As Goddard argues, such connections have "largely been ignored by previous media historical accounts of the period" (321).
Guerrilla Networks succeeds in extending contemporary theoretical orientations with regard to media ecologies and archaeologies and their connections with political questions and system materialities. This is relevant, and important as we increasingly face the challenges and hazards of guerrilla information war using manipulated and weaponized content in an increasingly digital world that contextualizes the social, political, economic, and creative ecologies in which we frame contemporary life.