“Disinformation” emerged from the Soviet intelligence bureaucracy during the Cold War era as a tactic for managing perception and consensus through the media. Rather than refuting or suppressing ideas that undermined the state agenda, false information was regularly disseminated that destabilized the positive character of truth itself. In the decades following the collapse of the “bipolar” world system—and given the elaborate projects of controlled opposition required to maintain a decaying global capitalist hegemony—disinformation became ubiquitous. Now, it permeates the very air that we breathe, deployed near-constantly and seemingly compulsorily by state and non-state actors, corporations, and individuals alike. In this milieu of private military contractors, hyper-politicized meme accounts, fake gurus, and sponsored content, where does disinformation end and scamming begin? The hypervigilant, anxious mindset required to weather such a cycle struggles to find footing on non-reactionary ground.
In order to think through this problem collectively, the Moving Image & Media Studies Graduate Group assembled Disinformation Cultures, a collaborative web-based project that brings together original art, videographic work, creative writing, and critical essays inspired by cultures of disinformation, past or present. As you interact with this project, consider: What are the notable aesthetics, psychic intensities, and politics of disinformation cultures? How and why did we get here? How can we theorize this ecology, and what is to be done?
Alya Ansari is a PhD student in the Program in Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. Her work concerns the intellectual history of reason and the rationalization of late capitalist modernity, representations of production in the novel, labor and absurdity, and trash/low aesthetics in cinema and visual culture. Visit her at alyansari.com.
Ansel Arnold is an artist, poet, and a PhD student in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
CENSOR was discovered by Joseph Sannicandro, a doctoral candidate in the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His work explores creative labor and (un)popular culture, encompassing the philosophy of technology, media theory, and institutional critique. His dissertation explores the nature of doing things together through a cultural history of aesthetics and politics in post-1968 Italy. His work has appeared in publications including eContact, dpi., Carceral Notebooks, The Journal for Sonic Studies, and in edited book collections. He is co-founder of the music blog A Closer Listen, and producer of Sound Propositions, a series of audio documentaries profiling musicians and sound artists.
Chris Gerrard is a practitioner-theorist, focusing on how experimental aesthetics can be used to facilitate knowledge exchange and political struggle. He has recently completed a PhD entitled, “The Multi-Image: The Origins and Possibilities of Visual Collage in Cinema” at the University of Dundee. His work consists of written material examining historical film theory and practical experiments in filmmaking that have been screened in both cinema and gallery environments. A selection of his work can be found at youtube.com/chrisgerrardx.
Luke Munn uses the body and code, objects and performances to activate relationships and responses. His projects have featured in the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Fold Gallery London, Causey Contemporary Brooklyn and the Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum, with commissions from Aotearoa Digital Arts and TERMINAL.
Matthew Howland works at a bookstore, and studies media history, aesthetics, and poetics.
Melanie Kreitler is a graduate student at the Justus-Liebig-University in Gießen, Germany. Her dissertation project is concerned with complex narratives in contemporary American cinema and television series to address the way popular culture represents and narrates mental illness. She received her MA in English Literatures and Cultures from Tübingen University in 2018. She has presented her research at several international conferences, amongst others at the 2019 MMLA conference in Chicago, the 2020 ISSN conference in New Orleans, and the 2021 NeMLA conference.
Devon Moore is a second-year PhD student in the Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature Department at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research interests include neoliberal rationality, comparative critical theory, and “poverty knowledge” as it is reflected—and contested—in a variety of discourses. She has an M.S. in English Education from CUNY Lehman and an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She is the author of two published books of poetry. Visit her at devonjmoore.com.
Marco Poloni is a PhD student in Political Philosophy at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Following Baudrillard’s, Foucault’s (on human capital) and Bourdieu’s work, Poloni tries to connect the shift from exchange value to symbolic value with a new kind of quest for status. Put it differently, he focuses on the new ideology—and the power—of consumptions within a realist capitalist frame. His goal is to look for a viable way to synthesize the neoliberal ideology of individualization with the opposing communal modern conception of citoyen—within a democratic frame.
Kailyn Slater is a Master’s student in the department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, currently writing on the materiality of deepfakes and other methods of constructing synthetic media that interface with artificial computational technologies, like machine learning in informatics and live audiovisual performance. Interested in examining the ways in which creative production becomes superseded by the interests of capital and power through affective, aesthetic, and attentive appeal, Kay also DJs as CDVR.
Matt Whitman (b. 1988, West Chester, Pennsylvania) is a New York-based artist working with moving image, photography, installation, writing and performance. His work has appeared at The Kitchen, New York; CROSSROADS / SF Cinematheque, San Francisco; ANALOGICA 10, Bolzano, IT; Microscope Gallery, Brooklyn; The Front, New Orleans; The Lab, San Francisco; Unexposed Microcinema, Durham, NC; Anthology Film Archives, New York; La MaMa, New York; the Brooklyn Film Festival, New York; ‘8 fest’ Toronto, ON; among others. He has taught at Parsons School of Design since 2014.
Disinformation Cultures is graciously supported by the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Advanced Study. Website by the Design Studio of Alexander Hage in collaboration with Alya Ansari, Nicholas Henderson, and Devon Moore.