Mapping Contemporary Capitalism, Bureau d'Etudes


Founded in 1998, the Paris-based Bureau d’Etudes is a media artists group. Bureau d'Etudes concentrates on mapping various issues of world governance and also contributes to Université Tangente, research about autonomous knowledge in Strasbourg. With its work Bureau d'Etudes develops pictographic installations that deal with themes such as networks of data-gathering systems, bio-war and global resistance movements. They visualize the distribution of power in its various forms - political, cultural and financial - on a global basis and show the relationships between the different actors involved.

Bureau d'Etudes, Paris
Summary:, from Novi Sad recently hosted activist group from Paris, "Buerau d'Etudes", which introduced themselves and their work to the public here. Group is active for several years now, originally they have artistic background but they've evolved very quickly into pure political activism. One of the members gave overview of group's activities and the other stressed the importance of collaboration with other similar groups.

Backbone of their work is creation of informational maps whose purpose is to give descriptive image of how contemporary capitalism functions and to show how the world is governed by establishing aspect of control. Maps represent visible result in diverse research of concerns, corporations, industrial and financial, as well as functioning of influential groups - examining where members of different elites meet and decide. Maps are presented as a network of pictograms that represent influential units (corporations, governments, military, financial centers and investment groups, conglomerates, secret societies, families, influential individuals, etc.). relations between pictograms are followed by appropriate textual explanations and they are represented as symbolic architectural structure of possession ratio where units shown on one side subsume smaller units, while at the same time they are being subsumed by bigger units on the other side. In the end, Buerau d'Etude's guiding idea is to create one comprehensive but descriptive, reliable and useful, and last but not least, database accessible to all, to the whole world, that shows who is with who, where are the influence centers that get things going, how the directives are distributed and where substantial money flows to in the end.

They rely on data about corporation ownership and use newspaper articles that witness about relations between companies in domicile environment, as well as on wider, European and global level. They also use services of proven trustworthy observatories, which through the Internet report their up to date findings. Those are data on economic power (size of assets), number of employees, etc.

If it involves influential individuals, then link can reveal, maybe some marital alliance between members of influential families, etc. Good source are stock exchange markets, because they show who is buying what in any given moment. How useful this can be, could be seen from a fact that few days before "September 11th", trade with stocks of American air companies was extremely intense. It is important to emphasize that Buerau d'Etudes is not involved in constructing but revealing information; otherwise it would cast a shadow of subjectivism on their work. Indeed, they have omissions in their work as a result of lacking complete data, but apart from that, it is necessary to update maps at least once a year. It is understandable that those kinds of information are not within easy reach, which makes their uncovering and releasing data into circulation quite worthy effort. However, more important than work on revealing those information is work on setting them up into the framework that gives meaning to them, making them perceptible for people that are being controlled. In the end, maps show how various types of control are actually connected.

For example, very striking example is how legislative body that managed to legally privatize certain public service is related to lobby: in a number of US states, after prisons being privatized, some laws were respectively tightened, to the extent where number of prisoners was quadruplicated. At the same time assets of prison leaseholders were dramatically increased.

Second example is, by now already famous, Bush's "Patriotic Act", which pushed the limits of what government services are allowed to do while peaking into individual's privacy. This goes to the extent where even public libraries are obligated to, on demand of 'services', give information about which books some members read. Same law drastically tightens security standards, which was "jack pot" for corresponding industrial group, as well as for corresponding financial group that is the owner. would it be surprising then to know that man who is actually governing the USA, Dick Chaney, owns nice package of shares in military-industrial conglomerate, and that he sold it when value of those shares went up in the days after September 11th. Next example shows the system of control conducted by official normative organizations that were partly privatized. Those organizations are mainly dealing with setting up of different standards, which thanks to their significance are being imposed as canon laws. These stadards are being assumed by state legislature, forgetting that those standards originated in somebody's personal interest, for example licensing laboratories that are issuing certificates for industrial standards: ISO, CE, etc.

This report is writen by Relja Dražić.