Friday, February 28, 2014

Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ

by Spencer Ackerman and James Ball
The Guardian, Thursday 27 February 2014

• 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
• Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
• Yahoo: 'A whole new level of violation of our users' privacy'
• Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images


Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, faced a privacy backlash last year when details emerged that the camera bundled with its new console, the Xbox One, would be always-on by default.
Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – "think Tom Cruise in Minority Report", one presentation noted.

The same presentation talks about the strange means the agencies used to try and test such systems, including whether they could be tricked. One way of testing this was to use contact lenses on detailed mannequins.

To this end, GCHQ has a dummy nicknamed "the Head", one document noted.
In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

"Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

"All our operational processes rigorously support this position."

The NSA declined to respond to specific queries about its access to the Optic Nerve system, the presence of US citizens' data in such systems, or whether the NSA has similar bulk-collection programs.


Thursday, February 27, 2014


The New Idealist talks with the philosopher Slavoj Žižek about love, life and his new book ‘Event’, the second of The Penguin ‘Philosophy in Transit’ series of four books…

The book looks at some really fundamental questions such as the role that fate plays in shaping people’s lives. Continuing the transport theme (of the book); do you think that people’s lives are structured like the London Underground Tube map, with each destination defined by pre-determined steps along the way?

That’s a nice question that I would like to pursue…namely, to try to distinguish and to reach some cultural meaning into it between different tube networks.  New York is totally different to London. The one big difference, obviously, is that in London probably they were already counting on war.

Probably this is the main reason that the underground tunnels should also surface; potential places to hide in the case of bombing or war. This is why London’s tube is so deep. New York is just immediately beneath the ground, you can hear it and so on and so on.

But what interests me most, another line I wanted to pursue but it was getting too much – the book had a certain limit in how long it was allowed to be – would have been (how) everyone who loves the tube, the underground, knows that the greatest mystery is to know about abandoned stations.

“There are all these myths that maybe some people live there in tunnels who never come up.”

I read somewhere, do you know that they think in New York in the sub-underground of Manhattan it’s possible that in abandoned tube lines… about 3,000 people live and they have their own entire alternate community there?

They just come up from time to time, some of them, to steal some food, water, whatever. But basically it’s a crazy idea, you get the idea of an alternate community down there with their own rules and so on..

This was one line I wanted to pursue but, again, it would have been too much…because you know the problem was that the book had to be written in a relatively popular way,

Well, it is a very concise book. For a philosophy book it is quite slender.

It was for my standards a very short book, yes…on the other hand, it’s interesting. This is what fascinated me, what I discovered through writing this book, (was) how, whatever way we follow, whether in philosophy or simply pursuing fundamental questions, we sooner or later stumble upon some notion of ‘event’. Like, in continental philosophy Heidegger… in quantum physics, it’s (the) Big Bang as an event, black hole as an event. In Christianity, Christianity is a religion of event because it all hinges on the event of incarnation and so on.

So, this is what fascinated me – all these different forms in which… all letters philosophy, cinema even and so on, you stumble upon the notion of event. It’s absolutely crucial.

What do you think about all the extreme weather events that are happening at the moment? That’s a good example of a ‘big event’.

Not yet, it would have been an event if it were really to change the attitude of how we relate nature and so on. But I think it’s not yet (an) event. It’s bad weather, we are shaking, it’s horrible but I don’t think we already accept it that something weird is happening in nature itself.

The idea is a very simple one here. Traditional nature, in medieval times and later, was considered a kind of a regular repetitive system. Our idea of nature is in nature things repeat themselves. You have seasons, day/night and so on. Nature is a kind of a circular order.

Now, it’s clear that at all levels, in theory but also through experience, we can less and less rely on such a stable notion of nature. Nature is more and more in this sense denaturalised. But I don’t think we already are at the extreme level. I think there are still worse surprises.

“I am generally a pessimist but, you know why, because I want to be happy.”

Not in the sadist way …If you are a pessimist then usually, hopefully, things do not turn out as bad as you expect so you always get small, nice surprises. ‘Oh my God, everything is not a catastrophe you know.’

You talk about love as a key event in a person’s life and discuss the difference between the appearance and actuality of a person as seen through the eyes of both a cynic and a romantic. 

Are you saying that a romantic idealist will project the same qualities onto others and therefore see positive qualities whenever they appear – however briefly – in a person? 

On the other hand, I think, that it is too simple to just approach what I project onto a person what 
this person really is. Isn’t it usually that the relationship is a more complex and mysterious one. 
Let’s say somebody really loves me and obviously projects something, expects some goodness, some great act from me.

But isn’t it often that, to become (the person) the other person projected this into me, I myself change; I try to live up to the level of these expectations and so on. So it’s a much more mysterious vicious cycle I think – vicious cycle but in a good sense.

“You know where somebody projects something into me maybe I really become this.”

In this sense… it’s very mysterious. OK, it’s not my reality but, in some sense, it may true. Becoming aware of what others project onto me, I realise that there were in me some potentials, some possibilities, that I wasn’t aware of.

It’s more complex, but especially what makes love so mysterious to me is how, when you are in love you see exactly the same person as before but not in the same way. You cannot pinpoint it. You cannot say ‘this or that is the reason why I love that person’ because to see that you already have to be in love.

You also contrast that, where a cynic would see only negative traits because that is what they are looking for.

Yes, I think that cynicism is today more and more the real predominant ideology. The common thing is to say is nobody believes in any kind of ideas and so on and so on. But I think… cynics are basically very naïve people. They underestimate the power of what for them are weird illusions.

I think that illusions can be extremely strong. For example Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for Richard Nixon, who was probably the ultimate cynicist, but precisely because of this he was so often wrong. For example he thought the Soviet Union was here to stay, cynically, ‘let’s make a deal with them’ and so on and so on.

This is what surprises me, how often cynics, people who say ‘there are no higher values it’s just…usually there are three things: ‘power, sex, money’, it is really about how often these people are wrong. Because they underestimate the power of illusions. Illusions are for me an extremely powerful thing.

In the book you reference the ‘Spell of Illusions’ when discussing the concept of truth. What do you mean by that?

What I mean there is simply how, and here of course by truth I mean a very specific ‘truth’ – truth in social space, always what surprises me is how, yes, you can distinguish between truth and illusion but in order to arrive at truth you have to go through illusion. There is no shortcut. And this I think is what basically Hegel’s Dialectic speech is about, which… I develop in the book. 
For me, Hegel is the ultimate philosopher of the event.

You cannot directly go at truth. In order to arrive at truth, you have to go to the end through the illusion. I think I do repeat my old joke in the book… it’s a wonderful joke from my youth, when I (did) military service, about a military conscript.
A guy who (wanted) to get rid of serving or doing military service, which was compulsory at that point in ex-Yugoslavia, faked a strange symptom (to seem) crazy, a certain compulsive custom, whenever he entered a room with some papers on the table, documents, he looked at all of them and just repeated ‘this is not that, this is not that, this is not that’… then of course when he found himself on front of a medical committee he did the same. He looked at all of the papers and repeated ‘this is not that, this is not that, this is not that’. Then doctors said ‘this guy’s obviously crazy’ and gave him the document stating that he is delivered from military service. He looks at that and he says ‘this is that’. But this obviously is that.

Event by Slavoj Žižek, the second in Penguin’s Philosophy in Transit series by leading philosophers, is out now in paperback.



Professors Slavoj ŽIŽEK, Rex Butler, and Adrian Parr will be some of our guests in the "Parallax Futures in Philosophy" seminar that Creston C Davis, Jason Adams and Antonio Garcia will be teaching in April. 

Take a course with ŽIŽEK, Rex Butler, and Adrian Parr via GCAS! Take it in-residence in Cincinnati, Ohio or via our live on-line and fully interactive venue. $99.

After paying the tuition, join the course FB Group here:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: Collateral Damage, by Zygmunt Bauman

Reviewed by Shelley Walia
Cambridge: Polity. Pages 182. £14.99.

COLLATERAL Damage as a term is not unique to only armed conflict. As argued by Zygmunt Bauman in his recent book Collateral Damage, it is also "one of the most salient and striking dimensions of contemporary social inequality. The inflammable mixture of growing social inequality and the rising volume of human suffering marginalised as ‘collateral’ is becoming one of most cataclysmic problems of our time."

Bauman goes on to elaborate this idea: "For the political class, poverty is commonly seen as a problem of law and order — a matter of how to deal with individuals, such as unemployed youth, who fall foul of the law. But treating poverty as a criminal problem obscures the social roots of inequality, which lie in the combination of a consumerist life philosophy propagated and instilled by a consumer-oriented economy, on the one hand, and the rapid shrinking of life chances available to the poor, on the other."

Collateral damage is contextualised within a broader global scenario where order and rationality have ended in an "uncertainty and randomness of 'liquid' modernity". Dreams of a progressive society now lie buried under consumerism that is central to the crisis of modernity. Those at the margins stand neglected in a world order where exclusivity of a few is guarded against any encroachments from below.

Such a cultural struggle, as argued by another contemporary cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek, is needed at every level to fix the problem of this damage. His concern is with an economic life that is pervaded by culture and is dependent on moral bonds of social trust. Only societies with a high degree of social trust can create the kind of flexible, large-scale business organisations needed for successful competition in the emerging global economy and international order. 

Joining hands with Marx and Walter Benjamin, Zizek castigates the lack of aura in late capitalism: "While capitalism does suspend the power of the old ghosts of tradition, it generates its own monstrous ghosts. That is to say: On the one hand, capitalism entails the radical secularization of social life — it mercilessly tears apart any aura of authentic nobility, sacredness, honour, and so on."

But where does this 'trust' come from especially in a society where you have a new global class with citizenships of various countries and ownership of mansions, cottages and bungalows strewn across the globe? These global citizens live a private life of seclusion, which is dotted with well-planned itineraries to the most exotic of places and adventures in the most exhilarating of terrains. The farce lies in the very idea of ‘fear’ that haunts the super rich who endeavour to keep themselves away from disease, violence and crime. In such a world there is the absence of the other less-'fortunate' classes.

All this opulence is obviously gained through the predatory workings of the free-market economy under capitalism. Bauman holds on to his faith in the emancipatory thinking of Marx and Engels, who wrote in The Communist Manifesto that "capitalism had drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation." In such a world of technological development in the area of communication and surveillance, privacy is dead, and "consumerism, built on capitalism's wager on the infinity of human needs, makes the attempt to solve humanity's problems by finding or imposing ordered solutions which is an impossibility, given the permanent state of recasting needs and desires." Though global transformist thought in areas of social justice, universal human rights, rule of law, global anti-war movements and transnational goodwill remain an aspiration of survival, the free market dramatics is underneath designed to accept casualties without questioning the rationality of the system. Clearly "casualties are dubbed 'collateral' in so far as they are dismissed as not important enough to justify the costs of their prevention, or simply 'unexpected' because the planners did not consider them worthy of inclusion among the objects of preparatory reconnoitering."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Possibility Of First Head Transplant Fraught With Ethical And Medical Dilemmas

Friday 5 July 2013 - 8am PST

A leading neurosurgeon has revealed a project to carry out the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage within the next two years. The project is code-named HEAVEN/GEMINI.

Published in the June issue of Surgical Neurology International, the project has been outlined by Italian neuroscientist and functional neurosurgeon, Dr. Sergio Canavero. He says the procedure would take 100 surgeons 36 hours to complete, and would cost around £8.5 million ($12.6 million).

In 1970, US neurosurgeon Robert Joseph White performed an operation to transplant a monkey's head onto another monkey's body. However, the inability to repair the severed spinal cord due to lack of required technology proved a problem, and the monkey was left paralyzed, passing away days later.

But Canavero believes today's technology will overcome this hurdle and refers to previous studies in which scientist have reconnected spinal cords to rats. Canavero explains that the transplant will work if surgeons can successfully link the spinal cord to the head by fusing severed axons, the nerve cells that transmit information to different neurons, muscles and glands.

In the paper, Canavero explains:

"The greatest technical hurdle to such endeavor is of course the reconnection of the donor's and recipient's spinal cords. It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage."

He explains that cut axons can be reconstituted using molecules such as poly-ethylene glycol (PEG), used in many areas ranging from industrial manufacturing to pharmaceutical products. Another molecule that can be used is chitosan.

The surgery would involve putting the recipient's head into a "hypothermia mode" for around 45 minutes between 12°C and 15°C (the HEAVEN process). It is thought that this time frame would create virtually no neurological damage.

The GEMINI procedure would involve surgeons cutting the cooled spinal cords with an "ultra-sharp blade," before reconnecting the recipient's head to the donor body. In the paper, Canavero explains that this clean cut is the key to spinal cord fusion, as it allows the severed axons to be fused accurately with the molecules.

He explains that what is equally important is that the motorneuronal pools, responsible for the contraction of muscle fibers and skeletal muscle, remain fully intact so they can be engaged by spinal cord stimulation. Canavero says that this is a technique that has proven effective for motor control in patients with spinal injuries.

As the human brain can only survive without oxygen for one hour, the surgeons would have to remove both heads and connect the recipient's head to the circulatory system of the donor body within this time frame.

Canavero says that it is clear the procedure would extend some patients' lives and would be far-reaching. However, he says that a select group of gravely ill individuals would be the target, such as people with muscular dystrophies.

But he cautions that as the procedure is deployed within the clinical area, it needs proper regulation. He adds that a risk could develop whereby people with adequate funds try to secure the bodies of healthy young individuals on the black market and have them transplanted by dishonest surgeons - something he says needs to be addressed by society.

Written by Honor Whiteman

Sunday, February 9, 2014

James Clapper might as well be called director of US fearmongering

by Michael Cohen


Last week the man who serves as America's Director of National Intelligence trudged up to 
Capitol Hill to tell the assembled members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (pdf) that the annual worldwide threat assessment, put together by the intelligence community, has filled him with dread. He told the room:

Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I have not experienced a time when we have been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.

That is some scary stuff.

However, if you think you've heard this before from Clapper … well you have.

Last year he appeared before Congress for a similar purpose and, lo and behold, he was very, very concerned then too (pdf):

I will say that my almost 50 years in intelligence, I do not recall a period in which we confront a more diverse array of threats, crises and challenges around the world. This year's threat assessment illustrates how dramatically the world and our threat environment are changing.

And here he was in 2012 testifying (pdf) on that year's threat assessment report, "Never has there been, in my almost 49-year career in intelligence, a more complex and interdependent array of challenges than that we face today."

Of course, one must consider the possibility that over the past five decades the world has never been as dangerous, complex and challenging as it's been over the past three years (putting aside for a moment that whole "threat of nuclear holocaust" that defined much of the 60s, 70s and 80s.) If, however, you're skeptical about this, well you have good reason because Clapper's alarmist tone is hardly matched by the threats he cites.

So what precisely is worrying Clapper? There are the old stand-bys like "the scourge and diversification of terrorism" both of the global jihadist and home-grown variety. We'll simply put aside for a second the fact that significantly more Americans die each year from falling furniture and exponentially more die from freedom … er, I mean guns.

Clapper is concerned about "implications of the drawdown inAfghanistan", which is a nice pivot from a few years ago when Afghanistan was a vital national interest that necessitated a ramp up of US military engagement there (pdf). There's also the "sectarian war in Syria" and "its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism", which is compelling evidence that Syria is poised to take up the mantle of"failed state that foreign policy elites are really worried about."

There is the habitually frightening adjective war front, "an assertive Russia, a competitive China; a dangerous, unpredictable North Korea, a challenging Iran." The sober-minded might look at these countries and conclude that a more accurate set of descriptors would be "an enfeebled and corrupt Russia, an economically slowing and environmentally challenged China, a contained and sort of predictable North Korea and an isolated and diplomatically-engaged Iran". But that would be a pretty lame threat assessment, wouldn't it?

Then there are the really scary sounding threats that aren't actually threats to Americans. Things like, "lingering ethnic divisions in the Balkans, perpetual conflict and extremism in Africa; violent political struggles in … the Ukraine, Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh." I for one am troubled by each of these, as well as Clapper's reference to "specter of mass atrocities" and "the tragedy and magnitude of human trafficking" and "the increasing sophistication of transnational crime" and even the "insidious rot of inventive synthetic drugs" but the idea that any of these are serious "crises" or "threats" to America and its citizens is ludicrous.

This is what makes Clapper's argument – and indeed the entire process of writing a "worldwide threat assessment" so fundamentally unserious and distorting. America doesn't face a single truly serious security threat. We are a remarkably safe and secure nation, protected by two oceans, an enormous and highly effective military and dozens upon dozens of like-minded allies and friends around the world. Truly we have nothing to fear – except perhaps global climate change, which oddly merits a one-paragraph mention (pdf) in this year's threat assessment.

To listen to Clapper and others in the intelligence community one might never know that inter-state war has largely disappeared and that wars in general are in the midst of a multi-decade decline. For all of Clapper's expressed concern about "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction", one might not know that 2013 was a landmark year for non-proliferation with important progress made in slowing down Iran's nuclear aspirations and enforcing the norm on chemical weapons usage.

With Clapper offering worrying words about "the increasing stress of burgeoning populations" and "the urgent demands for energy, water and food" one might be surprised to find out that global poverty continues adramatic free-fall; that people around the world are living longer lives and have better access to healthcare, food and education than ever before. You also probably wouldn't know that these indicators of material and political progress point in the direction of continued global stability.

It's almost as if Clapper and the intelligence community that he helms are playing up foreign threats in order to justify bloated post-9/11 budgets and broadly supported intelligence capabilities. Now granted, it's uncomfortable to accuse public officials of purposely hyping potential foreign threats, but how else does one react to arguments like this about the community's perpetual bête noire, cyber:

Iran and North Korea are unpredictable actors in the international arena. Their development of cyber espionage or attack capabilities might be used in an attempt to either provoke or destabilize the United States or its partners.

Or "Terrorist organizations have expressed interest in developing offensive cyber capabilities."

I've expressed interest in playing second base for the Boston Red Sox … and yet the man currently holding that job (Dustin Pedroia) seems blithely unconcerned that he will soon be unseated. Balancing intentions versus capabilities is (or at least should be) a crucial element of threat assessment and yet in Clapper's telling virtually every threat is of equal significance and likelihood.

All of this is not to say that there aren't real challenges facing the United States. There certainly are terrorists who still want to kill Americans; there is the potential (albeit slim) for instability in the Far East; and there are international criminal networks and even global pandemics that could harm America's economic interests as well as pose health risks. The United States should hardly ignore these – and other ongoing challenges – but policymakers like Clapper should also be able to talk about them in sober, evidence-based, non-hysterical terms.

The irony of all this is that Clapper has been under fire for months now because he allegedly lied to Congress over the extent to which the National Security Agency was collecting phone and e-mail records of individual Americans.

Yet, the yarn he spun on Capitol Hill last week was far worse than that: deceiving Americans about the nature of the world today and the threats facing the country. But in a political environment in which threat mongering and exaggeration is the norm rather than the exception, Clapper not only gets a pass – hardly anyone even noticed.


The True Utopia

F Bombs over Europe

by Charles P. Pierce

As it turns out, there are many ways to say, "Fuck The EU." Millions of Greeks say it every day. They turn in the general direction of Angela Merkel, order up some ouzo, and in the language of Plato and Euripides, say, "Hey, fuck the EU!" The people in Iceland and Ireland say, "Fuck the EU," by putting bankers on trial and, in the case of Iceland, in jail. And every day, Vladimir Putin, the World's Host for the next two weeks, is saying "Fuck the EU" with armored vehicles and firearms, and he would like the Ukrainian people to say it, too, but they have thus far declined, preferring instead to say, "Fuck Vladimir Putin and our own government."
None of these, however, have caused the flap over the fact that Victoria Nuland, an assistant secretary of state, has caused by saying "Fuck the EU" over her telephone, which had been tapped, and her conversation was then leaked to the world.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Petition: To the organizers and curator of the IVth Moscow International Biennale for Young Art

To The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
The Department of Culture of the City of Moscow
National Centre for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Moscow
Curator D.Elliott 
Preparations are underway for the IVth Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, the opening of which is scheduled for June 26th, 2014.
The curator of the biennale, David Elliott has chosen the theme of the project based on Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” In the open call for project, the curator claims that today’s world is as precarious, with “many similar examples of inequity and oppression that are still not fully resolved,” “while the compromises of life and politics seem frustratingly weak.” Therefore, Mr. Elliott encourages the young participants in the Biennale to “make things better,” as well as be active, courageous, critical and idealistic enough so that their art reveals “unexpected truths.”
The curator is right, artists, curators and those who are interested in the organization of the Biennale do have dreams!
And one of these dreams is that our work must be paid!
Even Martin Luther King would agree with us.
King’s his famous speech, “I have a Dream,” was delivered on August 28th, 1963 with the occasion of the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington. Protesters then demanded an end to discrimination and segregation, equal civil and labor rights, and that measures be taken against unemployment.
Also, when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4th, 1968, he had come to support African-American sanitation workers, who also demanded better working conditions, higher wages and union recognition.
Artists, curators and art workers in general involved in the production of large-scale cultural events in Russian contemporary art, live in precarious economic and social conditions. This particularly affects young artists and curators who do not have the support of galleries, private foundations and other cultural institutions which Biennale counted on. But what kind conditions does the Biennale create for these young professionals, so that they have the ability to dream, if the organizers do not consider the time and labor of its participants worthy of recognition and compensation? Or perhaps, Mr. Elliott is also not receiving any remuneration for his curatorship?
Social and economic inequalities within cultural institutions are only part of larger inequalities in Russian society – this is what the Moscow International Biennale for Young Artists demonstrates for the forth time in a row.
Young, novice participants are seemingly given the possibility to produce a project in an institutional art space in Moscow, but in practice, the reality is that they usually receive a meager production budget, they have to be day and night at the installation, they lack necessary materials and technical equipments, they encounter problems with finding accommodation and staying in Moscow, and difficulties in communicating with the organizers. They are expected to produce their work, install and transport it from their own funds.
This also increases the workload of the supporting staff in Moscow’s cultural institutions,most of whom are working on a small salary. All the while, their working day, seldom limited to only eight hours, means working well into the night and unpaid overtime.
This is what we call exploitation of labor. And we dream that this state of things will not continue any longer.
We encourage all concerned artists, curators, art workers to sign this petition! We are confident that this year, it will make a difference.
Evgeniya Abramova, art worker
Sergey Guskov, journalist, observer at Vedomosti newspaper, art editor at


The Separation: A February Story with Blacklisting, Longing for a Biennale and the Unbearable Weight of Belonging

On January 30th, 2014, Nicolaus Schafhausen, the appointed curator of the Bucharest Biennale 6 (BB6), released a public statement that he was withdrawing from the project, stating that : “The curatorial direction of BB6 developed in a direction inconsistent with that of PAVILION – the local organisers in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.” (Răzvan Ion & Eugen Rădescu, are the co-directors of BB6 and the co-directors of PAVILION)
Schafhausen had been appointed in the summer of 2012 and had attended the previous edition of the biennale (BB5) which opened in May 2012 in Bucharest. This current project was to be organised in close cooperation and collaboration with Kunsthalle Wien in Austria, and significant symposia in both Vienna and Bucharest had been planned. Schafhausen also stated that he contacted several sponsors to fund and support BB6, based on the curatorial direction and the theme of “Longing and Belonging.” This theme was to include international artists born in Romania. The curator and his concept had been also officially announced by the organizers of the biennale who supported it.
However, after a year and a half of work, the partnership between PAVILION and Schafhausen /Kunsthalle Wien fell apart, the curator citing that “irreconcilable differences” had emerged, so that “the curator and his partners cannot in good faith continue to support BB6 and PAVILION, and consequently must terminate any further commitments.”
Upon hearing the news, which was announced only via an official statement of withdrawal on the website of Kunsthalle Wien, the artistic community in Romania was left with a series of unanswered questions as to what exactly the “irreconcilable differences” were and in general, the details behind the dissolving of the partnership.  In a public note, Raluca Voinea, a curator based in Bucharest, wrote: “I think this decision has a negative impact upon the entire scene in Bucharest, which will be again judged as unserious and unprofessional. I don’t believe he was not warned what he’s getting himself into and he had enough time to figure it out in the meantime. [..] he was not to curate the Vienna biennale but the one in Bucharest, so I expected at least an open letter with explanations if not a press conference addressed to the professional community in Bucharest.” Voinea’s note received many comments from local artists, critics, curators, and gallerists. Artist Cristina David had this to add: “[…] I don’t think as you do, that the entire art scene of Bucharest will be judged as unserious, I do hope that the team of BB6 will be the one that supports the consequences.  […] I think people should not do compromises of getting along with all kinds of irregularities, because then they also give credit to the ones that don’t deserve it (BB6 people)”.  Mircea Nicolae, artist, also remarked: “Personally, I do not think BB6 internal organisational problems have anything to do with others than Pavilion people themselves. What they have been doing for a while now is well known and publicly available, not in the least on the ArtLeaks page. To start with, maybe we can lay the blame where it belongs, and leave it there for a while. […] I do not believe that the invited curator should have just accepted the problems, even if they menaced to completely alter the project. For one, it seems that Pavilion has a blacklist of local artists. So if you want to work with the local scene you have to make your way around that list, if you can. If the list is extensive and maybe even goes to the point of being exhaustive of the local scene, there might be a problem.”



~Slavoj Zizek