The Zapatista Tactical FloodNet

A collaborative, activist and conceptual art work of the net

FloodNet Functionality

Tactical FloodNet's automated features are used:

1) To reload a targeted web page several times per minute.

2) For the conceptual-artistic spamming of targeted server error logs.

The web site of an institution or symbol of Mexican neo-liberalism is targeted  on a particular day. A link to FloodNet is then posted in a public call for participation in the tactical strike. Netsurfers follow this link; then by simply leaving their browser open the FloodNet Applet will automatically reload the target web page every few seconds. The intent is to disrupt access to the targeted web site by flooding the host server with requests for that  web site.

Floodnet Interactivity

As FloodNet performs automatic reloads of the site in the background, slowing or halting access to the targeted server, FloodNet also encourages interaction on the part of individual protesters. Netsurfers may voice their political
concerns on a targeted server via the "personal message" form which sends the surfer's own statement to the server error log.  Additionally, a mouse click on the applet image (containing a representation of the targeted site), sends a predefined message to the server error log. In the current version of FloodNet, this process is automated as well.

FloodNet as Conceptual Art

FloodNet is an example of conceptual that empowers people through activist/artistic expression.  By the selection of  phases for use in building the "bad" urls , for example using "human_rights" to form the url "", the FloodNet is able to upload messages to server error logs by intentionally asking for a non-existent url. This causes the server to return messages like "human_rights not found on this server."  This works because of the way many http servers process requests for web pages that do not exist. FloodNet's Java applet asks the targeted server for a directory called, in this example, "human_rights", but since that directory doesn't exist, the server returns the familiar "File not Found" or "Error 404" message, recording the bad request.  This is a unique way to leave a message on that server.

Past versions of the FloodNet have tuned this idea to current events, such as during the June 10 protest when the names of the Zapatista farmers killed by the Mexican Army in military attacks on the autonomous village of El Bosque, were used in the construction of the "bad" urls. In an artistic sense, this is a way of remembering and honoring those who gave their lives in defense of their freedom. In a conceptual sense, the FloodNet performance was able to facilitate a symbolic return of the dead to the servers of those responsible for their murders.

FloodNet Philosophy

"Only art history still knows that the famed geniuses of the Renaissance did not just create paintings and buildings, but calculated fortresses and constructed war machines. If the phantasm of all Information Warfare, to reduce war to software and its forms of death to operating system crashes, were to come true, lonesome hackers would take the place of the historic artist-engineers."
Frederich Kittler  
Taking the place of "historic artist-engineers" only becomes possible if we focus on genius as a emergent quality of human-machinic networks (the cybernetic as distributed collective) . "Lonesome hackers", is somewhat misleadingin the context of fine artists working on software weapons, if only because it unfortunately indexes all of modernism"s notions of troubled genius, without qualifying it in the context of the conflation of biological life into the consciousness prosthetic of the network. The Zaps FloodNet  hopefully serves as a counter example to this notion of individualist genius, because, as media art, it has emerged from and serves a community which genuinely requires the development of such attention weapons as a matter survival.

As an alternative to the re-emergence of the artist as the lonely hacker, we could in turn seek an ontological status for artist as "true" defensive worker in the network era. But the destructive implementation of  "Defense" as euphemism for war (as in the name change in the United States from the "Department of War" to the "Department of Defense"), long ago erased the distinction between defensive and offensive capabilities once evident in the various designs of fortresses and war machines. The cryptanalytical foundation secrecy, correctly identified as the foundation of contemporary information processes, is simultaneously defensive and offensive under this implosion. Can the fortress be reinstantiated?

It seems that the reconstruction of the fortress as a somehow useful strategy is no less misguided and romantic than the reinstantiation of the Renaissance artist figure as a cryptanalytical war engineer. If anything, the cryptanalytical accomplishments of the past two centuries have soundly defeated the wall as a defensive mechanism; not only by blurring the distinction between defense and offence (as in Ronald Reagan"s star wars imaginary), but by simply rendering walls and other manifestations of protection useless.

As such, fortifications and secrecy are a kind of trap for information artists for many reasons. Information is ephemeral, becoming stale quickly, leaving it as one of the most perishable of tactical tools. Additionally, most artists do not have the capital to compete with the information warfare apparatus of corporations and governments. And of course, no one really cares about an artist"s secrets in any case! It is better to not have secrets, because to do so is to pretend walls of comfort around us which no longer exist. More importantly, it reduces the amount of friction the info-artist must face: secrecy requires little work if we are little concerned with it. It is better to take public actions which call attention to dangerous situations for real people. Artists as communications engineers, working in groups to design the next generation of networked communications pulse-weapon, will allow still larger groups to leverage their numbers in tactical performances of presence; these are the goals of non-violent inforwar.

The Zaps FloodNet represents just such a collective weapon of presence. Designed as a collectively actuated weapon, inverting the logic of wide open propaganda pipes by flooding network connections with millions of hits from widely distributed, fully participatory nodes, the FloodNet enables a performance of presence which says to Mexico (and its close ally the United States): "We are numerous, alert, and watching carefully." After the initial design, the roles played by communications artists are best described as only the initial low-dimensional attractors upon which the critical tertiary projection of similarity in the dynamic net-system of cybernetics is articulated. This is not only evident in user participation with the FloodNet  performances, but in other similarly directed mass actions. Instead of the return of the Renaissance artist/engineer or the sedentary seclusion of the fortress, we seek instead the self-organization of human-machinic networks of good conscious, visibility, and presence.

Ricardo Dominguez- Organizer, Agitator, Artist, Theorist

Carmin Karasic- Artist, Interface design and testing, Graphic Design (

Brett Stalbaum- Java Programmer, Artist and author of FloodNet Applet (

Stefan Wray- Theorist, Writer, and Agitator

Information on actions:

To actually instantiate the software and engage a target: