Flying a notional flag for the world’s most hated whistleblower
Ian Martin gets in too deep with Wikileaks
Monday. I’ve been commissioned to design a WikiLeaks headquarters building. They want me to ‘physicalise’ their presence. It’s a fascinating reversal of the corporate development process. Architects, for instance, usually have premises [typically, a Georgian building selflessly remodelled without wavy transparent bullshit or fractal interior spaces] BEFORE getting their no-wage intern to knock up a website, as a ‘favour’. But WikiLeaks’ home is an internet domain. Their primary existence is a phantom one, defined by a url and a PayPal account. Both, demonstrably, now very vulnerable. They need a decoy in the real world, ASAFP.
Tuesday. My contact is someone called Sven – a shadowy videolink presence, with his Obama mask and Buzz Lightyear Voice Changer. It’s difficult to make out what he’s saying as everything’s muffled and distorted. I mention this politely and Sven goes off on one about ‘suppression of the truth’. Which is rich, coming from someone in DISGUISE.
The briefing process is a drawn-out affair. I have three goes at ‘We wobble into a great pub like an orchard at Fortnum and Mason’ before finally Sven shouts it out a syllable at a time. ‘We want an integrated public courtyard for demonstrations’.
I’m starting to get the picture. There’s a lot of impotent rage ‘out there’ at the moment. By ‘out there’ Sven means ‘in the technically-real world’. The haters need a focus, an edifice, a built identity. Some sort of WikiLeaks embassy building where they can gather to protest, burn effigies of Julian Assange, set fire to the WikiLeaks flag [which I am also to design, get in!], chuck shit, get kettled then drift off home when it’s the Old Bill’s dinnertime.
Obviously, I accept the gig. I’m about to give Sven my mobile number and secret email address when he reads them out for confirmation.
Wednesday. Bang out some ideas for the WikiLeaks flag. The image of a whistle being blown, and leaking, is very unpleasant. Start again. A stylised profile of Assange in a Roman centurion’s helmet…yes, and a Latin motto: quis custodiet…oh bollocks. I pour a large drink and call my old friend, the theoretical miserabilist Tub Hagendaas. He did that barcode for the EU and is always full of good ideas.
‘Ah’ he sighs from the bottom of a dark vocal mineshaft of pessimism. ‘The client’s projected image is that of an outlaw. On the run, switching identities, undercover. They should change their flag as often as they change their password. There should be a new flag every day’. I owe him a drink, I say. He will have his usual – 500ml of boiled water at room temperature, with a very complicated straw.
Thursday. Think I’ve cracked the WikiLeaks building problem. It’s basically the same solution as Tub’s flag idea. A pop-up WikiLeaks headquarters, designed to look all smartarse and taunty, THAT LASTS FOR 24 HOURS ONLY. Each day, a new building. With a new flag. And it could ‘pop up’ literally anywhere in the world. So Sven and his mates would be getting what I’ve described in my project overview as ‘double-valued strategic engineering, to create a versatile and organic hate nexus’.
If we expose WikiLeaks Physical HQ to the maximum level of channelled anger, everyone will be too knackered to bother about WikiLeaks the substantive internet presence. Also, the ‘search for tomorrow’s WikiLeaks Building’ would be an exciting globalised ‘hunting down’ adventure for the haters. Rumours would spread on Twitter, having it on great authority that a Shoreditchy-funky-touchy-feely ‘chaff and nettle’ baley WikiLeaks pop-up was being prepared in Doha, say, and the mobilisation of hate would begin all over again.
Must Skype Sven. I have an innovative multi-layered invoice structure to show him.
Friday. ‘There is no “Sven” any more’ says Sven slowly, from inside a Darth Vader helmet. ‘There is only…ah God, I don’t know. “Julian”. No, fuck, not “Julian”. “Sven 2”. We at WikiLeaks have approved your Pop-Up A Day solution to physicalising our presence. Thank you for your invaluable assistance’. I’m about to point out that my assistance is VERY valuable, and billable, but I seem to have lost my connection.
Saturday. Bastards. A WikiLeak pop-up has appeared in Oslo, flying the Portugese flag upside down. Is nothing sacred, or secret, any more?
Sunday. Brainwork in the recliner. Wake up with a horrible sensation of being watched. Luckily, have replaced self with pop-up version of self.