®™ark (RTMArk), an activist group, was founded in 1991 with the goal of subverting corporate power and monopoly. All members remain anonymous to avoid legal ramifications for ®™ark projects but do give interviews under aliases. Through anonymous donations, ®™ark aids organizations, artists and individuals that intend to produce anti-corporate projects. Recently included in New York's Whitney Biennial (2000), the group has become extremely well known for its subversive tactics and active support of anti-corporate causes. Not only was ®™ark the silent supporter of the art group etoy.com's domain name war with the commercial site eToy.com in 1999, but it has also been associated with mirror sites of campaign Web sites for George W. Bush (1999) and the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani (1999).
Currently, the group's members are playing up their role as a corporation, selling mutual funds and raising awareness about investing in large corporations. Some of this debate can be traced through the Nettime, where they have been circulating confidential e-mail correspondence with a company in Germany interested in acquiring ®™ark's "product." (1)
Although at times seen as artists or as an arts "organization," the members of ®™ark have not actually defined themselves as such.
It could be argued that what ®™ark do is not really art, or that they aren't the real artists in this equation. After all, rather than creating an end product, they simply facilitate an action by bringing two like-minded parties together. But just as a sculptor or a conceptual artist may not have physically created the constituent parts of a work, so ®™ark's art is in having the vision and organizing its execution. The ®™ark Web site even makes parallels between putting your money into subversion and investing in art: "Like a patron commissioning a work of art you will have the satisfaction of seeing ideas you like made manifest-because of your help." (2)
One of ®™ark's very first projects was the Barbie Liberation Organization
(B.L.O.). In 1993, the group switched the voice tapes in hundreds of Barbie and G.I. Joe voice boxes. As a result, the G.I. Joe dolls uttered such phrases as "Let's go shopping," while Barbies discussed war tactics. Eventually, ®™ark progressed to more public and corporate targets. Among projects undertaken in the past five years are SimCopter
(1996), Popotla vs. Titanic
(1998) and Secret Writer's Society
(1998), which consisted of sabotaging learn-to-read software for children, designed by Panasonic Interactive Media. Triggered by various texts or words typed into the computer, the program would respond with a host of swear words. ®™ark's main goal in this intervention was to contest the efficiency of impersonal technological tools for educating children.
Other well-known projects include Deconstructing Beck
(1998), The Y2K Fund
(1999), The etoy Fund
(1999) and Phone in Sick Day
(2000). In this last project, employees all over the United States and Canada were encouraged to protest the imposed more than 40 hour working week.
Given the widespread success and popularity of the group's actions, the Whitney Museum of American Art included ®™ark's Web site in the Internet art section of the 2000 Whitney Biennial in New York. In true ®™ark fashion, the group subverted this honour by configuring the computers at the Whitney Museum so that anyone clicking on the ®™ark Web site would be redirected to a host of other sites ranging from pornography to a Backstreet Boys fan site. Other Net artists were also invited by ®™ark to include their site in the Whitney Biennial. In addition, the members of ®™ark auctioned off their tickets to the Biennial gala to the highest bidder (investor) on ebay.com and raised $8,000 US for their cause.
®™ark is currently working through its Web site to raise anonymous donations for future projects.