The Zapatista Tactical FloodNet 

A collabortive, activist and conceptual art work of the net 
by Brett Stalbaum

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 
misleading in 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: