30 Years of Electronic Civil Disobedience on Display at the Qualcomm Institute

#RetroColectiva premieres April 28 at 5 p.m. PST

On Thursday, April 28 at 5 p.m. PST, the Qualcomm Institute (QI) and Gallery QI reflect on more than 30 years of electronic civil disobedience with Ricardo Dominguez, QI principal investigator and associate professor and chair of the UC San Diego Visual Arts Department.

The gallery’s new exhibition, #RetroColectiva, traces Dominguez’s career from the 1980s to the present. Visitors can explore a timeline of his work, including physical artifacts such as newspaper clippings, books of poetry, and water barrels left for migrants crossing between Mexico and the U.S. Then and now, Dominguez’s art uses poetry and code to explore themes of politics, empathy, disturbance and disruption.

“The art groups that I have been a part of over the last 30 years have co-created digital art disturbances, like electronic civil disobedience. These are gestures that move at the speed of dreams, not technologies, as the Zapatistas like to sing,” said Dominguez.

One of the initiatives represented in #RetroColectiva is the Critical Art Ensemble, a collective of media practitioners specializing in computer graphics and web design, film, video, photography and performance. Dominguez has been a core member since its founding in 1987. The Critical Art Ensemble has exhibited and performed internationally as recently as 2018, using technology and performance art as platforms to explore issues such as biological warfare and environmental health. 

#RetroColectiva will also feature hallmarks of Electronic Disturbance Theater 1.0, a group that Dominguez co-founded in 1997. The collective practiced forms of electronic civil disobedience, including virtual sit-ins that crashed U.S. and Mexican government websites to bring awareness to violent struggles between the Zapatista rebels, primarily made up of indigenous groups, and the military in Mexico. 

More recently, the collective evolved into Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab and created a mobile application with poetry for Mexican migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert. Named the “Transborder Immigrant Tool,” this app also features a compass that directs users to water stations managed by non-profit organizations. Visitors can listen to the app’s poetry in Spanish and handle phones equipped with the Transborder Immigrant Tool. Free copies of Dominguez’s book of poetry, “Hacktivism,” will also be available to take home.

Those attending the premiere on April 28 are requested to RSVP through galleryqi@ucsd.edu.

Still from a previous exhibit by Ricardo Dominguez. Image courtesy of Centro de Cultura Digital, Mexico.

#RetroColectiva will be on display at Gallery QI Monday to Friday, from noon to 5 p.m. until Friday, June 3. Gallery QI is a program of UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute, which harnesses technology to jumpstart innovation in areas including culture, energy, the environment and health. The gallery is located on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, on the UC San Diego campus at the corner of Voigt Drive and Equality Lane. All Gallery QI events are free and open to the public. 

All in-person events at Gallery QI follow current UC San Diego recommendations on campus safety. You can review campus safety protocols on the UC San Diego Return to Learn website.