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GALLERY 2010/2011


REFF - RomaEuropa FakeFactory


Description of campaign/project

REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory (http://www.romaeuropa.org ) was born as a performative action whose aim was to reinvent reality. To reinvent
what is "given" as real, what power, authorities, institutions give you saying: "this is it! this is the way it is! take it! this is
Due to the economic crisis and the resulting need for private sponsorship, an important italian cultural institution, the Fondazione RomaEuropa, in 2008 became the cultural wing of one of Italy's most active operators in the war on society through digital cultures: Telecom Italia, Italy's largest telco operator.
This war is a war of codes, enacted through the creation of language, of imaginaries and by enacting all the forms of "crowdsourced
strategies" that we have come to know as being the main toolbox for contemporary authority. Create participative initiatives with only three things in mind: have people working for free; build the cultures and imaginaries supporting fake opportunities; create massive initiatives that you (the operator) control.
And so, the Fondazione RomaEuropa, a fundamental cultural operator since Italy's 1980s, became part of this war, on the wrong side.
Its competition for digital arts, titled RomaEuropa WebFactory, was the first step into the war.
A competition on digital arts with really violent artist agreement (as soon as you register to the competition, the Fondazione and Telecom Italia own all rights on your work: for free and forever) and not allowing any practices of remix/mashup (you need to upload your works and your works need to be created only using "original" material, whatever that means).
On top of that, The Fondazione and Telecom reserved for themselves the right to remix and mashup the works of the registered artists. Even more: the whole competition and cultural project enacted no real policy in support of participating artists and cultural operators, but a mere small money prize and the possibility to participate to a social network of artists (the Fondazione's artists).
All themes asked for a reaction.
We decided for a reaction that would produce a real alternative.
So we produced a fake.
A fake institution was born: REFF, RomaEuropa FakeFactory.
The fake institution squatted the Fondazione's aesthetics, cybersquatted their domains, and re-enacted and completely inverted their practices.
The FakeFactory's first initiative was, thus, an international competition completely based on open licensing of contents, on artists' rights and on the idea that submitted works *had* to be created by using the practices of remix, mash-up and recontextualization.
The "fake" competition was a success, more than the "original" one.
80+ partners all over the world, massive media coverage, hundreds of participating artists, successful viral communication campaigns. And, irony, official recognition for the "fake", where the "original" didn't receive any: REFF was officially hosted and recognized by the Cultural Commission of the Italian Senate and it became an official event of the European Community's Year of Culture.
The year after, victory was collected: the next edition of the Fondazione's competition was identical to our fake.
REFF, a fake, squatted, institution defined a "new real".
And it kept on going, assessing each year a different theme in the domains of cultural policies, of opportunities for arts and creativity, of the practices of knowledge sharing and freedom of expression and information.
Dozen initiatives spawned, from arts, to performance to entire sustainable and innovative economic models.
The latest of them is FakePress, an innovative publishing house that does not produce any books but, rather, ubiquitous publications that can be experienced on bodies, objects, architectures and geographical locations, using ubiquitous, cross-medial technologies and enacting collaborative, emergent, open-ended narratives.

REFF - RomaEuropa FakeFactory has now become the first instance of a new form of publishing, edited by FakePress, between Augmented Reality, Ubiquitous Publishing, innovative and accessible interfaces, emergent narratives, infoaesthetics, and a new way to look at the world around us.

The first step was a public reaction: as group of artists/activists we used a series of famous blogs to ask for explanations, receiving only formal meaningless answers. So we decided to act, in a way that was productive and significant.

We created a FAKE.

In a couple of days the RomaEuropaFAKEFactory was born, promoting a competition that was specular to Fondazione's WebFactory, with sections based on the original ones, but detourned and focused on the arts of "remix", from Duchamp to Andy Warhol to William Burroughs... All the communication was based on unconventional tactics (guerrilla, viral...). We quickly cybersquatted domains (buying the domain www.romaeuropa.org />
), accounts, social networks, blogs. We started diffusing news to lawyers interested in intellectual property, to online communities and mailing lists. We activated journalists, radios and TVs. We joined forces with university professors, getting students interested in both the detourned competition and on the issues it was speaking about. "Rejected from Romeuropa WebFactory" was a viral campaign in which W. Burroughs, A. Warhol, O. Welles become testimonials of the fake competition: watch the videos here




In less than a month, over than 80 partners joined in, with a base of users growing by the thousands and communicating through emails, social networks and other media.

There was a true sense of "righteousness" that was clear to anyone joining in. We decided to move things forward, and proposed a transformation: REFF was to become a continuous process, a digital ecosystem in which to create, produce, research.

Between 2009 and 2010, this process turns into a publication, "REFF. The reinvention of reality through critical practices of remix, mash-up, re-contextualization, reenactment, a book in augmented reality edited in Italy by FakePress and DeriveApprodi. Over 30 contributions ranging from critical articles to interviews; a catalog of 30 works exploring the themes of remix in an extended way; the special mentions of the 2009-2010 contest; a new experience of reading integrating the digital and paper dimensions trough the use of Augmented Reality and tagging. But also an open source tool for creating ubiquitous, cross-media publications, by FakePress.

With the foreword by Bruce Sterling, the book include:

* a book (made of paper and integrating QRCodes and Fiducial Markers to access digital data and experience Augmented Reality contents directly from the book)
* a website (optimized for both desktop and mobile browsers)
* a mobile application (developed for iPhone, iPad, it will allow you to experience the augmented reality contents, to use the location-based information present in the book and to access the mobile interactive experiences)

Here a trailer of the book in italian


Here Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic playing with the book


REFF is a book beyond the e-book. Reflecting about a design and communication strategy, the next english version of the book will be an object of design, a pill-box to sells and distributes augmented reality drugs or drugs that allow people to augment their own reality. Please find here the prototype


and a first action of shopdropping in Rome with REFF and Patrikc Lichty


REFF is a real-life, materialized scenario of how it is possible to "reinvent reality" through critical practices, tactical media usage, fake, hacking and other peculiar practices and methodologies. After REFF the "original" competition was forced to change their approach to intellectual property and to cultural policy management.

REFF created access. Communication and presence in the public discourse allowed REFF to be empowered and to enforce some conditions, allowing us to break some rules and given practices, which often are a tool for authority.
For example we were able to create a real opportunity for a really young researcher, Germana Berlantini, who, at only 21 years of age, can now say that she wrote a book together with Bruce Sterling, breaking all the barriers that usually are present in these kinds of things (fame, academics, authority...).

Knowledge sharing
REFF's communication is truly oriented to knowledge sharing. Accessible technologies become artworks, methodologies become narratives, the possibility to participate becomes an open performative space. We produced and shared skills, methodologies, techniques, software platforms, economies.

REFF, up to now, has been an exhausting experience. Exhausting yet incredibly valuable. Te biggest lesson learned in the process is that almost everyone is open to a positive innovation, but the activating people to actually do something is a rather difficult alchemy.

Digital networks misses the direct physical contact that is often needed to effectively create initiatives and live processes. In this scenario, communication is *everything* and it must be scaled and shaped correctly.
On one side, it is too easy to get carried away in this kind of process: too many things to do, too big, too fast. Feasibility needs to be constantly kept in mind: just because it's "digital" or even "immaterial", doesn't mean that it happens automatically, with no effort, or cost.

On another side, when we speak about "ecosystem" it is easy to identify it with the romantic visions of a "natural thing", that just might happen in a digital network: networked environments or processes or communities need to be explicitly designed to allow for interactions, experiences, research, opportunity, access, respect. This is probably the most important lesson learned so far, and it really can be useful for people creating laws, systems, culture, and even art: infrastructure should be at the service of people, in both formal, experiencial and pragmatic ways; in the same ways, people creating infrastructures (be them laws, pipes or networks) should really be at the service of people as well.

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

I love this hack! Bravo! The REFF project is, interestingly, part of these citizen initiatives that sprout here and there in reaction to the increased number of misappropriations of public institutions by corporations. Here it's Telecom Italia with the REFF, there it's the Modern Tate taken hostage by BP.

The ongoing REFF project has made a strong impression on me. It's a fake institution, bundled with an interactive book. It's a masterpiece in "détournement". It is as if the smarty pants apprentice has taken over from the drunken master. It's a "tour de force" in spoofing at a high creative level and on solid ethical grounds.

REFF makes it clear that the corporate influence over public cultural institutions is not desirable. The project takes the Fundazione on a little trip, with an alternative contest in which more artists partake than in the original one floated by the Fundazione. This is interesting because Fake Press makes this project work for the people out there. It could have decided to keep REFF as a limited spoof on the Fundazione's ill-defined competition. But it decided to widen its impact by including artists to the critique. It made the project take on a collective form, thereby rendering it even more powerful and credible.

Now, specifically regarding the book, I was wondering how the response has been with the QRCodes. Have people actually used them? Is it a good choice of participatory avenue? Does this augmented book work for those of us without smart phones and high tech devices?

The double-critique of restrictive copyright and corporate appropriation of public cultural institutions manages, as the REFF project states, to show that "art, design and new technologies can unite towards a critical, yet positive vision of a world that can create new opportunities and new ways of being, collaborating and communicating." This being said, I would love to hear you on the "new ways of collaborating" that emerged from REFF. Is this meant for artists who had not created in a collective manner beforehand? Or does it refer to the use of new technology to share and discuss the Fundazione's original competition?

Finally, I find it quite impressive that the creators of REFF have managed to make this project evolve over time. What's hidden behind the QRCodes in the book, as I understand it, changes over time, is regularly updated and continues to evolve. This is also true for making the REFF project travel. It seems as though the creators are making way with this project in presenting it on campuses and trying to get people stimulated by it. This "people effort" is worth underlining as a defining feature of REFF. It is truly motivating to see this effort continuing over time. It makes me think that there is a true willingness on behalf of the authors to share their project, to test it with different audiences and to educate.

Congratulations for all the efforts in making REFF happen!

View other works commented by Frédéric Dubois  ››

Definitively with this project i felt overwhelmed with the idea of a reality increased by those who compose this team and by their contributions to the radical transformation of codes from all sides possible.

Similarly, the idea of what is falsehood, potentiates any possibility of what is thought of the "real" (and to which I mean in philosophical terms) and the power that this reaction contains in itself.

As I quote Regis Debray and think more importantly return to a fruit of the graphosfera: the book –the object-, and to include in a form (which collects multiple contents of great interest), the implementation of reality increased and lead to direct this look to the videosfera, like in same way in Regis.

The english version of this book promises to be in addition to interesting in its content, also an object that can become collectible… with its packaging witch does it appear to be like cream, an object of design can continue to expand and militate through this era of emptiness.

View other works commented by Sandra Rengifo  ››

Other comments

8 years, 7 months ago

dear meme-curators,

thank you for this exciting review process: exciting also because I found in the text very interesting questions adressed to REFF (witch help us in a dipper comprehension of what we are doing/we did).

I found here a space for comment, so I'm using it: is it the right procedure? Can we open a dialogue over here? It is quiet unusual and we would love to do it :)

we just sent to REFF artists/authors the review page to ask them comments/confrontation

best regards,
penelope.di.pixel for REFF

8 years, 7 months ago

Dear meme-curators,

we received a kind answer about the possibility to start a dialogue over there. First, we really love this "open procedure"!

Regarding the specific questions addressed to REFF, we alerted all authors and artist about MemeFest and we try here to live a feedback.

About the book and the use of QRcode:
To experience QRcode people need the paper version of the book: we published near 500 copies and around 250 are actually circulating (both in bookstores/event/friends houses). Distribution is the first limitation. The second is language: the book is in italian and was distributed physically just in Italy. The third is technolgical: of course, people need a mobile/webcam capable to read QRcode and the software to read it. It seems a terrible situation, but is not that bad. I the REFF case people enjoy reading QRcodes and are really using them: of course we need to think that the book was presented during specific event and to specific audience already involved in art, technologies, research (or very joung: for example students classes). QRcodes are not "for-everyones" but are becoming quiet common.
What is really interesting both for REFF and FakePress, as a partner and publisher of the project, are the emerging grammars and narratives we can create using this technologies. About the low tech use, a good example is "REFF DIY Expo". This is a performative section of the book that brings people to a link where they can dowload 30 QRcode: each of them point to an artwork of the catalogue, so printing them as stickers everyone can realize its REFF AR exhibit everywhere.

There are a lot of exemples of special qrcodes and fiducial markers we realized for the publication, but the real innovation we produced as REFF is MACME, an open source platform that transforms a WordPress blog into a system of cross-media publishing. REFF book is the first prototype of publication produced using MACME:

we released the software in this days as a part of the first internationl REFF exhibit in London

This exhibion is a powerfull example of a real policy enacted by the Fake Institution, but also of collaboration and diffusion of practices using ubiquitous technologies produed by REFF. In the 2 weeks prior the exhibit we realized a series of theoretical and practical workshops exploring the possibilities offered by fake, remix, recontextualization, plagiarism and reenactment as a tool for methodological reinvention of reality, across universities and students movements. We brought them platforms as MACME and Bluetooth War : softwares was installed on their machines, with the result that now dozens of project are popping up allover and groups of students involved in social movements across London and Milan are experimenting this platforms as a tool for tactical media.

We called this the "REFF Youth Program" :)

I live you with the newest project of our Fake Institution, the REFF AR Drug:

“REFF is an Augmented Reality (AR) Drug. Also referred to as Simulata Realitas per Activam-Industriosam-Laboriosam Multiplicationem, REFF AR Drug is a psychotropic antidepressant administered cross-medially.

This drug is used to treat social depression, fear of the future, precariety, anthropological distress, lack of opportunities, communicational totalitarianism, scarcity of freedoms and intolerant social ecosystems.

Compared to other drugs acting on the same areas, REFF AR Drug is designed with accessibility in mind and as an enabler of the spontaneous generation of forms of expression and of collaborative practices.

REFF AR Drug is also used (off-label) to treat numerous other conditions such as the UFPS (Uncertainty for the Future of Publishing Syndrome), and the LDSBMS (Lack of Decent Sustainable Business Models Syndrome).”

We lunched the drug in london and it will be the next version of the book :)

penelpe.di.pixel for REFF

(1) I'm in charge for curating the MemeFest submission and process: what you read is my point of view. Because we love multiplicity and we do not believe in representative system, all artists and authors participing in the REFF Institution will be completely free to express their own point of view.
(2) A special thanks to Salvatore Iaconesi (aka xDxD.vs.xDxD) is needed: he conceived in the first beginning the idea of the Fake Institution, providing aesthetics and technologies to REFF.

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 2 curator(s):
Frédéric Dubois Sandra Rengifo go to comments ›

Entry details


REFF - RomaEuropa FakeFactory


Remix the World! Remix Reality!

Concept author(s)

Salvatore Iaconesi; Oriana Persico

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

Salvatore and Oriana have imagined and started the whole action/performance. Opening up the initial debate with the Fondazione Romaeuropa and getting the other parties involved, they made the first action happen and then persued it in its following phases, coordinating the creation of concepts, strategies and aesthetics. A thing must be said: REFF is a constantly mutating networked performance. The continuous mutation is a precise part of teh strategy. So, while it is correct to say that Salvatore and Oriana are the Authors, it must also be said that an enormous number of people have been involved in many, many ways and at different times and levels of engagement. This set of people if currently too wide and unstructured to fit in the other fields below, and one can reconstruct its history and mutation by accessing the online documentation. REFF is currently still led by Salvatore and Oriana together with FakePress, also composed by Luca Simeone, Cary Hendrickson and Federico Ruberti.



Competition category


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

REFF – Romaeuropa FakeFactory is an act of artistic and technological hacking, a platform for global discussion and a performance that, beginning in 2009, has dealt with the themes of active, critical and creative innovation, confronting the management of cultural and technological policies related to these areas