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MTAA-RR » texts » toywar:

MTAA report on’s TOYWAR and interview agent.NASDAQ
2000, originally published on

1. Background Story (as all good computer games need)

Once upon a time, 1994 to be exact, there was a European net art group called etoy spent its young years practicing cultural mischief. They modeled themselves as a hybrid of social art and corporate structure. They ran around in orange uniforms with shaved heads and mirrored sunglasses. They sold etoy.SHARES instead of art.They were (and still are) a faceless group known only by pseudonyms. In general, they did the things you are not supposed to do in professional art practice. Oh yeah, and worse of all, they did it online.

All was well and good in the art kingdom of (good enough in fact to win the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica) until the billion dollar online toy store decided to steal the etoy.CORPORATION domain name and banish them from the World Wide Web. etoy rejected a hostile takeover bid from the toy seller and were dragged into a California court. The court issued an injunction against etoy effectively shutting down the online art corporation. Thus began the TOYWAR.

2. The TOYWAR Resistance Game (Winter 1999/2000)

And so, with the help of,, and a slew of other net art groups, online activists and communities, etoy developed an online “game” with the winning goal of driving the stock price down. Over 1,800 individual player avatars joined the game. Virtual sit-ins were staged. A TOYWAR PR machine kicked into gear. Two hundred online support sites were created. A real world rally for the TOYWAR was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And when things got rough, TOYWAR DJ’s created downloadable chill-out music to relieve combat stress. In the end’s stock price, to the amusement and amazement of all, dropped like a rock.

3. Brief Detour for Art

An entry into online art may begin with the understanding of the nature of the internet. The net, at its most basic level is a system of communication. This system is not one to one or even one to many. It is many to many. The TOYWAR followed this structure. It was individuals and groups of autonomous producers who activated the platform created by etoy. The second thing to consider is that the online address (URL) of an individual inhabits the same space as that of a billion dollar corporation, empowering individuals as never before. If one chooses a dot com address, one chooses a corporate identity. One way to activate art on the net is to assume this identity and play the game.

4. Interview At A Bar, NYC

During the TOYWAR, an avatar known as agent.NASDAQ (AKA Reinhold Grether) stepped forward, not only as a troop leader, but also as a theoretical voice. MTAA met agent.NASDAQ at a dive bar in the East Village of New York City.

T Whid: So, agent.NASDAQ, on your fist visit to America, how does it feel to be in the belly of the beast?

NASDAQ: I am unimpressed (with a smile on his face), I feel at home. Through film and media I have seen this before, all the buildings, all the people. It is very familiar. If you can find a means to occupy myself here, you may have my ticket home.

M River: Strange. I would think that that the American nature of… ummm

NASDAQ: Over commercialization?

M River: Yes, might be unsettling at first.

NASDAQ: Yes, I was a young Marxist (smile). Capitalism is only one strain of cultural value building. It does not discriminate within its inter-relations. Part of this is the internet with its ability to bring together incompatible logics. Within the interactions of the internet, within one’s understanding or misunderstanding, it is possible to navigate cultural value.

T Whid: …and etoy’s program takes this on…

NASDAQ: etoy are each very apt programmers. They are skilled in the technology.

But, as artists, they engage the transcendental. It is now the problem of our time, in late capitalism, that we must do everything. Religion, Art, Politics, everything.

T Whid: …like most of us on the net, they take the role of autonomous producers.

NASDAQ: Yes, and it is only possible to be an autonomous producer with collaboration, which brings us to the net again.

M River: So, I guess the next question, after TOYWAR, after the impact.MANAGEMENT, after etoy.CORPORATION in Manhattan, what will be the result this work?

NASDAQ: I do not know. This was a model for gaining impact. It was to give the impression of the opposite…

(MTAA note: At this point we’ll have to go to the ever-popular jotting words on the bar napkins…Please forgive our bad transcription)

“dainellung der unoglichen gegenwell” …the presentation of the impossible, non-utopic, counter-world. In Marxist tradition, the world is too complex to give it a plan. One may only set a course. This is what etoy has done.

5. Links

etoy on-line may be seen at:

articles by Agent Nasdaq (aka Reinhold Grether) on the Toywar may be found at:
Wie die Etoy-Kampagne geführt wurde
in english: How the Etoy Campaign Was Won
you can do a search for Grether on: for more articles.

MTAA-RR » texts » toywar

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