Robert Whitman

HARDLY ANYONE was in the tent when we arrived. The white marquee housed only a projection screen, chairs, and a bewildering array of cubed focaccia—resembling a car dealership promotion gone awry. But next door, an energetic crew radiating youthful hacktivism and elderly bohemia (and clearly not on their way to the Burlington Coat Factory across the parking lot) was taking over an abandoned Midas Muffler storefront, temporarily upgrading the building with an arsenal of video cell phones, titanium PowerBooks, a wireless router, and an audio mixer. Amidst this cinder-block terrain in Kingston, New York, the group was to restage the two most emblematic sites of modernity’s public sphere—the shopping arcade and fairground—as unlikely cynosures of a renegade communications network.

The intervention belonged to Robert Whitman’s Local Report, a series of five weekend performances that took place

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