Interview with Ruben from Peng

Ruben gave held a workshop called "How to Bust Evil With a Smile" on Sunday 3 April.

Can you say a bit about yourself? I am Ruben, 26 years old and originally studied chemistry. However, I recognised very soon that this was not be what I wanted to do. I could not imagine working in a laboratory all my life. So I went into journalism.

At the same time, I had always been involved in some kind of activism in different areas. I was active on environmental issues locally, later on I occupied trees and also worked for NGOs. Later I did some guerilla communication as part of my activism. While I was working as a journalist I also became increasingly frustrated. There are lots of bad things happening that you need to report on, but I felt I couldn't do anything about them. Then I met Peng! - and I got the feeling you can do something about these issues, or at least have a lot of fun trying.

How was your workshop at the “Nervous Systems” Exhibition? The workshop was called “How to bust evil with a smile”

After introducing the Peng! Collective, we discussed tactics such as culture jamming, guerrilla communication and “artivism”, which are at the heart of what Peng! does. We watched some videos from Peng! Collective actions, discussing what goes into the planning and execution of such an action. We went “behind the curtains” to discuss what are the difficult things to watch out for, problems or consequences to be aware of. People were also very interested in knowing how to shape messages for traditional media, including unusual or fun ways to engage with them, and what kind of pitfalls to avoid during this process.

We reviewed some of our most popular actions: the time we impersonated Google employees at Re:Publica in 2015, Fluchthelferin, the campaign to help refugees cross the borders into Germany, as well as “Zero Trollerance” the campaign to fight misogyny online. Another case study was the Vatenfall Responsibility Initiative, when we hijacked Vattenfall's Public Relations department for a day and made them say that they would take responsibility as a company for their coal mining operations in Germany. We also covered the highs and lows of Intelexit, a campaign to help intelligence officers leave the intelligence community.

How did people respond, what surprised you that you did not expect? It was quite cool, it took much longer than planned. It was scheduled for 90 minutes, and people stayed there for 4 hours! People were very motivated and they came up with their own actions. It was great to see this and very inspiring that they were thinking of their own actions. You can really see that the actions have an effect and an impact - even if small. Some people gathered after the workshop, and they started planning their own action on the spot.