The work "Meet Z" simulates what a personal guide might look like in the future. On an online platform, the ‘customer’ – you – continually scrolls down to receive services ranging from productivity consultancy to creative collaborating. With a clear hint of irony, Auto Italia’s description of the work resembles an advertised offer for what could be a yoga or meditation-orientated personal trainer.
Echoing both transhumanist patterns and glitch aesthetics, the work achieves merging the highest technological developments to apparent internal flaws. As such, it creates an unsettling impression of in-betweenness; between a critical stance and a real futurist commercial potential.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik's "Random Darknet Shopper" automatically bought a random item on one of the darknet's notorious marketplaces. The work, executed in a catchy way (promptly causing a big stir in mass media) is not only a convincing duplication of the thrill of the darknet. It creates through the bot and entitiy without identity and thus adds a layer to questions of anonymity and privacy online. It provided an insight for outsiders at the cost of breaking a trust system. The work's core goes way beyond the darknet though: it raises questions on the consequences caused by the execution of code. Who is acting, and who is responsible?
The beauty of this work lies in its simplicity. Usually, we experience the Internet as something so an unimaginably vast and complex that we substitute the image of the cloud for it. Here it's made visible, reduced to its material core, from the source of energy powering the server to the screen displaying the information to the user. The energy is provided by a solar panel, making the information's availability contingent on the rhythms of the sun at the place of exhibition.
"Citizen Ex" is an online project which offers a continuous calculation of your evolving Algorithmic Citizenship. What the term implies is simple: every time you connect to the Internet, traces of your passage are recorded and stored. Amongst others, they indicate your physical location, thus allowing people, companies, countries and machines to make decisions about you. In fact, the Internet is not as fleeting, immaterial and ephemeral an entity as is popularly conceived to be. It has a physical reality through computers, cables, routers, and people. In turn, the real places linked to the online spaces we visit entail our affiliation with real territory and politics; it determines our legal rights. In a world marked by migrations, wars, natural disasters, we are all becoming more international, even post-national. In reaction to this ever-fluctuating reality, Citizen Ex proposes to calculate citizenship on behavioural criteria rather than on birth location.
„Loophole for All“ is a nifty media hack by the Italian artist Paolo Cirio. By unfolding common principles of the global world of finance with their very own principles, he creates the opportunity for anyone to contribute to the possibilities of tax evasion by means of offshore accounts. The artistic work convinces in its conceptual quality and topicality by calling attention to the serious irregularities in the global tax system through artistic intervention and at the same time by pointing out the negative consequences that those common practices within the financial sector brings along.
Harm van den Dorpel’s "Deli Near Info" is a social network elevated to the level of conceptual artwork. Through regular use, the platform arranges text, images and sound in learned, but non-linear associations—think of an artificially intelligent Pinterest on LSD. With hundreds of early adopters, Deli Near Info challenges the structure of corporate social networks by offering an alternative to their linearity. As this linearity presupposes objectivity, it obscures that these highly constructed online environments influence our thought patterns. Van den Dorpel’s platform teaches us that these platforms are charged political spaces that must be critiqued at the heart of their infrastructure.
The work “Horny Lil Feminist” by Ann Hirsch dives into the highly contested arena of female self-representation online. Hirsch uses her own image to explore contemporary gender roles and sexuality with humor and candor. Her succinct videos carry on the lineage of early feminist film and video, in which material, rather than attention, was of limited means. As we’re only just beginning to understand the effects of technology on the development of our gender and sexual identities, Hirsch’s work is an intrepid update to both feminist and new media-based practices.
Eva and Franco Mattes' latest work Dark Content looks behind the surface of the clean, family friendly platforms we spend more and more of our online time on. It's not bots who keep these platforms clean, but underpaid workers in Bulgaria or on the Philippines. The artist couple's interviews with some of these so called content moderators who weed out content considered offending or shocking are the basis of Dark Content. The video series – containing no shocking images itself – is accessible only on the darknet, considered a counterpart to the increasingly controlled mainstream web.
In their interventions, the two Swiss artists question the approaches to the digital space and its underlying infrastructure. At the Swiss embassy in Berlin – adjacent to the German Chancellor’s Office – they constructed wooden towers with improvised antennas made out of ordinary tin cans and set up a Mesh-Network allowing anonymous communication. In a room highly monitored by intelligence offices, they thereby create a space for exchange where, for example, messages can be sent anonymously to the NSA.
Wachter/Jud’s work is a remarkable example for an artistic practice that is participatory and relies on the creation of communities. Their artistic strategy creates an awareness of the dependencies and regularities of a globally interconnected world. With their intervention they reconquer the digital space as a place of free communication.
Julia Weist is librarian and neo-conceptual artist. It is in a 17th century publication from the New York Public Library, that she came across the term “parbunkells”. At the time, Weist remarked that it did not have one single online entry supported by existing search-engines. In June 2015, this prompted the launch of what almost appears as an advertising campaign “selling” the word to the masses. Printed and displayed in a gigantic billboard in Queens (NY), the work initiated thousands of public reactions, unprecedentedly boosting the online presence of the term. With this work the form of an advertising gimmick, Weist raises questions about public engagement as well as about the commercial potential and freshness of a blank canvas on the net.