Akademie Schloss Solitude and ZKM | Center for Art and Media have awarded the first web residencies of their now cooperatively organized program. The call for proposals on the topic »Blowing the Whistle, Questioning Evidence« was curated and juried by Tatiana Bazzichelli, artistic director of the Diruption Network Lab, Berlin. Her jury statement gives further insight into the context of the call and the chosen projects. The web residents will work on their projects for four weeks (until April 20, 2017), posting articles regularly or reporting on the steps to their final piece. Projects will be shown on Schlosspost as well as on the ZKM website.
The call for this round of Web Residencies »Blowing the Whistle – Questioning Evidence« refers to a relatively new field of artistic practices, where art is seen as a mean for producing evidence of misconduct and wrongdoing, as well as a terrain of meta reflection on whistleblowing, leaking, and surveillance. This call asks for artistic projects that offer an analysis on tactics and strategies for resistance, by questioning the meaning of evidence itself. In a political phase in which the boundaries between »truth« and »fake« are getting quite blurry, it is our responsibility to adopt a critical perspective while investigating these issues.
The entries of this call gave a quite diverse interpretation of the concept of evidence related to art, proposing a variety of artistic approaches, which interweaved formats, methods, and technologies. I appreciated the diversity of perspectives and points of view that demonstrated that the concept of evidence is understood differently from person to person, and influenced by individual, theoretical, geographical and practical backgrounds. The submissions demonstrated that even possibly one-dimensional concepts as »evidence« and »truth« can be questioned and become multiple, fluid, and a matter of interpretation. This aspect might appear problematic, especially in these times of »relative facts«, but it shows that it is in the realm of conceptual freedom, and even disruption, that new imaginations are still possible. The challenge is to understand how to give disruption a constructive approach, able to bring more awareness and consciousness in the artistic, political and technological field.
The four winners of this call took this challenge showing an in-depth combination of theoretical, artistic, and technological skills. By imagining artistic practice as a fieldwork of critical intervention, the artists proposed to disclose mechanisms of power and control underneath technological systems, political structures, and the tools that we use in our everyday life.
The selected proposals for this call work on topics around: exposing geofencing and obscure geolocation metadata (Adam Harvey), investigating data mining and private data retention on Facebook (Hang Do Thi Duc), revealing US tracking and online services embedded in websites representing US embargoed countries (Joana Moll), and finally, researching strategies used to manipulate public opinion and produce false information (Marloes de Valk).
The choice of the latter project, proposing the format of essay which might be in contradiction with the idea of »web based residency«, is motivated by the importance of supporting artistic research beyond the idea of the »technological«. To be able to produce a critical artistic work we need to recognize the preceding research, which itself is rarely compensated.
Furthermore, I propose to give an additional »Honorary Mention« to the Demystification Committee, as an input to develop their project further, recognizing the importance of working with a critical subject such as the Panama Papers, which after the initial journalistic hype has been quite forgotten in the public debate.
Finally, the ten shortlisted projects show a combination of interesting practices about how it is possible to deal with surveillance and corporative forms of control, as well as power structures, using forms ranging from music to theory, from poetry to graphic, from film to coding. I encourage all the artists, hackers, activists and critical thinkers to develop their ideas further, and to keep contributing, inspiring, and producing new critical practices and imaginations.
Adam Harvey (Berlin/Germany)
»SkyLift: Low-Cost Geo-Location Spoofing Device«
SkyLift is small device that exploits the longstanding vulnerability (from 2009) in geo-location positioning using WiFi BSSIDs. Companies, including Google and Apple, rely on the use of this WiFi packets from home routers to return the estimated smartphone users position. Until now, this method has required the use of multiple routers and a complicated, expensive setup. SkyLift reintroduces the concept to a new audience using a low-cost, Arduino-compatible WiFi transceiver (ESP8266) to relocate the user to almost anywhere in the world. For the web residency, Adam Harvey will demonstrate how SkyLift can be easily built and used by activists to break geofencing and obscure geolocation metadata.
Hang Do Thi Duc (New York/USA)
»Me And My Facebook Data«
For the Web Residency with Akademie Schloss Solitude and ZKM, Hang Do Thi Duc will research on the ever relevant question of »What does Facebook know about me?« Facebook users are able to download a copy of their historical data – one can scroll through all their own raw data. And, although she is skeptical that this actually contains everything, she believes it is a foundation for analysis – an aggregated view on all locations she logged into Facebook, where she uploaded photos, what photos she posts, what topics she discusses in her private messages, and when she gained the most friends. The main goal is to show the potential of this data paired with algorithms and provoke thinking and discussions about the real life impact if and when the results of predictions built from this data are used beyond just targeted advertising. The project will be realized as a website where users would be able to upload their data.
Joana Moll (Barcelona/Spain)
Joana Moll’s proposal for the residency is based on researching and revealing the many US tracking and online services embedded in websites representing US embargoed countries, thereby exposing the ambiguous relationship between code, public policy, geopolitics, economics, and power in the age of algorithmic governance. The US is currently enforcing embargoes and sanctions against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Thus, all transactions carried out with these countries are prohibited and heavily sanctioned by the US government. Nevertheless, Google trackers and other online services such as Google Fonts and so on, owned by the American IT giant, have been found within several websites owned by countries under US embargo. Joana Moll recently found Google trackers within the official webpage of North Korea and tried to sell them Ebay as a .txt file. Even though the item was just an intangible piece of data – property of a US company – it was banned immediately by a Bot, another piece of code in charge of enforcing US policy. At this point the usually unacknowledged agency of code is undeniable.
Marloes de Valk (Hoorn/Netherlands)
»How to Escape Reality in 10 Simple Steps«
As part of the larger project What remains, a game for the 1986 Nintendo Entertainment System, How to Escape Reality in 10 Simple Steps is an essay that maps existing research on strategies used to manipulate public opinion, focusing on events taking place in the eighties. Inspired by Manufacturing Consent (Herman & Chomsky, 1988), Merchants of Doubt (Oreskes & Conway, 2010) and The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society (J.S. Dryzek, R. B. Norgaard, D. Schlosberg, Eds, 2011) – as well as other sources – Marloes de Valk will write about the methods used to spread false information and doubt in this pivotal decade, and also draw parallels to today’s technologically enhanced media landscape that does not cause, but greatly facilitates the spread of false information.