!Mediengruppe Bitnik—a duo comprised of Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo (born in 1976 and 1979, based in Zurich and Berlin)—uses the internet as material for artistic creation. They made themselves known in 2013 with a project titled “Delivery for Mr. Assange“. With this work, they questioned the possibility of acting as artists within the geopolitical deadlock the Wikileaks founder finds himself in, being stranded in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Aiming to establish communication with Assange without being intercepted, they used the classic channel of postal services and mailed him a package equipped with a camera for a real-time broadcast of its path on their website. The package eventually reached its destination safely.
The project they are currently working on concerns Canada’s infamous extramarital dating site Ashley Madison. In August 2015, the site was hacked and millions of names and documents were made public. !Mediengruppe Bitnik took an interest in the case, specifically the use of fembots (female robots) as interlocutors for the site’s subscribers. Each virtual bot has a name, an age, a photo and an address to encourage users to respond to its advances. The artist duo analyzed data from the Ashley Madison hacking and began raising staggering questions on the relationship between man and machine, virtuality and reality, internet intimacy, and the abusive use of digital platforms. With the exhibition titled “Jusqu’ici tout va bien“—specifically designed for the CCS—they focused on data linked to the fembot situation in Paris. They discovered 44,306 Paris-based users talking to no more than 61 bots nicknamed “Angels.” This data serves as the starting point for this exhibition, which transforms perceptions of space, brings the 61 fembots “to life,” and features neon sculptures of identification captchas.
Echoing the exhibition, an international symposium entitled Bot Like Me will feature, on December 2 and 3, conferences, roundtables and concerts curated by Sophie Lamparter (swissnex San Fransisco) and Luc Meier (EPFL, Artab, Lausanne) around the question of man’s relationship to the machine. Information is available on the CCS site.
- Ashley Madison Angel at Work 1, 2016 © !Mediengruppe Bitnik
- !Mediengruppe Bitnik
- Solve this captcha : Is anybody home lol, 2016. Photo : Martina Flury Witschi © !Mediengruppe Bitnik