This is part of a series of articles about creative online subversion, #HackYourFuture, on Dazed Digital. A different guest-editor will discuss a different discipline everyday. This is online art organisation Rhizome's Heather Corcoran on artists, hacking and action.
Last week, an impromptu call out on Twitter brought a group of artists and coders to the Brooklyn-based 319 Scholes gallery to take part in a hack session supporting of Istanbul’s protesters in Gezi Park. The structure wasn’t new to the gallery – only a few months earlier, a different group of artist/technologists had huddled in the same space for a spirited collaborative event called Art Hack Day. Yet this time, the mission was as clear as it was urgent: in 24 hours, the #OccupyGezi supporters had reportedly made the beginnings of a database of missing persons and arrestees, an SMS-based data exchange network for the large number of protestors without smartphone access, and a wiki of clear and necessary information.
Artists and hackers share a belief that technology should be interrogated, intervened in, or examined before it marches along without us, and both are developing strategies to do so
Artists and hackers have always been natural allies. Many in both camps share a belief that technology should be interrogated, intervened in, or examined before it marches along without us, and both are developing strategies to do so. Sometimes this results in useful, necessary and tangible outcomes, like the #OccupyGezi projects. Other times these collaborations exist as affective artworks with many possible meanings, transcending their medium as great artworks can do. Last year, for example, when Rhizome paired reknowned photographer Taryn Simon with the late activist Aaron Swartz and asked them to make a new project together, their underlying connection was deeper than the disparate technical tools each had mastered. Their collaboration resulted in a simple, poignant web-based artwork called Image Atlas. Their work wasn’t about solving a problem per se, but about problemitizing and understanding the culture that is locked in the technology around us.
Artists have been hacking since even before the computer was invented. Pulling things apart, examining them, and putting them together again in meaningful and unexpected ways...
Conceptually at least, artists have been hacking since even before the computer was invented. Pulling things apart, examining them, and putting them back together again in meaningful and unexpected ways, is a strategy that plays well to an artist’s natural curiosity, creativity and craft. Today, we feature projects that could, in this looser sense, be said to hack not just technologies, but ideas, expectations and formats – whether Jesse Darling’s bold forefronting of the physical body in online space; Jonas Lund, Clement Valla and Erik Berglin’s work with code and images; and K-Hole’s use of the emerging language of trend forecasting.
Critical engagement with digital culture need not always resemble code. Whether gaining access to things we shouldn’t, cobbling things together from ready-to-hand materials, or finding unorthodox solutions – artists and hackers have always challenged the things that are encoded not just in computers but into culture more broadly. It’s a crucial role they will play far into the future – well after the last Snapchat disappears.
Follow Heather Corcoran on Twitter here @heathercorc