!Mediengruppe Bitnik: Are You Online Now? at Annka Kultys Gallery

Annka Kultys Gallery Installation view, courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik

!Mediengruppe Bitnik (read – not mediengruppe bitnik) is an artist collective, with two members Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo working on and within the Internet!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s work engages many of the core tenets of post internet developments, in particular challenging notions of surveillance, social interactions, and internet consmerism.

In the recent past, the artists have subverted an online surveillance cameras, bugging an Opera house to illegally broadcast their concerts outside, exploring the so called darknets and physically glitched buildings. In early 2013, !Mediengruppe Bitnik sent a parcel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The parcel contained a camera and a GPS signal to find out what would happen on the way. They describe Delivery for Mr. Assange as a SYSTEM_TEST and a live Mail Art piece. More recently, they unleashed controversy for sending a bot called Random Darknet Shopper on a three-month shopping spree in the Darknets where it randomly bought objects like ecstasy, fake trousers or a Hungarian passport and had them sent directly to a gallery in Switzerland as an ongoing exploration of the deep web via automatized robot-consumerism.

Annka Kultys Gallery Installation view, courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik

On view for the first time in this exhibition will be Ashley Madison Angels At Work in London (2017), a continuation of !Mediengruppe Bitnik ongoing series based on research into Ashley Madison, a Canadian online dating service marketed worldwide to married people seeking casual sex. In July and August 2015, an anonymous group called The Impact Team stole and released all of Ashley Madison’s internal data – including the entire website code and functionality, customer data and the CEO’s emails. The data breach revealed that with a disproportionate number of male subscribers and virtually no human women on the site Ashley Madison had created an army of 75,000 female chatbots to draw men into (costly) conversations. They effective did a mass reverse phone lookup in order to get this information.

Annka Kultys Gallery Installation view, courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik

Here, !Mediengruppe Bitnik uses the localized data from the Ashley Madison hack to give a temporary physical embodiment to 7 of the 165 fembots that were active in London at the time of the data breach. Each fembot has a name, an age and a location and uses sentences from a list of pick up lines to contact other users. The 436 fembots of London provided “entertainment” to around 203’581 registered users in London.

Annka Kultys Gallery Installation view, courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik

In this exhibition Are You Online Now? !Mediengruppe Bitnik raises questions about the current relationship between human and machine, Internet intimacy, the virtual overlapping the physical and the disruptive use of digital platforms.

Annka Kultys Gallery Installation view, courtesy !Mediengruppe Bitnik

!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, most recently at Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, France (2016); Haus of Electronic Arts Basel, Switzerland (2015); Helmhouse, Zurich, Switzerland (2014). Group exhibitions include Kunsthaus, Zurich (2017); Art Centre Lodz, Lodz, Poland (2016); Fodazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany (2015); The Shanghai Minsheng 21st Century Museum, Shanghai, China (2014).

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Press release and photographs courtesy of the gallery and the artists. If you would like to submit your photo story or article, please email INFO@ARTEFUSE.COM.

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