!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s work engages with many of the core tenets of the post-internet age, in particular challenging notions of surveillance, social interaction and internet consumerism.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik ( read as ‘not Mediengruppe Bitnik) is a post-conceptual artists’ collective, with two of its members, Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo, focused on working on and within the Internet. Expanding from the digital to affect physical spaces, their exploratory work takes the form of artistic exhibitions, interventions in public space and in the development of social software and interfaces.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s practice often intentionally applies loss of control to confront established structures and mechanisms. In this way, their work engages with many of the core tenets of the post-internet age, specifically challenging notions of surveillance, social interaction and Internet consumerism.
In attempts to “take the hacking out of the computer and into culture,” !Mediengruppe Bitnik adopts the same thinking processes and applies them to other systems with a unique degree of transparency. This has manifested in the form of online surveillance camera subversion (Surveillance Camera Chess, 2012), bugging an opera house to illegally broadcast its concerts outside and exploring the so-called dark net through algorithmic processes and direct, open intervention. In early 2013, the group sent a package containing a camera and a GPS transmitter to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Described as a SYSTEM_TEST and a live mail-art piece, Delivery for Mr. Assange (2013) aimed to discover what would happen to the parcel on its journey.
The group sparked enormous controversy for creating a bot called Random Darknet Shopper and sending it on a three-month shopping spree in the dark-net where it randomly bought items like ecstasy, fake trousers and even a Hungarian passport before having them sent directly to a gallery in Switzerland. Random Darknet Shopper (2014-ongoing) functions as an ongoing exploration of the deep-web through automated robot-consumerism. A more recent series of works titled Ashley Madison Angels at Work brought the data from a 2015 hack of the eponymous online data site to life. By creating three-dimensional embodiments of the AI Fembots, !Mediengruppe Bitnik shines an unforgiving light on the current relationship between the humans and machines, the nature of internet intimacy, the blurring of the virtual and the physical and the disruptive use of digital platforms.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik received their first solo show at Annka Kultys Gallery in 2017 entitled Are You Online Now?. On view was the site-specific work Ashley Madison Angels at Work in London (2017), which is a continuation of the collective’s ongoing series. This work was also shown in a concurrent exhibition in London at The Glass Room, which was a disruptive pop-up tech store in which nothing was for sale aimed at informing the public the ways in which corporations utilize personal information for capital gain.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s works have been shown in several prolific international venues, including at Francesco Carolinum, Linz, Austria (2021); DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic (2018); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2017); Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2017); Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland (2017); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia (2016); Shanghai Minsheng 21st Century Museum, Shanghai, China (2014); City Art Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2014); NIMk, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2012).
Space Gallery London, Cabaret Voltaire Zurich, Beton7 Athens, Museum Folkwang Essen, Contemporary Art Center Vilnius, La Gaîté Lyrique Paris, Gallery EDEN 343 São Paulo and the Roaming Biennale Tehran.
They have received numerous awards, including the Swiss Art Award, Migros New Media Jubilee Award, Golden Cube Dokfest Kassel, and Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s works are included in the public collections of the House of Electronic Arts, Basel; City of Zurich Art Collection, Zurich; Museum for Communication, Bern; Espace Multimédia Gantner Belfort, Bourogne; Julius Baer Art Collection (various locations), and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.
ArtForum has reported that Art Foundation Pax, a Swiss organisation dedicated to the promotion of digital and media-based art, has awarded the inaugural Pax Art Award to !Mediengruppe Bitnik founders Domago Smoljo and Carmen Weisskopf. !Mediengruppe Bitnik will receive around $30,000 to support the production of new work and for an acquisition by the foundation. →
Digicult has written a review of Future Love: Desire and Kinship in Hypernature, a group show at Haus der electronischen Künste Basel featuring works by !Mediengruppe Bitnik. This new interdependence of technology, engineering and environment constitutes a new concept: hypernature, an enhanced version of the ecosystem including artificial bodies and their correlations. →
PAST EXHIBITIONS AT ANNKA KULTYS
12 OCTOBER – 11 NOVEMBER 2017
WEDNESDAY, 11 OCTOBER, 6—8 PM
Press preview in presence of the artists: Wednesday, 11 October, 5 PM
Annka Kultys Gallery is pleased to present Are You Online Now?, an exhibition of a new five-channel video installation by !Mediengruppe Bitnik. This will be the collective’s first solo presentation with the gallery.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik (which is read as ‘not mediengruppe bitnik’) is an artists’ collective, with two of its members, Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo, focused on working on and within the internet. !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s work engages with many of the core tenets of the post-internet age, in particular challenging notions of surveillance, social interaction and internet consumerism.
Recent works by the artists have involved subverting online surveillance cameras, bugging an opera house to illegally broadcast its concerts outside, exploring the so called dark-net. In early 2013 for example, !Mediengruppe Bitnik sent a parcel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The parcel contained a camera and a GPS transmitter in order to discover what would happen to the parcel on its journey. Delivery for Mr. Assange is described by the artists as a SYSTEM_TEST and a live mail-art piece. More recently, the group sparked controversy for creating a bot called ‘Random Darknet Shopper’ and sending it on a three-month shopping spree in the dark-net where it randomly bought items like ecstasy, fake trousers and even a Hungarian passport before having them sent directly to a gallery in Switzerland. Random Darknet Shopper functioned as an ongoing exploration of the deep-web through automatised robot-consumerism.
On view for the first time in Are You Online Now? will be the artists’ Ashley Madison Angels At Work in London (2017), a continuation of !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s ongoing series researching Ashley Madison, the Canadian online dating service marketed worldwide to married people seeking an affair. In July and August 2015, an anonymous group called The Impact Team stole and released all of Ashley Madison’s internal data, including the website’s entire code and functionality, customer data, as well as the CEO’s emails. The data breach revealed that Ashley Madison had a hugely disproportionate number of male subscribers and virtually no female subscribers to its site. In response to the imbalance, Ashley Madison created an army of 75,000 female chatbots to draw men into (costly) conversations for the site’s profit.
In Ashley Madison Angels At Work in London (2017), !Mediengruppe Bitnik uses the localised London data from the Ashley Madison hack to give temporary physical embodiment to five of the 436 fembots that were active in London at the time of the data breach. Each fembot has a name, age and location and uses sentences from a list of pick-up lines to contact other users. In total, there were 436 fembots created for London providing ‘entertainment’ to around 203,581 registered London-based users.
Through Are You Online Now?, !Mediengruppe Bitnik raises questions about the current relationship between the humans and machines, the nature of internet intimacy, the blurring of the virtual and the physical and the disruptive use of digital platforms.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at leading international institutions, most recently at Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, France (2016); Haus of Electronic Arts, Basel, Switzerland (2015); and Helmhouse, Zurich, Switzerland (2014). Group exhibitions have included Kunsthaus, Zurich (2017); Art Centre Lodz, Lodz, Poland (2016); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany (2015); and The Shanghai Minsheng 21st Century Museum, Shanghai, China (2014).
FEMBOTS’ NAME, AGE AND LOCATION
Crimson-rose (1973), The Salt Point Bar, Exchange Square, London EC2A 2EN
E-Claires (1982), Hackney Community College, 70 Hoxton Street, London N1 6LP
devil_taz644 (1994), Angel Lane 1, London EC4N 6AP
SM-Playmate (1977), 50 Mark Lane, London EC3R 7QR
PlayfulStare (1980), St George-in-the-East, 14 Cannon St Rd,
Whitechapel, London E1 0BH
ARTWORK (5-channel video installation)
RECENTLY ON VIEW IN LINZ
!MEDIENGRUPPE BITNIK in PROOF OF ART: A BRIEF HISTORY OF NFTS, FROM THE BEGINNINGS OF DIGITAL ART TO THE METAVERSE
UNTIL 15 SEPTEMBER 2021
FRANCESCO CAROLINUM, LINZ, AUSTRIA