The Art of Hacking

Would the Netherlands Media Art Institute have crossed my radar anytime soon if my niece, the brilliant Pia, hadn’t visited at the end of September? Thanks to her, I went to see The Art of Hacking, and a whole world opened up.

Hacking, then. A term usually associated with shady Russians, Chinese gangs, or anti-social teens worldwide bent on stealing information or causing havoc by releasing computer viruses. A bit of a misnomer, it turns out.

Officially these criminal activities are not really known as hacking, but as ‘cracking’. The real practice of hacking is done based on far more positive and artistic motives. It’s a state of mind and there are elaborate ethical codes within the hacker community. In short creative hacking combines artists’ technical skills with the optimism to solve problems and the urge to overcome artistic limitations.

(Quoted from the NIMK website)

The exhibition at NIMK included a number of technically elaborate hacks that, I’m afraid, didn’t intrigue me enough to try to figure out what was going on, but there were others that spoke directly to me.

The Yes Men specialize in identity correction. The exhibition included material on one of their most famous HIJINKS, which took place back in 2004. In an interview with the BBC, Jude Finisterra, Dow Chemical spokesman, announces that the company accepts full responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal tragedy, and plans to compensate all victims, clean up the site and do everything right.

Read more about it here on the Yes Men website. More recent hacktivism by the Yes Lab include the iPhone 4CF for a better world, Occupy Wall Street actions, and Alberta Film promoting the tar sands.

Heath Bunting spent 6 years mapping “the system” in the United Kingdom, and has used his insights to launch the Identity Bureau. At the exhibition, his work was visualized in the form of large, incredibly detailed posters mapping the points where the individual intersects with the authorities, and a glass case displaying a fully functional identity kit: a debit card, cell phone, bills, store cards, letters from the authorities to an address in Bristol, and other “personal data.” More on this later as I was both intrigued and fascinated, and immediately signed up for the Identity Bureau Workshop on October 20th.

Harmen de Hoop’s Protest #3 was very simple. A photocopier, a stack of A4 size sheets of paper, and a plea to photocopy and distribute the message ABOLI$H CAPITALI$M NOW! So, we did. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced the documentary evidence somewhere between camera and computer, but when I find it I will post it here.

These are some other examples of hacking that I have come across recently: Hack Library School, Hacking the Academy, Hack de Overheid, Random Hacks of Kindness