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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

KW Institute: Open Secret

Editors’ Choice

© Joshua Citarella, Choose Your Future, 2021, Still from the webseite; Courtesy the artist.

Open Secret (16 July – 31 December 21) is a six-month long online program that explores the image of the ‘technological hidden’ in our apparently ‘open’ society. With new contributions released on a monthly basis, the Open Secret website opensecret.kw-berlin.de will bring together art, automation, politics, and new patterns of exchange. The website is designed by Sometimes Always and will be made available from 16 July 2021 onwards.

Featuring Nora Al-Badri, Maithu Bùi, Erick Beltrán, Tara Isabella Burton, Caroline Busta, Jennifer Chan, Wendy Chun, Joshua Citarella, Andres Cséfalvay, Inland (Ed Davenport), Constant Dullaart, Orit Halpern, Adam Harvey, Vladan Joler, Bea Kittelmann, Kateřina Krtilová, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Lukáš Likavčan, Jen Liu, Eva and Franco Mattes, Tom McCarthy, Lisa Messeri, Ramak Molavi Vasse’i, New Models, Lisa Rave, Rachel Rossin, Konstanze Schütze, Caroline Sinders, Dirk Sorge, Charles Stankievech, and others, as well as the AURORA School for ARtists, Jugendgremium Schattenmuseum, and MOTIF.

Curators: Nadim Samman (Curator, Digital Sphere) in collaboration with Katja Zeidler (Head of Education and Mediation).

Technology increases our access to knowledge, making the world more legible, while undermining ignorance and superstition. At least, that’s what we are told. But it sometimes feels like we have entered a new dark age of black boxes. In computer science, a black box is a unit of software or hardware that interacts entirely through its interface. What happens inside it is opaque, veiled in shadow. Users of black boxes may only partially understand how they work, but can easily observe their effects in the world. 

There is drama—desire, disappointment, and uncertainty—in coming to terms with these effects. As we make our way through a landscape of inscrutable machines, living the life they make for us, we attempt to deal with them through incommensurate means, projecting wishes, insecurities, and analogies of what they might be onto them. Ours is a culture obsessed with the unseen, the inaccessible and the known-unknown. 

Open Secret pursues this topic through numerous artistic commissions and a suite of essays by leading thinkers. Contributions will be released on a monthly basis, beginning 16 July 2021. Artworks will take the form of algorithms, bots, websites, videos and more, while the essays explore secrets, visibility, access, and exclusion. 

The project expands to explore public formats dedicated to the critical reappraisal of digital infrastructures that organize civic life. Those encounters will take place in hybrid online-offline formats, and are realized in collaboration with a diverse group of interlocutors whose experience spans contemporary culture, technology, education, and accessibility. Key institutional collaborators for the public program will be the Jugendgremium Schattenmuseum, MOTIF (Katrin Fritsch and Helene von Schwichow), the AURORA School for ARtists, and more. The program will be additionally advised by a group of experts including Maithu Bùi, Ramak Molavi Vasse’i, Konstanze Schütze, and Dirk Sorge, along with art educators and KW team members. These meetings, which will for the most part be held in private, will then be published on the website towards the end of the project.

As part of KW’s attempt to push online accessibility, the Open Secret website will release short videos in international sign language describing each contribution and the project in general. These videos will be in line with the conceptual approach of Open Secret: more than merely an additional medium, the videos will serve as additional sources of content, exhibiting the contradiction between the necessity of the signer’s physical visibility and the value of resisting facial recognition algorithms. Additionally, the website will present a glossary, where keywords and terms from technology, arts, economics, and digital culture will be commented and described in short texts. This section will be updated throughout the project’s duration and will eventually be compiled into an alternative reader for the project. It does not aim to present a ‘neutral’ definition of the terms it engages with, but rather functions as a subjective commentary based on each Glossary contributor’s position and perspective. 

Open Secret – The New Extractivism, and Escaping the Clearnet 
Featuring Vladan Joler, Caroline Busta and Nadim Samman


16 July 21, 9:30 pm
WHERE?: KW’s Courtyard

A new form of extractivism defines life in the 21st century. It is one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being: the stack that underpins contemporary technological systems goes well beyond data modeling, hardware, servers, and networks. Today’s full stack reaches into capital, labor, and nature, while demanding an enormous amount from each. Vladan Joler’s newly commissioned video gathers different concepts and images of this ‘new extractivism’ together. They add up to a blueprint for a machine-like superstructure—a super allegory that encompasses the whole world.

Additionally, drawing from her newly commissioned essay for Open Secret, the author and critic Caroline Busta surveys prospects for Web 3.0. At the edge of the ‘clearnet’ (the part of the Internet that is publicly accessible) the ‘dark forest’ begins. This shadowy realm offers artists shelter, a place to create—away from tracking, trolling, hype, and formatted ‘social’ experiences. What can we learn from it?

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