Hacking the City

Interventions in Public and Communicative Spaces

Hacking the City, Edition Folkwang/Steidl, 2011.

Hacking the City -
Interventions in urban and communicative spaces
Edited by Sabine Maria Schmidt
Museum Folkwang, Essen
Graphic Design by V2A.Net, Essen
Edition Folkwang / Steidl
English / German
288 pages, rich illustration
Prize: 25 Euro
ISBN 978-3-86930-187-7

Books can be ordered

The project “Hacking the City” took place on the occasion of the “European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010.” Twenty museums collaborated in a multifaceted common series of exhibitions called “Mapping the Region.” Museum Folkwang contributed with an experimental project which went far away from traditional museum activities. More than thirteen projects in public space, a “Base-Station” in the museum and a homepage (www.hackingthecity.org) were realized.

Subsequently the book is published now. Read about “Municipal surveillance as a subject of artistic fieldwork,” “Reverse and flip sides,” “Perfect Throws,” “The Power of Gifts,” “Random Encounters,” “Viral Pizzas,” “Toilet Publics,” “Remotewords,” “Guerilla-Gardening,” “Eyebright-Ambulances,” “Strategies of Visibilty and Invisibility” and “Heavy Precipitation.”

“Cultural hacking” borrows the idea of reprogramming and alienating existing cultural codes. Appropriation, transcription, manipulation and revaluation are used to alter everyday situations, objects, rules or routines. A broad repertoire of subversive strategies and artistic forms has developed along these lines in the past years, affecting all art forms, genres and age groups.

“Cultural hacks” cannot be announced beforehand and have to be done by the artists themselves. Clandestine access to the public and communicative spaces of the city, the matter-of-fact intervention in non-artistic systems, the nearly “invisible” penetration—not defined as art—into everyday life, were to be the starting points of the project. It set out to tie together in an unconventional way two theme complexes in contemporary art by expanding the discourse of public art while presenting the phenomena of the broad culture of (re-) appropriation that had developed both in the political and economic realms as well as in cultural practice and policy. Can art be effective, even it if doesn’t reveal itself to be art?

“Cultural hacking” does not only mean voicing criticism, putting up resistance or even exposing an opponent’s faults—it also signifies innovation.

The reader includes a richly illustrated documentation about all activities and text contributions by artists and theorists, like Boran Burchhardt, Brad Downey, Sabine Fabo, Matthew Fuller, Dagrun Hintze, Anke Hoffmann, Christin Lahr, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Achim Mohné / Uta Kopp, Richard Reynolds, Felix Stalder, Annette Schemmel, Sabine Maria Schmidt, Jörg Steinmann, Michelle Teran, Annette Wehrmann and Georg Winter.

Hacking the City

Interventionen in urbanen und kommunikativen Räumen

see English version below

Hacking the City ist ein experimentelles Ausstellungsprojekt des Museum Folkwang, dessen künstlerische Aktionen und Präsentationen im öffentlichen Raum der Stadt Essen und im Internet stattfinden. Im Museum Folkwang wird während der Laufzeit ein Projektraum eingerichtet, in dem die Aktionen dokumentiert und zahlreiche weitere künstlerische Projekte vorgestellt werden.

Am Ausstellungsprojekt Hacking the City nehmen Bildende Künstler, Web-Designer, Street-Artisten und Musiker teil. Mit künstlerischen, kommunikativen und kreativen Mitteln üben sie Kritik an einer die Stadt prägenden Konsumkultur, an Werbehoheit, demokratischer Gleichgültigkeit und der zunehmenden Privatisierung öffentlicher Räume.

Wie werden Formen öffentlichen Handelns, demokratischer Kultur und Praktiken des Widerstandes künstlerisch artikuliert? Wer „hackt“ eigentlich heute „wen“? Der aus der Computerpraxis stammende Begriff des „Hacking“ wird dabei als „kulturelles Hacking“ verstanden. Dazu gehört das „Adbusting“ – das Verfremden von Werbung – ebenso wie das Plagiat, das Hinzufügen und Entfernen, die Irritation und Störung, Formen der Performance und versteckte Aktionen. Ausgangspunkt für diese Strategie waren sowohl politische, soziale wie künstlerische Themen. Während in den 1990er Jahren zahlreiche erfolgreiche Hacker-Attacken die Verletzbarkeit ökonomischer und politischer Strukturen des Netzes und ihren Einfluss auf die Gesellschaft in den Vordergrund rückten, formiert sich heute ein zunehmender Diskurs über Sichtbarkeits- und Unsichtbarkeits-, Ankündigungs- und Verweigerungsstrategien. Hacking the City ist daher auch eine Geschichte über das Scheitern am und im öffentlichen Raum.

Künstler: Boran Burchhardt, Peter Bux, Brad Downey, San Keller, Knowbotic Research, Christin Lahr, M+M, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Richard Reynolds, Jörg Steinmann, Michelle Teran, Stefanie Trojan, Annette Wehrmann, Georg Winter.

Das Projekt wird von einem umfangreichen Programm begleitet, darunter Vorträge, Performances, ein Symposium und Workshops.

Hacking the City ist Teil der mehrteiligen Ausstellung Mapping the Region der RuhrKunstMuseen und damit Teil des Programms der Kulturhauptstadt Europas RUHR. 2010.

Kuratorin: Sabine Maria Schmidt

Hacking the City

Hacking the City is an innovative project which reacts to changing structures of public space, mobility, and communication in the city. The project is mainly focussed on Essen, European Capital of Culture Ruhr.2010. Participants are artists, web designers, practitioners of guerrilla communication, street artists, performers, and musicians.

Among these are: Boran Burchhardt, Peter Bux, Brad Downey, San Keller, Knowbotic Research, Christin Lahr, M+M, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Richard Reynolds, Jörg Steinmann, Michelle Teran, Stefanie Trojan, Annette Wehrmann, V2A.net, Georg Winter. Further projects will be presented at the “Base Station” in the museum and on the website: www.hackingthecity.org.

How are public life, democratic culture, and modern resistance articulated in art? Which forms are used, which can be revived, which models can artists and activists follow? The practice of Cultural Hacking is increasingly adopted by artists (in the broadest sense) who act far away from the art market and exhibitions. Among the types of actions are strategies of Adbusting as well as Faking (or plagiarism), adding in and taking away (misappropriation), irritation and disruption, forms of Hacktivism, flash mob actions, re-enactments, performances, sculpture in public space, concealed investigations, hidden actions, events directed via internet or mobile phones. These are no longer confined to urban (exterior) space as a place of action and work, but also to the World Wide Web (websites, video platforms, power sellers, servers etc.).

Urban Hacking became increasingly widespread as an artistic practice in the 90s. Starting point for this artistic strategy were political, social, as well as purely creative themes. In America, Hacktivism was initially more visible than in Europe. Groups like Adbusters organized large campaigns against American companies and media conglomerates, challenged their fellow citizens’ consumer habits, or performed theatre pieces in front of security cameras. In Europe, too, a cultural practice of subversive strategies has developed throughout different artistic genres and generations. These strategies follow the logic of hackers: entering into other systems, finding their way around, and then introducing applications that change or expand that system’s limits and utility.

But who hacks, and who is hacked? While numerous successful hacking attacks in the 90s disclosed the vulnerability of the economic and political structures of the Net, there is today a growing discourse about strategies of invisibility and retreat strategies such as “turn-off”-movements.

Hacking the City is hence also about the history of failure at, and in the public space.

Curator: Sabine Maria Schmidt


Press Review


Theoretische Texte

Cover des Buches "Daten-Schatten. Wie die Computer dein Leben kontrollieren" von 1984.

„Stell dir vor, du müsstest dich in deinem Privatleben so bewegen wie in einem Betrieb mit einem funktionierenden Zugangskontrollsystem, mit maschinenlesbaren Werksausweisen, und es würde ständig gespeichert, durch welche Tür du gehst, wie lange du dich wo aufgehalten hast – selbst wenn nie irgend etwas Unrechtmäßiges mit diesen Daten getan wird, allein das Bewusstsein, dass alles festgehalten wird über sehr lange Zeiträume, wirkt sich verheerend auf das Minimum an Persönlichkeit aus, das du noch hast.“