At a time when ‘net neutrality’ has become the subject of heated debate in international politics, Hayward Gallery presents an international group exhibition that takes a critical look at the shifting structures and idiosyncrasies of the Web. End User is part of Southbank Centre’s Web We Want Festival and is timed to open for the second festival weekend (28–30 November), which focuses specifically on politics of anonymity and surveillance culture as well as digital arts and interactions made possible by the advent and development of the Web. End User features artwork by seven international artists who explore digital footprints, privacy implications, information ownership and the newer forms of news and labour distribution presented by the Internet.
Twenty-five years ago, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented a universal and free communications protocol for the Internet, what we now call the World Wide Web. While the Web has enabled a new state of sharing and constant connectedness it has also fundamentally changed the way that we relate to each other. This digital development has ultimately established new frameworks of power relations and a complex information economy.
End Users are the general public at the end of a long chain of software development or hardware manufacturing that begins with large multi-national corporations. Before using any form of technology, users must usually agree to an End User License Agreement (EULA). This often-mindless 'one-click' legal contract binds us, and all of our information to these companies, and serves as a reminder of the social contract made therein.
Works presented in the exhibition are:
Cory Arcangel, Drei Klavierstücke op. 11, 2009 – with the help of several openaccess editing programmes, Cory Arcangel painstakingly recreates Arnold Schoenberg’s Drei Klavierstucke, 1909 by remixing 170 youtube clips of cats playing the piano.
Jon Rafman, 9 Eyes, 2009 – present – Presented here for the first time as an ongoing archive, this work questions Google’s thirst for data by collecting dramatic, troubling, quirky or surreal screen captures of Street View.
Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane, Low Animal Spirits, 2014 – An installation that visualises words gleaned from hundreds of global newsfeeds in real-time. The news is processed by a stock market trading algorithm that ‘buys’ and ‘sells’ words as if they were commodities in order to maximise income.
Tyler Coburn, The Warp, 2013-2014 – A series of glass-etched texts and illustrations exploring the relationship between mechanical automation and human labour. The texts survey historical automata and early industrial technology, while the drawings were commissioned using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service for outsourcing ‘Human Intelligence Tasks’.
Liz Sterry, Kay's Blog, 2011 – A physical replica of a Canadian blogger’s bedroom, following a seven-month period of collecting personal information about her readily available online.
Erica Scourti, Life in AdWords, 2012-13 – A webcam video exploring online identity, data collection, and targeted advertising. For almost a year, Scourti performed the adwords Google used to serve her ads based on the scans of her Gmail emails.
Aram Bartholl, OI, 2012 – These LED signs longingly explore the values of neutrality, anonymity, and freedom associated with early development of the Web which have, in recent years, been eroded by private corporations and government surveillance.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Cliff Lauson, Hayward Gallery Curator.