25 January – 6 March
Neue Ehrlichkeit or, in a literal translation from German, New Honesty.
“The new honesty – VW wants to specify consumption and CO2 emissions more realistically. Other manufacturers are already doing this. But for car buyers a comparison is complicated. In the future, Volkswagen intends to show more realistic consumption and thus CO2 emissions…” Source: Zeit Online, 12 October, 2016 (accessed 24 January, 2017, translation courtesy Google).
“A long time ago, we realised that reality surpasses fiction and dystopian science fiction with lightning speed. With one of our projects from 2011, Asylabwehramt, Asylum Defence Agency, which is a bureaucratic and aesthetic merger between the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, and the Abwehramt, a military intelligence service, we tried to use over-affirmative dystopian fiction as a method to create stories that go beyond the factual, or if you want below or beside the factual. We failed since after doing that and looking at the current consensus and the factual world, our minds were raped over and over by what we saw and felt.” UBERMORGEN, Truth Tellers Conference, Berlin, 2016.
“The post-factual world is not a new phenomenon, not at all! But I love that the world has finally come to an agreement; and I love the idea that there are so many others consensually hallucinating with us in understanding the fact that we are part of a post-factual world without ever having been in a factual world…” UBERMORGEN, Truth Tellers Conference, Berlin, 2016)
“Btw… a funny story that perfectly fits into this… when we were doing the Vote-auction project a journalist did not believe that we were actually buying and selling votes, his argument: it is not an online shop because there is no shopping-cart, the next day lizvlx designed and implemented a shopping-cart and the site transformed into a real shop; in the eye of the beholder. This is a perfect example. alternative realities are not necessarily on the agenda of producers but they a very interactive things… think about dating profiles, curriculum vitae and character testimonials in court cases, in all these events reality is created on request not necessarily by the urge of the subject…” Hans Bernhard, 2017.
[F]orginal Media Hacks, 2006 – 2007
[F]original Media Hack No. 1, 43″, .mov, 2006
[F]original Media Hack No. 2, 42″, .mov, 2007
Foriginal Media Hacks are pure: no ethics, no content, no message.
With the action “Foriginal Media Hack No. 1“ we follow a simple instruction on how to infiltrate mass media with low-tech instruments (email, mobile-phones, web/blog) and ambiguous data.
This action is an experiment within this conceptual setting.
It is a amalgamation of fact and fiction.
Foriginal Media Hack No.1, 2006
A group of people brutally beat up a cop during the 2006 May Day riots in Kreuzberg, Berlin. The beating is filmed with a mobile phone by Alex (firstname.lastname@example.org). UBERMORGEN.COM declares the found footage video to be an actionist UBERMORGEN.COM art piece – “Foriginal Media Hack no. 1, Web 2.0” – a physical event appropriated as a work of art.
This was a double entendre: an artist action hidden behind the pretence of a real event filmed by a bystander and the found footage declared as art. It was an experiment; a game of poker where you have to think about what the opponent thinks that you think. UBERMORGEN distributed the footage as an email, forwarding the original email of the person, Alex, who ‘sent’ the movie as an attachment – real! but staged by UBERMORGEN and then declared as fake, but claimed as an art action, hence authenticating it.
“All our projects are non-idelogical, non-political. They are pure research experiments” UBERMORGEN.
Foriginal Media Hack No. 2, 2007
Here UBERMORGEN went a step further. Silent found footage of police officers beating up a demonstrator in a wheelchair during the night of the G8 riots, in Rostock, June 2nd, 2007 is declared by UBERMORGEN as a combined action between police violence and artistic performance. The eerily choreographic footage evokes an uneasy sense of déjà vu shot through with the uncanny feeling of a true-false dichotomy. However, UBERMORGEN offer no explanation of the links between the violence and a performance: “This is the worst double-header scenario I have ever seen, police violence and artistic performance melted together in a unique way, ugly!” Lizvlx; “This new action video rocks” says Hans Bernhard “it demonstrates the exchangeability of violence – our speciality is to deliver an extra portion of violence to already very brutal environments. We over-affirm the Madman theory”
“UBERMORGEN.COM coined the term ‘[F]original’ to designate any document or legal paper that in the narrow sense of the word is not an original any more, as it has been generated by a machine (“maschinell erstellt”) and is ‘valid without signature’. [F]original is a neologism from ‘to forge’ and ‘original. At the end of the day, according to UBERMORGEN.COM, such [f]original” documents are mere pixels on a screen or ink on paper. [F]originals claim authenticity but on closer inspection they turn out to be the product of ‘consensual hallucination – William Gibson’s famous definition of cyberspace. UBERMORGEN.COM suggest that that those machine- or software generated documents could also look different – by simply having the pixels on the screen or the ink on the paper rearranged.” Inke Arns, 2009, [F]original as Consensual Hallucination, in UBERMORGEN.COM, Media Hacking vs. Conceptual Art, 2009 (available here).
As the [F]originals project evolved UBERMORGEN began to document the project on the website www.foriginal.com. Unfortunately, due to an administrative oversight, UBERMORGEN’s lease on the domain name lapsed. Within minutes a web crawler spotted a disused domain name with an active viewing history and immediately leased www.foriginal.com for use as a clickbait site – unsuspecting net users searching for information on fake documents are lured to porn websites: whilst posts such as ‘Document Forgery and College Life’, ‘Document Forgery – Fake ID’s Anyone?’ and ‘What To Know About Document Foregry’ may register in search engines, the first sentences on the website suggest “you watch the girlfriend. She might appear here and there with her private clips of sex. You can’t go wrong with fake agents and their ability to trick and bang these chicks who just wanted to become famous! These shop lyfter movies are totally crazy. Did you know girls are willing to do ANYTHING, once they get caught?!”.
Ironically, the appropriation of www.foriginal.com for use as a clickbait site has a formal similarity to UBERMORGEN’s GWEI – Google Will Eat Itself (2005) project (part of the EKMRZ trilogy, 2005 – 2009):
“Viewing it [the EKMRZ trilogy] in terms of hacking or sabotage would be specious and misleading. UM is attracted by the surface of Google, Amazon and Ebay. It loves and uses these services, just like we all do. Its intention is not to subvert them, but, as Inke Arns notes in her essay, to get under the thin membrane that is their interface with us, and introduce new contexts, new narratives… Our working theses: if enough parasites suck small amounts of money from this embodiment of self-referentiality, they will empty this artificial mountain of data and its inner risk of digital totalitarianism.” UBERMORGEN.
Documentation of the [F]originals project can be found at http://ubermorgen.com/Foriginal.
Our work is curiosity driven research.
Sampling is our basic principle of production.
It is visual. It is textual. We code recombinations.
We modify your plain-text.
We have no political agenda in our work.
We are not activists.
We are actionists in the communicative and experimental tradition of Viennese Actionism – performing the global media, communication and technological networks, our body is the ultimate sensor and immediate medium.
What we do is not pop art: it is rock art.
Generator Tetralogy, 2001 – 2008
Each of the four generators in the Generator Tetralogy create [f]original documents and realities – medical prescriptions, court orders, rendition orders and torture protocols. The user interacts with the software to create a unique reality, a temporary bubble mediating between his or her ‘truth’ and the machine generated ‘truth’. The Tetralogy started in 2001 with the Injunction Generator as a direct reaction to temporary injunctions sent via email by US courts to UBERMORGEN in response to the Vote-Auction project.
IS THERE ANY WEBSITE YOU WANNA TAKE OFF THE WEB USING A HIGHLY SUBVERSIVE METHOD? YES? THEN THE INJUNCTION GENERATOR’S FOR YOU!
The Injunction Generator, Website, 2001.
“Like almost all the subsequent generators, Injunction Generator came about as an answer to questions raised by a larger project, which in this case was Vote-Auction (2000). During that project, the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago issued a temporary injunction against the “individuals” behind Vote-Auction. This injunction was then sent by email to Corenic, a domain name service (DNS) registrar in Geneva, Switzerland. After receiving this email, Corenic decided to shut down the domain voteauction.com without notice. There are various elements which mean that this injunction is entirely lacking in legal value: American jurisdiction does not extend to Switzerland, and a legal injunction cannot be delivered via e-mail. Yet Vote-Auction was shut down. It was this episode that sparked the idea of launching a “public shutdown-service” – christened IP-NIC, the acronym of “Internet Partnership for No Internet Content”. Adopting an affirmative, rather than antagonistic approach, UBERMORGEN.COM transformed this episode of intensely “creative” use of power into an artistic project, and a public service. Using the Injunction Generator, you auto-generate an injunction, basically a standard court-order, claiming that the target website operates on an illegal basis. The document will then be sent, in standard .pdf or .rtf format, to the appropriate domain name service registrar, to the owner of the web-site and to various journalists and lawyers for legal and public processing.” Domenico Quaranta, Generator Tetralogy, 2009 (available here).
BANKSTATEMENTGENERATOR, Website, 2005.
The second in the series, BANKSTATEMENTGENERATOR (2005), was both a direct reaction to the disastrous financial situation of the UBERMORGEN family, as well as an overall response to global economic conditions: “A showcase of humankind’s enslavement by a system once established to grant stability for markets and people, but now the motor of financial bubbles and human massacre. Only pixels on as screen, only ink on paper.” UBERMORGEN in Media Hacking vs. Conceptual Art, 2009.
The Bank Statement Generator website can be used to produce individually customised bank statements. The user is free to determine, amongst other things, the credibility of the bank issuing the statement and the psychological state the statement should induce – stretching from suicidal to manic. However, unlike the other Generators the pictorial quality of the [f]original bank statement is so glaringly substandard that the user is likely to feel immediate disappointment that the statement is unusable as evidence of wealth. Perhaps, this Brechtian turn of events is designed to alienate the user, to force them to reflect upon the consensual hallucination that is the financial system: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds, London, for the Governor and Company of the Bank of England” Chris Salmon (Chief Cashier, Bank of England), UK Twenty Pound Note, 2017.
The Psych|OS Generator, Website, 2006.
The Psych|OS Generator (2006) is a software psychiatrist who diagnoses the user’s mental illness(es) and prescribes the medication required by the condition – in the form of a [f]orginal prescription, which the user can try to redeem at a pharmacy of their choice. To compile the questionnaire UBERMORGEN used the WHO ICD-10, the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition, and used the current format for prescriptions in Germany as the template for a [f]orginal document – signed by Dr U Morgen.
The final part of the Generator series, The Superenhanced Generator (2009), lies at the heart of a complex project, featuring the website, prints, performances and videos, dedicated to the contemporary use of torture. Inspired by the questionnaires used in market research, The Superenhanced Generator uses material drawn from US Military, CIA and the Egyptian and Syrian Secret Police to create a readily available, easy-to-use online resource for interrogation: “The Superenhanced Generator interrogation software automates, dehumanises, familiarises and, therefore, optimizes examination. The willing user is presented with a set of questions; it does not matter if one answers truthfully, lies or avoids being specific, the system looks for answers it needs to satisfy its database.”
Enhanced interrogation: a neologism (euphemism) coined by the George W. Bush regime for the its program of systematic torture of detainees. “Methods used included beating, binding in contorted stress positions, hooding, subjection to deafening noise, sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, deprivation of food, drink, and withholding medical care for wounds—as well as waterboarding, walling, sexual humiliation, subjection to extreme heat or extreme cold, confinement in small coffin-like boxes, and repeated slapping. Several detainees endured medically-unnecessary “rectal rehydration”, “rectal fluid resuscitation”, and “rectal feeding”. In addition to brutalising detainees, there were threats to their families such as threats to harm children, and threats to sexually abuse or to cut the throat of detainees’ mothers.” Wikipedia.
Extraordinary rendition: “Extraordinary rendition, also called irregular rendition, or forced rendition, is the government-sponsored abduction and extra-juridicial transfer [i.e.without due legal process] of a person from one country to another. It is most prominently carried out by the United States government, often with the collusion of other countries: overall, 54 countries are known to have been involved with US extraordinary renditions.” Wikipedia. Twenty extraordinary facts about extraordinary rendition can be found here and a map of the countries involved here.
Extra-juridicial: adj. 1. outside of juridicial proceedings; beyond the action or authority of a court. 2. Beyond, outside or against the usual procedure of justice; legally unwarranted. For example, extra-judicial killing is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or any legal process; extra-judicial punishments are unlawful by nature, because they break the process of legal jurisdiction in which they occur.
Do You Think That’s Funny? (The Snowden Files), 2013
“Ahem… I have been quite a lot of thinking about these issues, and for me it all comes down to values and consequential decisions in the end. And this brought me here today.” Edward Snowden, Interview with UBERMORGEN.COM, 2013 (full interview available here).
A chance meeting with Edward Snowden at Vienna’s International Airport on 2 July, 2013 prompted UBERMORGEN to reflect upon just how much had changed since Vote Auction, their hack of the US election in 2000: the ‘walled gardens’ and ‘echo chambers’ of web 2.0; the rise in corporate and government surveillance and data mining; phishing, clickbait and aggregators; consensual hallucinations and collective paranoia. And then a package arrived.
An anonymous grey walled, softly lit room, four ‘amnesiac’ netbooks running TOR privacy software that wipe clean their memories every reboot, a fridge filled with the Club-Mate energy drinks favoured by hackers, CCTV cameras monitor the desks and four blinking open-source Beaglebone computers mounted on a wall.
“Do You Really Think That’s Funny? is one of the results of our meeting with Snowden. After the meeting we received an encrypted data package, some unencrypted samples and several video messages. The encrypted data package and the sample files are part of the installation. The encrypted package circulates as Dark Data inside ethernet cables organized by four ‘Beagle Bones’. Any manipulation will result in the immediate deletion of all files.” Hans Bernhard.
“The moment you know too much you cannot unknow it, so this leads you to this difficult situation where you have to decide: can I live with the consequences of not doing anything, or can I live with the consequences of my actions if I do something? Since both are unknowns – and the buck doesn’t stop there, as that Rumsfeld freak reminded us… [full interview here].” Edward Snowden, Interview with UBERMORGEN.COM, 2013.
“Looking back at the ‘00s, the great mistake of the web’s idealists was a near-total failure to create institutions designed to preserve that which was good about the web (its openness, its room for a diversity of voices and its earnest amateurism), and to ward off that which was bad (the trolling, the clickbait, the demands of excessive and intrusive advertising, the security breaches). There was too much faith that everything would take care of itself – that ‘netizens’ were different, that the culture of the web was intrinsically better. Unfortunately, that excessive faith in web culture left a void, one that became filled by the lowest forms of human conduct and the basest norms of commerce… The internet clearly embodied an ideological reaction to the mass media’s collectivist and nationalist ideology – particularly in broadcasting, whether it was the power of American and British national broadcasting or the propaganda media of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Overtly or implicitly, the goal of national broadcasting was always the fusing of the nation into a more unified whole. The American networks NBC and CBS saw ‘unifying the nation’ as among their goals (conveniently, that also maximised advertising revenue). More darkly, Joseph Goebbels saw the point of broadcasting as achieving Volksgemeinschaft, the people’s community, the elevation of the nation over the individual.” Tim Wu, The Observer, 8/1/17.
“In the UM.BOOK: Media Hacking vs. Conceptaul Art [available here] we relabelled a Peter Weibel text as an Hans Ulrich Obrist text, then we transformed a Hans Ulrich Obrist interview with Matthew Barney into an interview by Peter Weibel with UBERMORGEN.COM.” UBERMORGEN.
Killliste – a work in progress, 2015
Installation detail, Courtesy UBERMORGEN and Carroll/Fletcher, London
Inspired by the death lists operated by the US secret service agencies and military (Joint Prioritised Effects List – JPEL), Killliste is a target-list of people that need to be killed. To determine the targets, UBERMORGEN developed an algorithm based on the distribution and possession of capital. Currently there are 362 names on the Killliste. The first list was produced and edited manually and is still in ‘production’. The overall concept of the Killliste is a death list (content) along with a network-protocol (software) and a electronic installation (hardware) that, unlike the JPEL, ensure the list’s security. Within this configuration, the list is a fluid technical object consisting of encrypted data particles travelling anonymously through networks using the Killlistste protocol. Within the materialised technical installation, four black Beagle Bones are connected via a serial port sending liquid data and guaranteeing that the file, the Killliste is in constant flow. Any hold-up, downtime or intervention leads to the loss of the encrypted file and the system collapses and self-destructs.
“It is true that we have created this list and as a consequence the Killliste protocol and that there are 362 names on it;
It is true that putting the first name onto the list creates a whole universe of ethical, legal and security dilemmas that one can easily be trapped in forever;
It is NOT true that we have been incarcerated for this list, but it is true that it was the only means to an end we came up with while looking at the state of asymmetric distribution of wealth;
It is true that is is better to do something than do nothing;
It is NOT true that it is better to do something than do nothing;
It is true that we are influenced by the Red Army Faction and, especially, by Ulrike Meinhof’s early writings;
It is true that there is almost nothing to be found about the Killliste online;It is NOT true that we have taken it down;
It is true that we are scared;
And it is true that aesthetics and mannerism will slowly kill us during this neo-biedermeier era we are living in.” Hans Bernhard, Truth Tellers Conference, Berlin, 2016.
“We are sad, hurt and angry. We don’t know if we are doing the right thing, we don’t even know if this will not worsen the situation. But too much has happened and we do think that it is better to take the risk and do something wrong than not doing anything and live our lives in passive agony and precarious stress while watching people being murdered and groups of people being extinct from the face of the earth. We do acknowledge that every life is grievable and we will be sad for every human life that is lost in this struggle. We are human and we intend to stay human…”
“Today we have to think beyond the idea of the validity of sources. We have to be responsible on our own, for our own thinking and our own conclusions without weighing on singular sources but on a overcharged, unstructured and seemingly unknown universe of information driven by different agendas, coming from different origins; telling us contradictory, phantastic, realitstic, ugly or beautiful stories.
“This is very liberating since we are allowed to skip scientific procedures and make up our own stories, create our own universe by making up our own mind, create our own truths (plural!) without feeling guilty or having to justfiy ourselves. This is indeed post-factual in it’s best sense. In a renaissance of disinformation and propaganda by uncountable amounts of actors and unaccountable actors, this is our very best shot. It requires self-confidence and calm, it demands discipline and openness but mostly it requires acceptance, acceptance when it comes to excessive demands, overload and insecurity. We need to calm the fuck down.
“Yes, we do need data-abstraction to understand information on a visual and emotional level and not on a individual factual level, this liberates our thinking and helps us to create resolutions. The more uncertain an event, the more information is required to resolve uncertainty of that event. Nobody is immune to manipulation. But stop calling it disinformation, fake news, manipulated sources. This terminology is based on an anacronistic belief that there is real news and sources without agenda. This is naive, we all know better.” UBERMORGEN, 2017.
Loose Ends and Diversions
Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Bioswop: a cv-exchange platform, ongoing
John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum, 1976
René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1929
Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Thomson & Craighead, Trooper, 1998
Adam Curtis, Hypernormalisation, 2016. “Welcome to the post-truth world. You know it’s not real. But you accept it as normal.”
“Just as climate change is the natural by-product of fossil capitalism, so is fake news the by-product of digital capitalism.” Evgeny Morozov, The Observer, 8/1/17.
1926, Father Ronald Knox, Broadcasting the Barricades, “On January 16, 1926, one Father Ronald Knox, a catholic priest, interrupted an apparently genuine BBC talk on 18th century literature with a report that Big Ben had been toppled by trench mortars, the Savoy Hotel torched, and a Government minister lynched…”
1938, Orson Welles, War of the Worlds
1949, Radio Quito, War of the Worlds, “A Spanish-language version, which reportedly set off panic in the city. Police and fire brigades rushed out of town to engage the supposed alien invasion force. After it was revealed that the broadcast was fiction, the panic transformed into a riot. Hundreds attacked Radio Quito and El Comercio, a local newspaper that had participated in the hoax by publishing false reports of unidentified objects in the skies above Ecuador in the days preceding the broadcast. The riot resulted in at least seven deaths.”
“Truth is whatever hastens the disintegration of the colonial regime.” Frantz Fanon.
“There is dire need for upping the ante and becoming less responsible or much more irresponsible users.” UBERMORGEN, 2017.