Published: 18 August 2022

Art, IA, privacy and surveillance: meet the two artists selected as part of our last open call

by Artsformation

After receiving over seventy proposals for the Artsformation call in April, we are happy to announce the artists that Waag will be working with in the following period: Nadja Verena Marcin (DE), and Lukas Engelhardt (DE) in collaboration with ​​Ada Reinthal and Paul Bille. Find out more about their work, the call and what’s next.

About the call

This Spring, Waag published an Artsformation open call with a work grant of 5.000 euros for artists or collectives who would like to create a new work on the intersection of art, technology and society. Their work will also be exhibited, and promoted through our channels.

Nadja Verena Marcin

Nadja Verena Marcin (*in Würzburg, Germany of German-Slovak descent) is a Berlin-and New York-based visual artist, filmmaker, and writer, who explores gender, history, morality, psychology, and human behaviour via an intersectional analysis of feminism and emotional architecture within a theatrical and cinematic context. For the Artsformation call, she submitted her work #SOPHYGRAY (2021-2023).

#SOPHYGRAY is an AI driven feminist audio bot and performance that challenges the assumptions we have around feminized bot asistants like Siri and Alexa. It poses an alternative by establishing feminist subversive dialogues. In doing so, Mercin challenges assumptions in the relation we establish with feminised service bots. Her work draws inspiration from thinkers like bell hooks, Donna Haraway, Silvia Federici, Audre Lorde, and Anna Lowenhaupt-Tsing.

The Artsformation grant allows Nadja Verena Marcin to further develop #SOPHYGRAY (2021-2023) into an immersive installation where exhibition visitors can have smalltalk with her bot or talk about art, identity or feminism. In the process, standardised, gender-specific ideas of an Alexa or Siri are refuted as the bot kicks-off surprising and philosophical conversations.

The Artsformation commission on Marcin’s submitted work: ‘Marcin’s work offers a direct experience for the participants to live the experience of talking to their devices in a totally different way. The interaction we have with our devices is often taken for granted, but comes directly into focus thanks to this critical perspective of Marcin’s non-neutral assistant and our interaction with it. At the same time, the responses are a trigger and access to feminist ideas that might be new to the audience.’

Lukas Engelhardt (DE) in collaboration with ​​Ada Reinthal and Paul Bille

Lukas Engelhardt (1991, Hamburg) is interested in the tactics, terms and conditions necessary to negotiate and maintain semi-autonomous spaces—both online and offline. He builds, breaks and fixes servers for himself and for others and is a member of the Amsterdam-based squatting collectives Hotel Mokum and Mokum Kraakt. In 2022 he finished his MFA at the Design Department at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

With the Artsformation grant, Lukas Engelhardt (DE) and his team of friends Ada Reinthal and Paul Bille will work on the project ‘Squatting the Cloud’. Many cultural groups, foundations and collectives want to leave the commercial cloud, but the hurdle is high. Self-hosting, like squatting, is a way to refuse the platforms and policies that keep producing inequalities and injustices. The work specifically targets groups that fall somewhere in between individuals and companies with IT departments.

Engelhardt and friends will further develop an online resource around self-hosting that is based on the squatting philosophy of spaces. Their goal is to create awareness on the materiality of the cloud and how to occupy the commercialised cloud. In the exhibition, the prototype server as a sculpture will be shown, with the manuals to be taken home with for free. ‘Squatting the Cloud’ will consist of step-by-step manuals, from picking hardware to setting up web and file servers, while also giving context to the political dimensions of such a practice.

The Artsformation commission on Engelhardt’s submitted work: ‘Squatting the Cloud stands out because its first experience is sculptural, whilst the materiality of information storage tends to be forgotten and assumed immaterial in “the cloud”. This work expands the accessibility of local information storage and offers an alternative to servers that serve corporate interests.’

What’s next?

#SOPHYGRAY and Squatting the Cloud will be part of the Artsformation exhibition at the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, early 2023. Furthermore, Engelhardt’s work Meditation on Squatting the Cloud will be exhibited at Waag during Museumnacht on the 5th of November 2022. Keep an eye on our website and socials for updates.

In the upcoming months, Waag’s Artsformation team will work with Nadja to develop the next phase of her work with a workshop to teach the algorithm new philosophical questions and answers, and to make the app that is part of the work downloadable. With Lukas and his team, we will work on developing literacy on local servers, and the aim is to make the manuals for owning and squatting servers and to make these instructions publicly available.