Excerpt from Open Sourcing New Media

The exhibition OPEN_SOURCE_ART_HACK at New York City’s New Museum views hacking as a creative social movement. The New Museum’s Anne Barlow and curators Steve Dietz and Jenny Marketou have assembled a highly diverse exhibition that presents hacking as an expansive social ideology.

The open source and hacker movement is rooted in the concept that innovation is spurred by open exchange. John Soderberg in his essay Copyright vs. CopyleftL A Marxist Critique states that open source and hacking represent a gift economy, which looks toward social surplus, in opposition to a consumer economy seeking corporate and individual gain. Hence, the Hacker movement is a political project.

OPEN_SOURCE_ART_HACK was to be kicked off by GenTerra (2001), a performance by the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and Beatriz da Costa, the performance was, however, postponed due to potential legal problems.

In the CAE tradition of disguising art performance with a fictive corporate identity, GenTerra is a biotech corporation that presents a participatory theater. The scientists of GenTerra inform the audience about transgenics and then ask participants to sign a health waiver before they can make their own transgenic bacteria. The performance culminates by participants playing Russian roulette with a series of petri dishes of which one actually contains transgenic bacteria. The roulette table spins and a robotic arm will open one dish allowing transgenic bacteria to escape into our air. The transgenic bacteria is benign, a crippled lab strain, however, in our post 9/11 world, freeing bacteria into our environment, even as symbolic gesture, could present legal problems. The performance eventually received the stamp of approval, after the opening evening. The event has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 20th.

During the panel discussion, Steve Kurtz, member of CAE, asserted that biotech at the molecular level is an uncontested technology at the sole hands of authoritarian manipulation. The intent of GenTerra is to conquer the biological barrier of knowledge. The performance asks, “How do we democratize this specialized knowledge? How can we demonstrate what amateur science can do?” CAE’s GenTerra is unique in that it seeks to hack the Biological form of code ­ hacking is extended beyond information technologies into biotechnologies, a departure from the majority of the exhibition which primarily focuses on Internet activity.

The full review of OPEN_SOURCE_ART_HACK is available in the July 2002 issue of Afterimage magazine.

OPEN_SOURCE_ART_HACK at New Museum, May 3 ­ June 30, 2002

View GenTerra's site