Are You Online Now?

!Mediengruppe Bitnik

!MEDIENGRUPPE BITNIK is the collaboration of the two artists Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo, who live in Berlin and Zurich. They are intensely working on the Internet and its possibilities. As they are entering grey areas with enthusiasm, they are facing the questions of a technically accessed world in which anonymous interactions and absolute transparency are two phenomena of the same origin.

If one user voluntarily renounces his privacy by publishing his entire lifetime, another user uses the various possibilities of encryption to remain anonymous and out of surveillance. In the digital world, the selfie is the reciprocal of total surveillance. Big data is the modern currency and is used for business as it is directly available for trade. Shared, copied, manipulated and reproduced thousands of times, personal information about almost everything and everyone can be found in the digital memory of the Internet. Nothing happens without leaving traces, so that experienced users can follow a causality chain along these data fragments, which, like an archaeological expedition, facilitates a time travel into the past and also allows forecasts of the future. Social phenomena and global events perpetuate themselves in the data streams, such as droughts or environmental influences in the trunk of a tree. The consumption of abstract content, knowledge accessible everywhere, up to shopping excesses, are legitimate spin-offs of a structure that offers everything and can be filled with content by everyone

!Mediengruppe Bitnik analyses the most diverse peripheral areas of the digital world in their projects and relates them to the traditional world within conceptual exhibition settings. Thereby they cross borders and act in grey areas up to the apparent illegality. However, normative laws and locally designed regulations are just as appropriate for the autonomously grown international liberal network as the commercialization of freedom as a luxury good. It is the independence and unlimited possibilities of the digital society that evoke completely new human behavior and society’s evolution. In their detailed digital analysis, profane processes prove to be highly abstract and usable data sources, which offer many significant user profiles for secret services and insiders.

Are you online now? personifies the Canadian online dating platform „Ashley Madison“ into an imaginary female entity and combines it with the ideas of a creative genius. The platform was able to draw thousands of sometimes married people worldwide into a parallel illusory world and caused a moral outcry by disclosing their user data and structures. In July 2015 the anonymous group The Impact Team disclosed all data of „Ashley Madison“ including the underlying code and all detailed customer datas. Immediately after the first overview of the user structure, the clear overweight of male users became apparent. More specifically, there were almost no real female users, so the portal tried to balance them out with an entire social-fembot army in the interests of their business model. These fembots involved their male admirers in costly interactions and faked the relationship with a potential sexual partner and justified the financial success of the platform.

In order to create an artistic equivalent of this absurd practice, !Mediengruppe Bitnik programmed 436 of its own fembots. For their part, they were fed with data from the data protection scandal in the London region. These 436 women reflected in their quantity the exact amount of fembots that „Ashley Madison“ used for the approximately 200,000 active male clients in London. Each of the new fembots has a specific age, a defined location and uses the same vocabulary as those bots of the original platform. In this new context, they now also try to involve their subjects in a conversation and tempt them into their sphere of influence. Visual attraction and phonetic manipulation create an atmosphere of tension that reflects the complicated relationship between machine and human being. Virtual and physical space merge into a metaphor of the interdimensional system that connects cyberspace with the real world and exposes reality as a pure construct of subjective perception.

We might have reached an evolutionary point where it is irrelevant by which entity and system, whether biological or technical, something is created since only the result and its consequences are considered.

Are you online now? has been the subject of solo exhibitions in leading international exhibitions.