Transmediale 2011

by James Glazebrook

Our experience of the Transmediale festival for art and digital culture was short but sweet. Restrictions on our press accreditation, work commitments and sheer lack of organisation meant we missed the Hyperdub night at Berghain and live sets from Monolake and Deadbeat. Fortunately, we had some pretty good backups. On Saturday, we caught a snippet of Deadbeat’s stunning collaboration with video artist Lillevan as part of a review of the week’s AV performances in the immersive CineChamber, then hopped on the U-Bahn to Club Maria, which shook to the sounds of Modeselektor and their global team of bass pioneers.

We also made it down to the HacKaWay Zone, to see some artworks that “not only respond to scientific or technical developments, but that shape the way in which we think about and experience the technologies which impact virtually all aspects of our daily lives.” Some was enjoyably incomprehensible, like the brilliantly titled Ambiguous Cut Into Space of Conjecture (Lucid Phantom Messenger #2) – strobing multicoloured eye candy. Other work was thoughtfully executed, like overall festival award winner Intelligent Bacteria, which highlighted the dangers of alcohol processing in Indonesia by incorporating the bacteria produced into a performative acoustic installation, a “bacteria orchestra”.

But of most interest to this social media nerd were two projects that explored Facebook and its implications for our privacy, both on- and offline. Seppukoo provides a service for users who want to “commit Facebook suicide”, setting up a memorial page in their honour.  Or it did until it received a cease and desist letter from the web giant – now Seppukoo exists as a DIY guide to virtual self-destruction:

Also drawing the attention of Zuckerberg’s goons is Lovely-Faces.com, which scraped 250,000 Facebook profiles and used the data to build a huge, fake dating site. Taking publicly accessible data and using technology like facial recognition to fill in the gaps, it constructs an alarmingly complete picture of its “members”  by providing their gender, nationality, interests and even character (“sly women”, anyone?). As Wired reports, the creators of Lovely-Faces are only just sidestepping Facebook’s terms of service by taking down users’ data on request, so go and have a play on it while you still can.

Here are our impressions of a week of art, tech and music dorkery:

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