!Mediengruppe Bitnik belongs to a new class of artists working with the inter¬net, using hacking as a strategy. Recently they made global news headlines beyond the art media by creating an automated on¬line shopping bot, supplying it with the Bit¬coin equivalent of USD 100 each week with which to buy random objects on the dark¬net (a portion of the Deep Web in which connections are only allowed between machines already known to one another) that were sent directly to a gallery, where they were exhibited. When the bot ended up buying the drug MDMA and charges were brought against Bitnik, the ensuing legal and ethical debate on authorship touched on our liability for the action of others that fall under our control—and idea that is central to Bitnik’s practice.
The collective made an earlier randomized work in 2013, sending a parcel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he sought refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Not knowing whether or how the parcel would be delivered to Assange, a small hidden camera captured and broad¬casted the parcel’s entire journey through the postal system live on the internet.
Even in a post-Snowden world, much of the public has not yet been sufficiently sensitized to the dark side of the internet, including the aspects that are watched over by our government and others. Bitnik’s practice sheds light on this space, creating work that is urgent and relevant for our times.