Social Hacking, temporary hacks in Plymouth

Social Hacking

The ‘hacking’ practice is an overused and misunderstood term in pop culture and contemporary arts. ‘Hacking’ usually carries negative connotations and it is used referring the activity of breaking into computer systems. Nevertheless, in the computer programming community, the term ‘hack’ refers to aclever problem solution, therefore a creative and transformative act. Appropriation, transformation and re-generation are post-modern artistic practices meant to hack new material out of a found object. Social hacking, then, means hacking in the realm of human communication and social interaction. This is the concept behind Social Hacking, a series of temporary (21-24 March) public art commissions for Plymouth by international artist groups acting against a backdrop of urban regeneration. The commissioned works from The Institute for Applied Autonomy (USA), Mikro Orchestra Project (Poland), and Ludic Society (Austria/Switzerland) respond to the social and cultural context of Plymouth and explore the above theme. Mikro Orchestra Project runs workshops with young people on how to intervene in Gameboy consoles changing them in musical instruments. Institute for Applied Autonomy examines the so-called ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the USA through two projects: a commemorative plaque of the world’s first global communications network crash in 1858 and its historical connection to Plymouth, and the installation ‘Terminal Air’, a digital world map that visualizes the movements of planes involved in ‘extraordinary rendition’. Ludic Society construct a ‘total conversion’ of computer games using American muscle cars and RFID technologies. They also present their ‘Tagged City Play’ for Real Players in a Real City. The aim is to extend hacking ideas out of computers to people communicative structures, social interactions and the use of public spaces. The involved projects modify popular technologies for creative experimentation and question the usual distinction between digital space and real public space in the city. Organized by KURATOR in collaboration with i-DAT, and funded mainly by Arts Council England, South West and Plymouth City Council, the event also includes performances, seminars and workshops. As the English Guardian newspaper ironically titled: ‘Blimey, an actual real reason to go to Plymouth’.

Valentina Culatti