Every Bit Is a Work of Art

A How-to Guide for Hackers

| March 18, 2004

For many of us, the word 'hacker' conjures the image of a mischief-making computer geek with disrespect for authority and too much time on his or her hands. Curators at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid are set on challenging the negative connotations associated with hacking. Their current exhibition, Hackers: the Art of Abstraction argues that everyone can and should be a hacker.

The show was inspired by McKenzie Werk's The Hacker Manifesto, which redefines a hacker as anyone who creates intellectual property, but does not control the means of its production. Werk's 'hacker class' includes anyone who creates anything, from programmers to artists and writers to chemists. According to Berta Sichel, director of the museum's audiovisual department, the exhibition seeks to 'refute the negatives and make people aware that in an age of increased surveillance, hacking can be a vital countermeasure.'

The artists selected for the exhibition explore the intersections of creativity, invention, and radical activism in their works. The centerpiece of the exhibition are documentary films and videos made by independent filmmakers and hackers from round the world. Many of the works have never been shown in a museum or gallery setting, and in some cases, persuading the hackers to share their work with the art world was a challenge. Even for some of them, the concept that hacking is distinct from programming code was new.

Exhibition organizer Jenny Marketou hopes to spark conversations in hackers and visitors alike. 'People may even come to the show and finally discover the hacker hidden in themselves,' she stated.
-- Anastasia Masurat

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