Read the piece, titled Ben Grosser Wants to Mess with Your Socials.
My solo exhibition, Software for Less at arebyte Gallery in London, was reviewed in The Guardian / Observer. The article, titled How artist Ben Grosser is cutting Mark Zuckerberg down to size, walks through a number of my works, talking about ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, Facebook and Twitter Demetricator, Go Rando, and ScareMail, as well as new commissioned works premiered at arebyte such as DEFICIT OF LESS and Minus.
It’s a great text with a number of rather stunning quotes from author Tim Adams:
“When the history of the first decades of this century comes to be written, there will be few more telling artworks than Ben Grosser’s film Order of Magnitude … a mesmerising monologue, the story of our times.”
“The Zuckerberg films are exhibit A in a series of projects that have made Grosser perhaps the most usefully hands-on of all critics of social media.”
“[Grosser is] a one-man corrective to the data-driven world in which we all now find ourselves; his art highlights its limitations.“
Read the full piece.
My solo exhibition, Software for Less, opens at arebyte Gallery in London on the 20th of August, and runs through 23 October. It will include several new commissioned works and a number of recent and/or ongoing projects (including one that will be rewritten as part of the show’s event series). Expertly curated by Rebecca Edwards.
Software for Less
arebyte Gallery, London
20 August – 23 October
The last twenty years have been characterized by the rise of software. Software has enabled the web, animated the smartphone, and made possible, in the words of one big tech CEO, a world “more open and connected.” Yet software, which is now used by billions across the planet every day, has embedded within it the capitalist ideologies of those who make it. Coming out of growth-obsessed entrepreneurial culture from Silicon Valley in the United States, today’s software wants what its creators want: more. This want is fundamental, driving how software works, what it does, and what it makes (im)possible. The result is a global populace now dependent on software platforms that intentionally activate within users a “desire for more,” a need software meets with its “like” counts and algorithmic feeds and endless notifications, all in service of what big tech most seeks to realize their hopes and dreams: more users, more data, and more profit. And though wealth and fame has come to those who craft the platforms, their relentless focus on growth and scale has left a trail of destruction across society. Mental health, privacy, and democracy are all diminished, while authoritarianism, racism, and disinformationism are emboldened. Twenty years after the rise of software, big tech’s drive for more has transformed its most lauded asset into its biggest liability.
After years of artistic efforts to define, examine, reveal, and defuse how software activates the desire for more—to “demetricate” social media, to defuse emotional surveillance, to confuse big data algorithms, and to track and trace how the politics of interface become the politics of humanity—this exhibition presents the first outcomes from a new experiment, one that aims to generate a Software for Less. How would users feel if software platforms actively worked to reduce engagement rather than to produce it? What if software interfaces encouraged conceptions of time that are slow rather than fast? Why can’t software want less instead of more? Utilizing custom methods such as software recomposition, techniques like data obfuscation, and genres that include video supercuts and net art, Software for Less introduces functional applications and media-based artworks that tackle those questions, presenting works that produce less profit, less data, and less users. It includes a social network that aims to limit compulsions to use it, systems that make AI-driven feeds less attractive to those they profile, and the artifacts from investigations that reveal how a tiny few manipulates a broad public into a hyper state of more—and how disrupting that manipulation could point the way towards an alternative future. Not software for more, but Software For Less.
—Ben Grosser, 20 July 2021
Check back for new details, including links to the works online as well as info about a series of online and offline events throughout the exhibition.
I’ll be giving a keynote at the My Behavioral Surplus Festival in Stuttgart. The title of my talk is Less Metrics, More Rando: Techniques of Resistance in a Platform World. The session, titled How to Stay With the Trouble (referencing Haraway) includes a talk from Shusha Niederberger and a discussion with us and other festival artists moderated by Kay Zhang.
Online attendance is free, registration required. The session starts at 18:30 CEST / 11:30am CDT.
I wrote up some thoughts regarding Instagram’s recent statements/actions regarding their (anemic and incomplete) hiding of like counts.
My work Tokenize This is the subject of a new article at VICE. In it I speak about the work, it’s stance towards NFTs, and how some artists are adapting themselves in the service of cryptoart platforms:
Until recently, [Grosser] said, the digital art community was “disconnected in a happy way from the more conventional art market with its money motivations,” allowing critical art to flourish. But “with the intro of big speculative finance, it’s shifted a lot of artists towards focusing on, ‘How can I get in on the gold rush?’ Now I see artists erasing their own URLs from Twitter bios and replacing them with links to cryptoart platform pages, and turning their Twitter feeds into very noisy adverts for platforms, talking about bids, drops, sales.”
I recently spoke with Felix Wessel of Deutschlandfunk Kultur‘s show Breitband about doomscrolling and The Endless Doomscroller. Felix also interviews psychologist Moritz Petzold. The segment is mostly in German so best for those with fluency there, but it also includes a performative reading of translated Doomscroller headlines that is fun to hear.
I gave a presentation about several of my Facebook-focused works and then engaged in panel discussion about The Power of Facebook with Nabiha Syed from The Markup, design sociologist Theo Ploeg, and host Margarita Ospian of The Hmm, a group that investigates internet culture out of The Netherlands. From the organizers:
During this event we try to better understand the power of Facebook together with three speakers. Nabiha Syed from the non-profit newsroom The Markup, will tell how they’re keeping an eye on Big Tech companies, and developing tools that reveal when we are being tracked. Artist Ben Grosser will share his Facebook related projects, including ‘Safebook’, a Facebook without content. And design sociologist Theo Ploeg will explain why he thinks our data does not provide any insight into us.
My talk starts at 1:03 in the embed above. I’ve queued it up, but I definitely recommend watching the whole event.