The dark net is for most people not primarily associated with arts. As an anonymous corner of the Internet accessible only through special browsers, it does not have the best reputation even in these times of mass surveillance, where journalists or political activists can use these services to rally against oppression. The latest large scale art project to shed light on the dark web is the automated online shopping bot Random Darknet Shopper by Mediengruppe Bitnik, which goes shopping on the deep web and attracted attention from the media for its illegal purchases.
The web artists Dina Karadžić and Vedran Gligo now use the dark net’s principles to realize the exhibition project Pivilion for their Schlosspost web residency on the topic »Decentralization of Internet Art.« Pivilion is a decentralized and uncensored user-curated web art gallery on the dark net, which runs on Raspberry Pi’s – tiny and affordable computers that you can use to learn programming. Their concept is as much about freedom and free education as it is about the collaborative potential of online communities. But what is the art scene on the dark net like? An interview with the artists.
Clara Herrmann: How does your project work and how did the idea develop?
Dina Karadžić & Vedran Gligo: The concept of the Pivilion project is developing a network of independent gallery-nodes, hosted by anyone on their RPis, and distributed through clearnet and Tor.
The drive to create a custom node-web space was to help cultural workers/creators emancipate themselves from the structures of existing online communities, and to test the omnia mea mecum porto possibilities in the digital domain and the nomadic logic in a highly networked time. The idea sprouted from various interactions in our local artist community, which has recently made a stronger turn towards independent practices. This situation is highly receptive to mutual support in the development of diverse collaborative practices in order to keep their/our proactivity on a do-able level.
The aim of the gallery-host idea was to create a nomadic free virtual environment that connects art-oriented users (both creators and consumers) by offering a participatory model of interaction. The base methodology of achieving this is allowing less experienced and community-driven users-curators to actively approach free network technologies while utilizing all the upsides of net tech, promoting connectability, privacy, and maximum freedom of curating content (while the advanced users are welcome to re-create their own virtual Pi-based galleries).
By transferring the gallery sites from the blogs and domains to a physical gadget of the Pi, Pivilion engages and connects users on two levels of interaction – on the virtual and physical level and the ideological and technical. Our focus of interest with the Pivilion is to help further concepts of freedom and free education and spark collaborative potentials of one’s communities.
The idea came to life during Dina’s residency in net.cube at G-MK in Zagreb/Croatia. She had her own web work that required hosting on a local network during a presentation. The Raspberry Pi seemed ideal for the project. We wanted to make the project accessible from the Internet and for that we needed to circumvent closed incoming ports that disallowed us from running services from inside the gallery. Tor hidden services pretty much do that out-of-the box. The rest seemed logical – I powered up one of hacklab01’s RPis and first made it a web server. Then installed Tor and set it up – the whole thing just worked and the setup didn’t take much time at all.