Introduction and Overview
The Art Experiment "11 DAYS“, 2015
The art experiment "11 DAYS" investigated the consequences of surveillance, the use of remote-controlled armed drones. The recipient was placed in the position of a drone pilot who could threaten a laboratory rat with a functioning weapon via the Internet. At the end of the countdown of 11 days, on 25 March 2015 at 19.00 (CET), the controllable weapon should be armed. The rat could then have been killed from any smartphone, from any computer via the Internet. Anyone could have become an anonymous perpetrator. However, it was never planned to really have the rat killed.
11 DAYS is a work in which on the one hand the following of the monitoring become clear and on the other hand the recipient can also participate itself. It was important to give the recipient a decisive role, to bring him into a critical situation in which he is himself a surveillant and a decider.
The installation "11 DAYS" consists of a white polyethylene box measuring 150 x 60 x 60 cm. In the box is a white rat. The box stands on a steel construction, on which an over the Internet controllable weapon is attached. The rear wall of the box is reinforced to 4 cm to resist the projectiles of the compressed air gun. Three servomotors are responsible for the movement and the triggering of the weapon. These motors are controlled by an Arduino board that is connected to a computer via a USB connection. A webcam is mounted on the gun barrel. The entire installation is 195 cm long, 60 cm wide and 145 cm high.
The installation "11 DAYS". On the associated computer, there are scripts that allow you to control the weapon via the web page, and to provide the Lifestream on the Internet on the server. The website (11 TAGE.florianmehnert.de) is an elementary part of the installation, it allows the control of the weapon and shows the Livestream. The installation is fully functional and allows you to aim and fire the weapon.
The installation places the recipient in the position of the surveillant and the droning pilot. The camera position on the rifle barrel - the typical egoshooter perspective - creates a play situation that reminds of video games.
The controllable weapon seen from above. The webcam is attached to the front of the camera.
The art experiment "11 Days" is an exploration of the consequences of remote monitoring and the use of remote-controlled, armed drones.
Comprehensive monitoring precedes drone usage and relies significantly on private data obtained from mobile phones.
By monitoring the movement profile of a target subject it can be know where to send deadly drones.
In the media, violence and such are displayed on a daily basis, dulling down our resistance to, and lowering our inhibitions for these activities.
Meanwhile numerous shooter games are expertly staged to initiate aggression and the willingness to kill. Through Gamification, soldiers are successfully recruited and trained.
Drones reduce an actual attack threshold, simulating that of a game and giving rise to a culture of "targeted killing“
"11 DAYS" stages an armed drone’s mission, and shows what it is:
The targeted killing as Gamification and the consequence of total surveillance.
A laboratory rat was been continuously monitored via a live webcam stream. When the countdown of 11 days has arrived, on 22 March, 2015 at 22:00 (CET), a remote controlled weapon should be armed.
The rat should then be killed via any smart phone or computer on the Internet.
Anyone could become an anonymous perpetrator.
The art experiment "11 Days" has achieved its full impetus and has ended 17 March, 2015 at 19:00 CET.
The rat is alive and was taken out of the installation.
The artistic intention of the experiment was never to actually allow the shooting of the rat.
The Course Of Action
The countdown of the project was officially launched on Saturday, 14 March 2015.
In less than 12 hours a Shitstorm developed on the Internet via Facebook, Twitter and in numerous forums as well as commentaries of the online newspapers. I received hundreds of emails with insults and death threats.
The daily accesses to the website of the project increased from initially several thousand overnight to about 30,000 per day. At the end of the project, more than 100,000 log ins were recorded.
I had to change the webserver several times, after two days a cloud server, which had grown to the onslaught of traffic. Among to DOS attacks of hackers, the server still collapsed regularly.
On Saturday morning two local police officers appeared, who wanted to see the installation, the weapon and the attitude of the rat.
The "11 days" project did not run as originally planned for 11 days, but only six days. It was terminated by me prematurely on 17 March 2015 at 19.00 (CET).
The art experiment "11 Days" has achieved its full impetus.
Already on Saturday, when the 11-day countdown was only started in the evening, there were over 30,000 log ins on the website. Until Sunday evening, many media from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and England had reported about the project. The project "11 DAYS" had generated more attention in a short time than I expected. It was discussed controversially about the project and its topic. In this respect, the goal of the "11 days" art experiment was reached after just a few days. It was not necessary to continue the project until the end of the countdown.
Many death threats showed their effect. I felt no longer safe, feared a possible escalation, and began to think about when I could start a premature end of the project.
On Wednesday, March 17, I received a visit from three civilian representatives of the authorities: a chief commissioner, a veterinarian of the Landratsamt Freiburg, and a head of the department. They asked for a visit to the installation, then a discussion in which I was clearly clarified that I should end the project on a voluntary basis, because otherwise they would find ways to end the project on the official side.
Neither the burden of the Shitstorm, nor the discussion with the authorities, ultimately led to the decision to initiate the end of the arts experiment on the evening of 16 March after 6 days, but the actual success achieved by the project.
The Shitstorm: Image of Social Reality on the Net?
The Shitstorm develops a strong negative force.
The confrontation with the negative content made a constructive discussion with the core of the work. In addition, the situation intensified on the one hand through the continuous arrival of the e-mails and on the other by the unmanageable comments on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and in numerous newspapers. In addition, several international online petitions were launched by animal rights activists against the project. A petition submitted to me had over 12,000 internatinal subcribers, others had a total of 35,000 signatures. Numerous reports against me were filed at the public prosecutor. The dossier of the public prosecutor on the "11 DAYS" project has a volume of 380 pages.
The reactions are differentiated. There are a few rough numbers in terms of the log ins: in five days, about 100,000 people visited the website. Because of the numerous reports in the media, however, far more people were aware of the project. Around 35,000 people signed online petitions and about 500 wrote a negative or imminent e-mail to me. Thus, about 30% of the visitors of the website have personally been against me.
The statements of the "Shitstormers" range from verbal abuse to violence and death threats. The majority suggested that I be put into the installation and shot. Here are some of the many examples:
„Would like to put a gun against his head and well would say blow his brains out but he clearly has none.“(Linda Moorhouse , Cleckheaton, UK)
„He should be killed instead.“ (Filip Vavra, Prague, Czech Republic)
„I think we should put him in a box and let anyone of the internet kill him.“ (M. Ridway, Manchster, UK)
„What a sick bastard. Aim the gun at his head and let everyone go for it. See how he likes it.“ (Cathy Nowland, Bribie, Australia)
„...This person needs to be prosecuted!!“ (Antoinette Kruger, East London, South Africa)
„Florian Mehnert YOU need to be shot!“ (Victoria Coleman, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
"Where can I find this so-called artist I believe the need a ball through the head!“ (Christian Weltin, Deutschland)
David Pella (Twitter) „@FlorianMehnert I hope you will be shot one day.“
Why did this audience's reaction come about? Was there a tendency to overlay the intention by the rat focus?
The rat was an important calculated part of the installation. It implicitly played the role of the innocent victim, and functioned excellently as a trigger of attention and emotions. The aim of the project was to raise a controversial discussion about the consequences of surveillance and the use of armed drones. The identification of the recipient with the rat succeeded in drawing attention to the project. Everyone could understand the clear structure and the functionality of the installation. Everyone had consciously or unconsciously perceived that the "11 DAYS" project had created a parallel situation in their reality.
The "11 DAYS" -storm was not only an expression of a pure denigration of my person, but an expression of an overwhelming and helplessness of the audience. The Lifestream showed an apparently death-threatened rat. The danger that the rat would be killed at the end of the 11-day countdown was an inescapable fact for many of the recipients.
Thus the focus was strongly on the death of the rat and its life-threatening situation. Nevertheless, the situation of the rat was associated with the situation of people in Syria, Yemen, Waziristan, etc., who were killed by drones or must constantly expect a death from drones. A discussion took place among in numerous forums.
The helplessness of not being able to work effectively against the "drone war" was manifested more in a salvation of the rat, in a condemnation of the art project and its author. The shitstorm, however, made it clear that people are willing to mobilize themselves against existing politically injustice.
The scope and effects of the drone war are not known to many people or are not perceived as injustices. Accordingly, the salvation of the rat seemed to be more worthwhile than to defend against one or more governments and institutions as the originator of the drones war. This seems understandable because of the complexity of the subject, which is essentially controlled by fear of terror.
In this context, the shitstorm can be regarded as a reaction valve of the emotional and intellectual challenge in the handling of a complex reality, whose pervasion and handling becomes increasingly difficult.