The best art carries with it the context of subversion, or so we believe at The Creators Project. As technology has grown both more complex and widely accessible, projects have emerged which messily repurpose art and the web to unforeseen realms. The past century produced countless art trends large and small—among the most compelling is what we’re terming ‘art hacking’—art across a range of media whose intent connotes ingenuity, appropriation, and subverting established systems. Here we highlight 10 examples of spectacular art deconstruction.
Continuing these traditions into the future are the experimental web art collective Artzilla, net artist Paolo Cirio and tech project aggregator F.A.T. Labs. Some of their works include China Channel which modifies your Firefox GPS to experience China’s internet censorship, Google Alarm, which rings an alarm each time Google indexes browsing habits, and the Face to Facebook project where Cirio scraped Facebook for 1 million profiles for a fake dating website, a succinct commentary on our lack of privacy in today’s web culture.
Fountain by Marcel Duchamp (1917)
The true birth of Dada is intentionally obfuscated, ringing true to its style and modus operandi. No shortage of reasons are cited for its inception: natural confusion in the face of a new century, the end of religious dominance in European culture, protest against colonialism and bourgeois complacency, etc. The most compelling of these is the idea of a philosophical paralysis in the wake of World War I. If a society dictated by ‘rational’ thinking led to millions dying in trenches and outrage when a (now iconic) toilet is submitted to an art exhibition, Dada sought to pioneer a bold new world of irrationality. In 2004, Duchamp’s Fountain was voted the most influential artwork of the twentieth century.
Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol (1962)
Warhol’s most iconic work. Made pop art accessible and exploded it into the public consciousness. Captures the static hum of consumerism. Rebelled against the anti-modernity of abstract expressionism. Transcended and redefined modern art. Life-affirming.
Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman (1971)
Infamous antiwar activist Abbie Hoffman published this counterculture book with the intent for his work to be stolen from bookstores and passed on by fellow ‘yippies.’ This proto-‘Anarchist’s Cookbook’ details helpful instructions for “starting a pirate radio station, living in a commune, stealing food, stealing credit cards, preparing a legal defense, making pipe bombs, and obtaining a free buffalo from the Department of the Interior," hijacking the medium of the novel to further Hoffman’s ongoing resistance against authority powers.
F for Fake by Orson Welles (1974)
In his final work, F for Fake, Orson Welles evolves a charming history of art forgery into a groundbreaking metadocumentary, interrogating both the nature of truth in cinema and authenticity itself. Welles pauses the film’s action intermittently to hold court with the audience from his edit bay, explaining choices of direction or apologizing for deceitful behavior—pinpointing halfway through a story about the late Pablo Picasso as precisely when he just started making up facts.
Darko Maver by Eva and Franco Mattes (1998)
In 1998 notorious net.art couple Eva and Franco Mattes created a website cataloguing the works of radical Serbian artist Darko Maver—the duo’s bleak critique of the insular, self-obsessed art world and the archetype of the artist. The fictional Maver submitted explicit, disturbing models of corpses from the ongoing violence in the war-torn Balkans to the 48th Venice Biennale, all subsequently fawned over by a self-important community convinced of art’s ability to embody truth above all other mediums.
Super Mario Clouds 2k3 by Cory Arcangel (2003)
Appropriating unlikely technology for artistic inspiration Cory Arcangel is at the forefront of the evolving new media art scene. In his breakthrough piece Super Mario Clouds 2k3, Arcangel hacked the original Nintendo game cartridge to remove all foreground image assets, leaving the eerie, meditative backdrop of Super Mario’s blue sky and white pixelated clouds which envelopes the viewer.
The Grey Album by Danger Mouse (2004)
The Grey Album is the 2004 record mashup by producer-auteur Danger Mouse of unauthorized samples of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album a cappella tracks. Though initially released in a limited fashion to select online distributors, the album’s massive popularity led to legal threats from EMI and the responding ‘Grey Tuesday,’ a day of electronic civil disobedience where hundreds of websites hosted the album in protest. The drama catapulted remix culture into the public consciousness, and influenced works as diverse as Brazil’s Tecno brega scene, Girl Talk, and the rise of dubstep.
Dow Chemical “Help” Announcement by The Yes Men (2004)
The Bhopal disaster might be one of history’s worst industrial catastrophes, caused by a leak of methyl isocyanate on December 3, 1984 at an Indian pesticide plant owned by Dow Chemical—death estimates range between 3,700-11,000 with over 120,000 permanently injured. For the incident’s twentieth anniversary, culture jamming activists The Yes Men created a fake Dow Chemical website boasting that “[a]s a publicly owned corporation, Dow is unable, due to share-price concerns, to accept any responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe." This led to widespread press backlash, culminating in Dow Chemical spokesman Jude Finisterra announcing on BBC World that Dow planned to liquidate its India assets for a $12 billion campaign to provide medical care and victim compensation. Dow Chemical scrambled to discredit the report, but not before its stock declined in value by $2 billion.
Paris by Banksy and Danger Mouse (2006)
As of 2011, the somehow-still-anonymous British street art legend Banksy remains heavily discussed and overanalyzed, likely against the artist’s wishes. The project that encapsulates his strongest elements–elegant simplicity, pitch-black humor, demystifying the powerful, probable legal danger, recontextualizing public space—is his classic hack of Paris Hilton’s debut album Paris. In 2006, roughly 500 of Ms. Hilton’s CDs were replaced with Banksy’s personalized copies, featuring altered artwork of Paris topless, stepping over the homeless, and her head on a Barbie doll. The store barcodes were left undoctored, allowing customers to unknowingly purchase the CD over the counter, whose disc boasted dance remixes by Danger Mouse of interviews and paparazzi encounters with the heiress.
The Underbelly Project by Workhorse and PAC (2010)
Words do little justice for the epic undertaking of The Underbelly Project. In essence hacking New York City’s infrastructure, the ‘gallery’ is a completely-illegal subterranean street art installation in a carefully-concealed abandoned NYC subway station, showcasing 103 murals from an international roster of artists.