Don’t miss the exhibition Bugs in the War Room with PhD student Linda Hilfling at Overgaden – Institute of Contemporary Art, Overgaden neden Vandet 17, DK-1414 Copenhagen K +45 32577273, www.overgaden.org. Tuesday-Sunday 1-5pm, Thursday 1-8pm.
Chennai, India, New Year’s Eve 1999. A group of engineers are gathered in a war room where they are on stand-by to deal with the catastrophic, global consequences of the predicted meltdown of every computer system in the world at the turn of the millennium. Fifteen years later, Linda Hilfling Ritasdatter locates the key human and nonhuman players in this apocalyptic chapter of the digital age. On the basis of her own knowledge of computer programming, Ritasdatter makes absurd, humorous links between aspects of everyday technology that the general public are rarely aware of. The artist has previously created an open network that automatically deletes all words registered with the Danish Patent and Trademark Office, given performative lectures on the history of the overhead projector, as well as hacking search engines to use spelling mistakes to counter algorithmic censorship.
Bugs in the War Room investigates the coalescence of Christian doomsday prophecies, global economy, neo-colonial power structures, and an allegedly obsolete computer code on the brink of a new millennium. The exhibition is based on a numerological system originating in the American, Christian journal End Time. In 1999, when fears about Y2K were at their highest, the journal published a letter to the editor claiming that the word ‘computer’ could be translated to 666 – the number of the Antichrist. Ritasdatter accepts this combination of technophobia and doomsday prophecy at face value in the exhibition, where she presents 666 new letters generated by a computer code that resuscitates the numerological system. From the many letters it emerges that the computer is not alone in being the work of the devil – the names ‘Terence Hill’, ‘Santa Claus’ and the brand name ‘Elephant Beer’ are too. Ritasdatter has coded the programme using COBOL, a code considered obsolete in the West, but which still comprises a core element of the IT systems of banks and insurance companies.
The exhibition includes the seminar CRISIS COMPUTING, with the launch of an infinite encyclopaedia of the end of the world, and a slide-projector lecture exposing the links between the cybernetics of the 1960s, the worldwide paranoia of the millennium bug, and India’s outsourcing boom.