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Work from Black Transparencyat Future Gallery

“Metahaven’s practice entails research, design, and visual journalism engaging in intense relationships with the present. Their presentation at Future Gallery is also the first show at the gallery’s new space at Keithstraße 10, 10787 Berlin.

WikiLeaks scarves and t-shirts
Since mid-2010, Metahaven have undertaken a body of research that revisits the visual identity of the online whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks. With the nominal consent of its founder Julian Assange, this expansive design project has functioned on several fronts, at the heart of which is an investigation into the politics and aesthetics of transparency. Metahaven have sought to map the relations through which WikiLeaks functions, looking not towards the mechanics of its operations but to the media relations and reputational networks that have sprung up around it. The organization is constituted by a necessary sense of opacity—employed in order to offer anonymity to the whistleblower and abstract the leak from its source—while paradoxically asserting the principle of transparency. Within a number of propositions for revisions to the WikiLeaks identity, Metahaven references the image economy circulating around the organization, alongside the notion of “transparent camouflage” as both aesthetic gesture and political strategy.

Applying the visual syntax at work in their identity proposals, they have created a series of scarves and t-shirts, sold by WikiLeaks through both online and offline venues. WikiLeaks has been since a few years under a de facto financial embargo by MasterCard, VISA and PayPal, which prevents the site from receiving direct donations. Metahaven’s project functions as a platform for a polemical mode of commercial transaction.

Black Transparency
The WikiLeaks collaboration has led Metahaven to investigate a phenomenon which it calls “black transparency,” meaning the involuntary transparency invoked on organizations and nation-states by whistleblowers and hackers. Metahaven’s Black Transparency is a nomadic, re-iterating design project as well as a forthcoming book publication with the same title (Sternberg Press, 2014), focusing on the geopolitical aspects of this phenomenon.

The appearance and shape of black transparency is always changing to fit the legal and political loopholes of the states and entities whose legitimacy it opposes. It finds temporary homes in jurisdictional enclaves while forming short-lived informational tax havens. Because its architecture depends on acts of evasion, black transparency is not only transparent, but also black.

Black Transparency collectively explores and proposes potential designs of these evasive acts, and investigates the political mentality of a densely interconnected population whose principle instrument of freedom—the internet—defines at the same time its ubiquitous subjugation to abstract power. Included in the show is a video manifesto for the current generation of digital nomads; the video combines footage from anti-austerity riots in Athens with imagery from popular culture and of deserts—spaces which Metahaven views, metaphorically and literally, as blank canvases for a more distributed and decentralized network.

The project presents a series of Skype recorded video interviews with prominent internet activists, politicians, and academics, such as Smári McCarthy, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Alexa O’Brien, Amelia Andersdotter, and Gabriella Coleman, whose activities with Pirate parties and alternative software practices, lawmaking, and voting models point at both the re-decentralization and re-localization of now abstracted political and technological processes. Black Transparency further comprises of a set of proposals for data hosting in the form of utopian architectural models, one of which is a bedouin tent which will be on display in Future Gallery’s previous venue at Mansteinstraße.

For this show, Metahaven has also teamed up with fashion designer Conny Groenewegen to create a large garment in further pursuit of the connection point between fashion and information.”

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