Yesterday, we told you about Dries Verhoeven, the 38-year-old Dutch artist currently living in a glass box in Berlin with a desk, a chair, and five smartphones loaded with Grindr.
For 15 days, Verhoeven plans to only make connection with people on the outside via Grindr, inviting men he meets to his glass box to partake in nonsexual activities, including playing chess, eating, and shaving.
He told HuffPo that the piece — “Wanna Play” — “aims to explore the potential powers and dangers of a site like Grindr” by replacing “the hunt for sex with the search for friendship.”
Verhoeven explained that he would blur the faces of the men he chatted with, but would display their uncensored conversations without their knowledge on giant screens in his glass box for public view. It has understandably outraged some local men who say they feel as if they’ve been preyed upon, calling him a “digital rapist.”
Berlin resident Parker Tilghman posted his account of being duped into having his seemingly private conversations made public, on Facebook. According to his post, he visited Verhoeven in the glass box and attacked him:
the address he gave me was on heinrichplatz. i got out at kotti and walked. as i’m standing on the corner of marienenstrasse i look over to see an illuminated container with projections inside and curtains obscuring the silhouettes of people working on computers inside. there’s a strange clock counting upwards. i get closer and i realize that our grindr conversation has been projected onto the wall and out into oranienstrasse for everyone to see. my name, my photos, the entire private conversation publicly on display. i am livid. i have never experience anger like this before. i would not consider myself an angry or explosive person, but i lost it. i opened the trailer and lunged at him. i punched him. i screamed. i flipped a table. i have never done anything like this before in my life. i was pulled out. i walked around the block to cool off and realized i had lost my hat in the tussle. i went back to get it. someone involved in the project confronted me and i shouted at him louder than i have ever shouted in my life. the entire block stopped. at one point they started clapping. i screamed how dare you, you are violating peoples lives, you are publicly mocking people and projecting the pictures and words onto a screen that an entire city block in one of the busiest parts of kreuzberg for everyone to see. what you are doing is unethical. it is digital rape. you are a digital rapist. at no point did you have my consent or notify me that you would be doing anything of the sort. you cannot exploit people like this for your bullshit hipster berlin art world crap.
Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, the theater sponsoring the “Wanna Play” project, acknowledged the incident in a statement released on its website. They claim that while all photos displayed were altered, they may not have been altered to the point of being unrecognizable.
The theater says that all photos moving forward will be blurred further, and that Verhoeven’s Grindr account now indicates the project in his profile:
Throughout the preparations for this work, it was important to HAU Hebbel am Ufer and to Dries Verhoeven that the identity of his contacts remain protected. For this reason, all the images from their profile pages, which were projected on an LED screen in the pavilion, were shown in negative. The chats between him and his partners were also rendered anonymous.
As became clear in the case of one visitor who came to the container on October 2, such altered images were still recognizable to those who knew him. We deeply regret this and we apologize.
Since Friday all of the photos being shown have been blurred to the point of complete unrecognisability. In addition, in his profile on the Smartphone apps, Dries Verhoeven is now making it clear that his chat partners are taking part in an artwork located in public by requesting their consent in advance.
While Grindr supports the arts, what Dries Verhoeven is doing by luring Grindr users under false pretenses is entrapment. This is an invasion of user privacy and a potential safety issue. We encourage other users to report his profile by using the ‘flag’ function on our app, so we can take action to ban the user. Together, we will work to keep these users out of our Grindr community.
At time of posting, the live stream that was showing Verhoeven’s glass box in real-time last night was still live, although a large curtain had been pulled across the entire street-facing front of the box:
Here’s what it looked like yesterday:
Update: The curtain in Verhoeven’s glass box has been pulled, and it appears as though he is still using Grindr to chat with men nearby. A representative for Grindr did not immediately respond to a request for an updated statement in light of the project’s changed terms:
You never know who or what is on the other side of the screen and what they may due with the conversation you are having with them it’s the risk you take when you are network relationship building hooking up whatever you want to call it. It’s Grindr he definitely not the first digital rapist. Their are guys who start a conversation with and shit of the innards or penis and in the same breath complain when that conversation gets uploaded to Instagram
Inexcusable, period, to take what people reasonably assume to be a private conversation and post it publicly.
Everyone knows what Grindr is about and what it is used for. What is the purpose of publicly shaming unsuspecting users of the app? If the “artist” wants to provoke a debate on the lack of emotional connections by users of a hookup app, he can do it some other way, or with willing participants.
Newsflash: There is no such thing as internet privacy.
I thought this was a cool idea, sad he didn’t get to do the entire thing.
Wait until people wearing google glass broadcast private conversations to the internet in real time. Won’t that be lovely.
“luring Grindr users under false pretenses…”
Isn’t that the whole modus operandi of Grindr?
With certain people living “double lives” and doing the whole “DL” thing and meating…yes, I typed “meating”….sites being an avenue for those people to find whatever activities they seek….it only makes sense that someone would not be real thrilled about being exposed in such a manner. As for all the crap about there being NO expectation of privacy on the internet because….like magic….it’s the internet…is TOTAL bullshit. Those of a certain age remember the 900 sex lines for phone sex back in the 80s and 90s and if someone had recorded those phone conversations and used them for a “public performance art” whateverthehell….people would have been pissed the fuck off. Sites like Grindr are no different than those 90 phone sex deals from the past.
I’m not a hook-ups app user because I’ve been with the same person for 11 years, so I’m not sure entirely of what the etiquettes are for these types of things. But as I see it, obscuring the intents of the actions is not just shady, but depending upon where you live, can be criminal. The artist and the theater company really should have thought of all the consecunses. It could’ve ended worse for the artist type. The man he hated could’ve had some serious emotional and violent issues where it could have ended up worse than a flipped table a punch at the artist.
It’s not art – it’s nonsense. Dude deserved to get punched. And his associates deserve to get sued.
I don’t consider myself a violent person but I feel very confident that had this been done to me I would have smashed a couple, if not all, of his phones.
Grindr specifically states in its user agreement that its material can’t be used for public performance, so why has Grindr kept asking people to keep flagging this guy so they can ban him? Under their own rules and the terms he agreed to when he signed up, he’s violated Grindr’s agreement, and they could have banned him and deleted his account the second they found out about this. But they didn’t.
My question is: has anybody asked Grindr why the heck they didn’t just go ahead and ban this guy when this first started? Why all the pretense that they needed people to flag him?
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