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: