Shùjùxiàn 數據線

6 gif artworks for Artists Open Web

Is it possible to hack the spatial properties of our data traces by co-creating intentionally muddled and glitched digital artefacts that transcend national borders? Shùjùxiàn 數據線 or “drinking from the data lines” was a reflection on surveillance between makers in China and the U.K, which resulted in a series of 6 gif artworks that were hacked from a data grapevine of donated ’stickers’, or customised mp4 images that are shared widely amongst the 1 billion users of the WeChat platform in China.

As a result of revelations around the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 in the U.K. and the continued government surveillance of apps like WeChat behind the Great Firewall of China, it is becoming widely known that personal data in both nations may be monitored. Despite these revelations, WeChat continues to dominate the app market in China, and is increasingly being used for everything, from exchanges of capital to restaurant payments to neighbourhood groups. Meanwhile, peer production movements like DIWO (Do It With Others) aim to inspire citizens to disrupt hegemonic systems by by building creative resistance through networked, participatory interventions.

I created the 6 artworks of Shùjùxiàn from a series of sticker exchanges with 8 makers across China and the U.K. Our chats were consensually monitored with a recording app, and then remixed and made into gif artworks on other apps like Instagram, making their origins and contributor chains especially complicated to trace. By interrogating what it means to build new art forms across platforms where all interactions may be monitored at any time, Shùjùxiàn sends would-be government detectives on a playful hunt through a set of convergent medias from increasingly recursive sticker exchanges between decentralised WeChat networks.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the following collaborators who donated their stickers and ideas: The WeChat bot of the First Emperor of Qin, Sophie HuckfieldTingker, Luuuuuuu, and also those who prefer to remain anonymous. 

Shùjùxiàn was featured in October 2018 at the Mozilla Festival in London as part of the Artists Open Web exhibit.