Dries Verhoeven's controversial Berlin art installation "Wanna Play?" has been scrapped just five days into its run. The Dutch artist was heavily criticised for publicly broadcasting private messages with other Grindr users – including photographs and profile names – as a comment on the dating app. One man, Parker Tilghman, described the experience with the artist as "digital rape".
German avant-garde centre Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), which commissioned the piece, announced the closure of "Wanna Play?" on Twitter last night. It's an abrupt U-turn for HAU, which initially responded to criticism by saying it would blur all Grindr profile photos broadcast "to the point of complete unrecognisability" and ensuring that Verhoeven gained consent from his chat partners before broadcasting their correspondence.
The 38-year-old artist was accused of violating the safety and privacy of Grindr users, with many pointing out that anonymity on Grindr actually helps protect men who are not yet out of the closet.
Tilghman only realised that he was an unwilling participant in "Wanna Play?" when he arrived at the Heinrichplatz address supplied by Verhoeven and saw his private chat logs blown up and projected on the wall of a glass-walled shipping container. Verhoeven intended to live inside the unit for the 15-day duration of the piece.
Yesterday the centre held a public discussion with Verhoeven, seeking to address the concerns and complaints raised by the public.
Tilghman, who described his "Wanna Play?" experience in a now-viral Facebook post, said at the discussion: "The fact of the matter is that this project should have never been funded. I am shocked at the naiveté being exercised here, and the complete disregard for the multitude of harmful possibilities this project entails."
Arguably, the piece was doomed long before then; by Friday evening, somebody had tried to hurl a brick through the glass-walled trailer that Verhoeven was living in.
The final nail in the coffin came when Grindr spoke out against Verhoeven in no uncertain terms: "While Grindr support 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."
A spokesperson for Grindr confirmed that Verhoeven's profile has since been banned from the site.
Source: Zing Tsjeng for DAZED.