Rats! Rats! Rats!

The Poetic Grammar of the Hack

CaixaForum

Barcelona, Spain

In 1903 scientist Guglielmo Marconi set up the first public demonstration that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Yet before the presentation could begin, the apparatus in the London lecture theatre began to tap out the message “Rats! Rats! Rats!”, followed by a string of taunts and personal insults. Radio technology wasn’t as private as Marconi had boasted: wireless messages could be intercepted and meddled with. And so this short, impudent message became the first hack in history.

The exhibition Rats! Rats! Rats! sees hacking as a poetic and political act and a powerful tool for exploring how artists use virtual grammars to break their way through to reveal liminal spaces where they can imagine alternatives to hegemonic accounts. Like poetry, which uses language to dig deeper into meaning, hacking brings about an increased emotional awareness of the subtleties of virtual vocabularies. A hack becomes a communicative act that stresses the poetic ambiguity of divergent accounts and makes it possible to formulate multiple stories on a substitute reality. As an exercise in political reading and rereading, then, this exhibition brings together disparate acts of translation by exploring the poetic evocation of otherness, the sensitivity of digital code and the power of dissident technological lexicons. By doing so, it creates a fluid terrain where languages represent not reality but possibility.

The show also creates a suspended state of possibility, where the pieces question the stability of meanings and redraw new outlines around the edges. This inevitably becomes a political act, opening doors to new demands, expectations and desires. The works encapsulate the potentiality of radical change latent in every apparent dogmatism or hegemonic power. As Michel Foucault would say, wherever there is power, there is also a counterpower. This exhibition presents hacking as a powerful act of imagination for transforming our perception of reality.

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