PVA Composition (Tilt), 2016
Constant Dullaart

Forex, aluminium, sim cards
117 x 182 cm
Courtesy: the artist

In Dullaart’s recent durational performance The Possibility of an Armyat Schirn Kunsthalle, he critically explored the concept of digital identity, which has strongly gained in importance through the daily use of social networks. Dullaart created a ‘fake’ army to stand up in the war against the current American social media revolution the false validation systems in journalism based on follower counts. The army was assembled of thousands of artificial profiles on Facebook, for which the artist used the names of the original Hessian mercenaries who were hired by the British to fight in the American Revolutionary Wars (1775–1783). The original army generated a new income to Landgraf Friedrich II of Hessen, which he used to build the first publicly accessible art museum in the world: the Fridericianum.

The fake profiles’ accounts were registered on phone numbers bought in bulk in multiple countries. The accompanying SIM cards are by-products of companies offering PVAs (Phone Verified Accounts) as a service to create multiple user accounts, acting as passports to new identities. As a physical extension of this project, the artist has created compositions out of the purchased SIM cards. Waging a war against Facebook through the channels of mass media, the SIM cards also act as the only physical remnants of the soldiers, as Facebook has now deleted 90% after Dullaart released the historic source of the Hessian soldiers’ names. Purchased by kilo, the SIM cards are often recycled for their gold recovery, a process seen as contemporary or urban mining. The works therefore stand as a placeholder for the inherent value of identity as a commodity, turned to profit by having the new identity click, like, retweet and follow. Leaving a thin sliver of gold worth a few cents when recovered. These frozen choreographies featuring physical remnants of artificial identities represent further standing armies in ongoing and future information wars fought with automated cultural output.

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