Chinese Gold (Boom)
June 25 - July 8 2021
Introduced by Matteo Bittanti
Approximately fifteen years ago, UBERMONGEN introduced Chinese Gold, a sui generis investigation of the gold farming phenomenon, that is, the practice of playing a massively multiplayer online game with the specific aim of acquiring in-game currency and later selling it for real-world money. An ambitious mixed (hyper)media project featuring texts, machinima, and re-appropriated prints, Chinese Gold brought to the surface the highly exploitative nature of video game playing. Thousands of Chinese players worked nonstop in the digital equivalent of sweatshops to generate virtual currency, digital items, and even full characters for Western, mostly North American and European, players. This lo-res found footage video, originally uploaded on Google and appropriated by the artists, showcases a teleportation hack in World of Warcraft, repeated over and over by Chinese gold farmers. Interestingly, this emergent practice was exploited, among others, by a company managed by Steve K. Bannon, an American media executive, political strategist, and former investment banker, who served as the White House’s chief strategist in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Bannon was just one of several American intermediaries who set up companies that hired these digital workers. UBERMORGEN’s prophetic examination of gold-farming highlights the complex interplay between gaming and politics, ideology and capitalism. In the age of gamified economies, trade wars, pandemics, conspiracy theories, pervasive trolling, and armed insurrections, Chinese Gold speaks of the current moment.
UBERMORGEN is an artist duo founded in 1995. Actionist autist lizvlx and pragmatic visionary Hans Bernhard are net.art pioneers and media hackers widely recognized for their high-risk research into data & matter, conceptual art, haute couture websites and polarizing social experiments. CNN called them 'Maverick Austrian Business People' during their Vote-Auction online project. They reached a global audience of 500 million while challenging the FBI, CIA, and NSA during the US presidential election. In 2005, they launched their acclaimed EKMRZ Trilogy, a series of conceptual hacks – Google Will Eat Itself, Amazon Noir, and The Sound of eBay. UBERMORGEN controls 175 domains. Their exhibitions include Liverpool Biennial; Whitney Museum (2020); New Museum, New York; Somerset House, London; Haifa Museum of Art, Israel/Palestine (2019); Wei-Ling Contemporary Malaysia; HKW, Berlin; ZKM; National Art Gallery, Sofia (2017); ICA Miami; Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius (2015); Serpentine Galleries, London (2014); Kunsthal Aarhus; Ars Electronica, Austria; MoMA Ljubljana; ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2013); 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Japan (2012); Centre Pompidou; Gwangju Design Biennale; WRO Media Art Biennale (2011); Prague Biennale (2009); Biennale of Sydney (2008); MOCA Taipei (2007); The Premises, Johannesburg; ICC Tokyo (2005); SFMOMA, USA (2001).