Artists Buy Ecstasy to Explore the Darknet

Ecstasy pills purchased on the darknet arrive thoroughly packaged to the Kunst Halle Sankt GallenPhoto via: !Mediengruppe Bitnik
Ecstasy pills purchased on the darknet arrive thoroughly packaged to the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen
Photo via: !Mediengruppe Bitnik

Ever heard of the “darknet,” that parallel web world where anonymity is actually a real possibility? Originally developed as part of a technology to create an alternative, more secure and private net, the darknet has made headlines recently for all the wrong reasons, as the anonymity it provides has made it a haven for drugs and arms dealing, among other numerous illegal activities.

The Zürich and London-based art collective !Mediengruppe Bitnik has made this shady realm the setting for their project Random Dark Net Shopper (2014), created for the exhibition “The Darknet – From Memes to Onionland. An exploration”, currently on view at the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, in Switzerland.

The title of the project is quite self-explanatory: for the duration of the show, the members of the collective (Domagoj Smoljo and Carmen Weisskopf) are spending $100 of the online currency Bitcoin every week to buy illicit items on the dark web, via the infamous site Agora.

The delivery address given in the online transactions is the museum itself, where the purchased items are being displayed in cases as they accrue through the weeks. Crucially, the purchases are not made directly by the artists themselves, but by a bot created by them, which picks items randomly.

So far, the purchases that have arrived at the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen are not particularly shocking. According to Vulture, they include a pair of Nike Air Yeezy IIs, a baseball cap with a hidden camera in its brim, several batches of vacuum-sealed ecstasy pills, and a complete Lord of the Rings e-book collection.

“All these items share as a common characteristic the most interesting aspects of hidden online markets: they exemplify how the internet in general and the darknets most notably are helping to increasingly blur the lines of national legal dictates, ” Carmen Weisskopf told the Telegraph. “What is legally produced and sold in one country is not necessarily legal in another.”

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