Berlin’s Grindr Performance Art Shut Down Over Privacy Fears

Dries Verhoeven, Wanna Play? (Love in the Time of Grindr) (2014) Photo: Courtesy Hebbel am Ufer (HAU).
Dries Verhoeven, Wanna Play? (Love in the Time of Grindr) (2014) Photo: Courtesy Hebbel am Ufer (HAU).

Only a third of the way through his non-sexual social media-based art project Wanna Play? (Love in the Time of Grindr) (see “Artist Uses Grindr to Make Pancakes“), Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven has been forced to cancel the voyeuristic Berlin installation and performance piece due to privacy concerns, reports Hyperallergic.

From a glass box in a Berlin square, Verhoeven solicited strangers on gay hook-up app Grindr to come participate in a variety of banal everyday activities. These conversations were projected for the whole square to see, although the profile pictures were distorted. Accepting the gay artist’s invitation to meet up in the square, however, put Grindr users directly in the spotlight, without any warning, which led to some serious backlash.

Parker Tilghman, one of the first respondents to Verhoeven’s propositions, has become an outspoken critic of the piece, releasing a statement on Facebook condemning it as “digital rape.” He noted that he was never informed that his actions were being broadcast online, or that by responding to the artist’s invitation he would be become part of a public spectacle. “I feel so violated I am having trouble formulating the words to describe it,” Tilghman explained in an earlier statement. “How can you ethically project conversations that are considered private to the other person, when they have no knowledge of what you are doing?”

Tilghman claims that “the autonomy and power over my sexual expression was taken and abused without my consent for Mr. Verhoeven’s own personal gain,” adding that “I cannot sit idle and let one individual in a position of power, funded by an arts organization, and the Dutch government, control the autonomy and dignity of another individual.”

For his part, Verhoeven envisioned the project as a way to help gay men connect beyond sex, noting that after using the app, “I felt like a superficial illustration of myself, a man that could fulfill many sexual fantasies, but who rarely went to the movies with a stranger.”

Host venue Hebbel am Ufer has since released a statement on Twitter announcing the project’s premature end as it “had led to numerous complaints from the public.”

According to the Huffington Post, Grindr itself voiced concerns over the nature of the piece, explaining that “while Grindr supports 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.” Accordingly, Verhoeven has been banned from the app.

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