Berliners should be careful what they reveal on gay hook-up app Grindr in the next few days – their messages are being projected onto the wall of a glass installation for the entertainment of passers by.
For the next two weeks, Dutch gay artist Dries Verhoeven is sitting in a glass-walled container in the centre of a busy square, recruiting a steady stream of men to join him in his box for various non-sexual activities. The project is called Wanna Play?
“For some people, this project will be their first encounter with this phenomenon, they will be able to gaze into a world that had previously been hidden from them,” Verhoeven explains.
Five phones are set up, with the chats on them appearing on the screens unedited. We’re told the faces of the men he’s chatting to will not be shown though.
“I see this container as a research laboratory in which I will investigate the degree to which the internet can serve as a new meeting point,” Verhoeven suggests.
“I will play chess with them, have breakfast, make pancakes, trim nails, we’ll shave one another or read to one another from our favourite books.”
Though we know it’s an app that lends itself to quick and racy affairs, it sounds like he plans to keep it PG-rated.
But what if the local men of Grindr don’t want to get involved? “Perhaps the container will show the feeling of isolation that creeps over you when your only exchanges with other people are online,” the artist considers.
A few gay Berliners find Verhoeven’s behaviour creepy and have reported his behaviour to Grindr, hoping that the app’s moderators will remove his profile.
One particularly annoyed Grindr user wrote on Facebook that the artist had not mentioned to him that he was doing a project, and when he turned up to the square he was shocked to find his messages had been shown in public.
“Consider what it would feel like,” he wrote, “to walk into a public space looking for an address of a person you are meant to have a private encounter with, only to see your picture and your words projected onto a wall with a large group of people watching and reading, many of them pointing and laughing. People called my name!”
Another annoyed commenter added: “This is completely disgusting and not related to art at all.”
A third: “Your project is extremely exploitive and cynical, putting people’s privacy and safety at risk.”
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