Random Darknet Shopper is an automated online shopping bot which ran from within three exhibition spaces between 2014 and 2016. With a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week, the bot went shopping in the deep web, where it randomly chose and purchased one item per week and had it mailed directly to the exhibition space. Once the items arrived they were unpacked and displayed, each new object adding to a landscape of traded goods from the Darknet.
The Random Darknet Shopper is an exploration of the Darknet via the goods traded there. It directly connects the art space with the Darknet.
Hidden online markets exemplify how the Internet in general and the Darknets most notably are helping to increasingly blur the lines of national legal dictates: What is legally produced and sold in one country is not necessarily legal in another. Being global, these markets connect diverse jurisdictions, questioning the notions of legality and producing a vast grey zone of goods available virtually everywhere.
Although hidden markets are based on the anonymity of its participants, rating systems and anonymous message boards ensure a certain level of trust. Buying controlled substances or contraband online means having access to a reliable rating system, while at the same time staying anonymous, all from the comforts of your home.
By randomizing its consumerism, the bot was guaranteed a wide selection of goods from the thousands listed on deep web markets. In its first run from October 2014 - January 2015, Random Darknet Shopper bought 12 items, which were displayed at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen.
“Can a robot, or a piece of software, be jailed if it commits a crime? Where does legal culpability lie if code is criminal by design or default? What if a robot buys drugs, weapons, or hacking equipment and has them sent to you, and police intercept the package?” These are some of the questions Mike Power asked when he reviewed the work Random Darknet Shopper in the Guardian.
Global questions, which were then negotiated locally: On the morning of January 12, the day after the three-month exhibition at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen closed, the public prosecutor's office seized the Random Darknet Shopper. According to the public prosecutor, the confiscation was aimed at impeding an endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited.
Three months after the confiscation, all items except the Ecstasy (which was destroyed) were released back to the artists. In the order for withdrawal of prosecution the public prosecutor stated that the overweighing public interest in the questions raised by Random Darknet Shopper indeed justified the possession and exhibition of the drugs as artifacts.
The artists as well as Random Darknet Shopper were cleared of all charges.
St. Gallen Edition: Kunst Halle St. Gallen, Switzerland, Oct 14 2014 - Jan 15 2015 London Edition: Horatio Junior Gallery, London, UK Dec 11 2015 - Feb 5 2016 Ljubljana Edition: Aksioma Institute for Contemporary Art, Slovenia, 24 Feb – 25 Mar 2016
!Mediengruppe Bitnik (read - the not mediengruppe bitnik) (UK/CH) live and work in Zurich/London. They are contemporary artists working on and with the Internet. Their practice expands from the digital to affect physical spaces, often intentionally applying loss of control to challenge established structures and mechanisms. !Mediengruppe Bitnik works formulate fundamental questions concerning contemporary issues. !Mediengruppe Bitnik are the artists Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo. Their accomplices are the London filmmaker and researcher Adnan Hadzi and the reporter Daniel Ryser.