Since 1999, we have collected, archives, studied and traced back more than four thousand junk emails, spams, focusing on a specific kind, called scams. The type of scam that interests us bases itself on a plausible reality, the news, or real events, referring to existing conflicts and manipulate people’s gullibility so as to better abuse them. Written in the first person and structured like monologues, they often usurp famous individuals’ identities, posing as the children or wives of politicians, or of infamous dictators, claiming to possess a large sum of money that he or she needs to transfer urgently. A substantial percentage of this money is promised to the one who accepts to help with this task, usually a stranger, since no one else can be trusted.
Also known as the Nigerian scam, as they usually originate from this country, these frauds are efficient since thousands of people still get conned each year, and hundreds of millions of euros are robbed, sometimes leading to murder and suicide.
We collected these scams without really knowing why, at first. Progressively, we also questioned ourselves on exactly what representations and methods of knowledge production they were based. Can one build a story with these emails, give a shape to the imaginary?
When they are read carefully, these collected scams tell a history of these past few years: the conflicts, wars, shifts, global economic evolutions, fluctuating financial values, raw materials, religious extremism, political turmoil, and even environmental disasters… These virtual archives outline a cartography of conflicts, a symptom of the state of the world and complex relationships motivated by colonial ideologies between the North and the South, and at the same time remain a space for singular encounters and poetic experiences.
For us, the scam “matter” which is usually redirected to the trash folder in our computers, becomes a space for transformation, questioning narrative and artistic forms produced by the Internet and the relation to contemporary history, to art, to different systems of representation, and the odd faith that leads us to believe images and stories.
The exhibition acts like a narrative itinerary, a film that unfolds in the shape of installations, sounds, videos, sculptures and drawings, deconstructing this data and transforming it to produce images. One encounters recurring characters, minor characters, scammers, victims, scambeaters eager to scam the scammers, parallel edits, original settings, essential accessories, scenarios, and virtual stories that establish multiple connections among one another. Installations on Scams (I must first apologise): The Jerusalem Letter The Rumor of the World The Geometry of Space Fidel The Trophy Room (DE)SYNCHRONICITY A Letter can Always Reach its Destination It’s All Real 2008, A Matrix