First Published in
Hans A Bernhard is the civil name of hans_extrem, etoy.HANS, etoy.BRAINHARD, net_CALLBOY. Born in New Haven, CT, USA, Bernhard is a citizen of Switzerland and the USA. He founded the multi awarded and much talked about etoy.com and ubermorgen.com (consulting, e-marketing, incubation, media hacking agency) as well as initiating and being involved in strategic consulting / communication consulting on projects such as [V]ote-auction, NAZI~LINE, bmdi.de, bannster.net. 'Subversive' is the word most often used to describe etoy, the seven-person band of hackers distributed across Europe whose claim to fame is their widespread deployment of a sophisticated method of reverse engineering Web-based search engines.
etoys' goals are to smash the boring style of electronic traffic channels, stretch reality and play the game between business, art, and entertainment. In other words, "to kidnap web-crawling humans and inject a little uncertainty into life on the Web."
Bernhard holds an M.F.A. in visual media from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria and is currently writing his PhD thesis on "MEDIA HACKING" under Prof. Bazon Brock at the Bergische Universitaet, Wuppertal.
Hans Bernhard will be presenting at the 5th International Design Indaba® in Cape Town.
What first sparked your interest in the internet?
the so-called "shell". i was sitting in front of 3 shells [telnet-sessions] for the first time touching the internet. i asked myself, where am i physically? Where am i mentally? WHERE AM I??? on the server in Tokyo, here in Vienna, or on this machine in Cape Town? suddenly sparks were exploding in my brain, i got very nervous, i started to sweat heavily and i immediately knew. THIS IS IT, THIS IS MY FUTURE NOW, THIS IS THE FUTURE... that was in 1993.
Do you think that originality exists, or has everything been done before?
uniqueness is my word for this. i think ubermorgen is unique not because of what we do, but because of how, when, and where we do it; i think the best answer/explanation to your question is our uberSLOGAN:: "it's different because it is fundamentally different". this slogan was created by the chief counsel of the california secretary of state during a CNN prime-time show [burden of proof] about [V]ote-auction. we immediately re-used it as the top slogan for the action and for ubermorgen. here is an excerpt of the transcript of this 30-minute special on [V]ote-auction:
What did you do before ubermorgen?
etoy. I founded etoy.com in 1993. together with 6 other founding etoy.AGENTS, we ran the etoy.CORPORATION as a 7-head-management-team until 1999. then in 2000, four of the 7 etoy.MANAGERS pulled out of the operative business and threw their etoy.CORP. shares into the newly founded etoy.HOLDING, the mother of all etoy.CORPS, the other etoy.TEAM is running the operative business of etoy.com, the etoy.CORPORATION and the etoy. VENTURE-ASSOCIATION. parallel to that, i was studying visual media in Vienna with professor Peter Weibelm. before that i played drums for 12 years.
lizvlx was doing net.art, film projects and painting. parallel to that, she was studying commercial sciences [market research and advertising] at the University of Economics in Vienna with professor Guenther Schweiger.
You've often been called subversive, why do you think this is? Is this because people don't understand you, or because people are threatened by what you have to say?
we just scare the shit out of ourselves and others by doing exactly what we like to do and how we like to do it. it's dangerous, because it shows people that you can do things that seem to be illegal but ARE NOT [location based information!]. corporations or governments say you are criminal but you ARE NOT. you can attack corporations and institutions without directly going to prison or just get killed immediately. we love the thrill, the style, the aesthetics of action.
Would you thus consider yourself anti-establishment?
as anti-establishment as anybody else is. i do not regard our anti- motives as a result, or a "thus", of our work, but merely as a natural motivation for individual survival.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
by constantly thinking about getting more money and more fame! this honesty automatically drives you into the right topics, pictures, words and context. some French guy [Jean Baudrillard, Cannes, 2000] once said about ubermorgen: "ubermorgen means the day after tomorrow, a slight tip towards their aesthetic and activist vision and prejudice, they are hardcore and radical in their actions and they are extremely strange and highly intelligent people."
and some Japanese friend [Mariko Mori, New York, 2001] said the following: "…raw art, extreme storytelling and digital visions, that's what characterizes ubermorgen and their main headz, hans_extrem & lizvlx. i love them and i love to watch them grow; from their first individual steps through net.avantgarde & business-school to fine art. i know that they are already the ultimate darlings of the international net.art scene, and one day, probably retrospective, they will hack their way into the MOMAs and DOCUMENTAs of this world and define the new "thing" we call art today... "
Your etoy.com campaign brought you international fame, did you ever think that highlighting corporate abuse would cause such controversy?
yes, we built our so-called "dispositive" from 1993-1998 in order to run campaigns such as "the digital hijack" or later also the "TOYWAR". the dispositive is the system, it is a slick and swell system of different traps. you lay it out with the help of lsd technology and you continue building more and more traps so it becomes a global network of slimy traps. from the beginning i was extremely interested in corporate aesthetics and structures. large scale multi-national corporations are the ultimate "GESAMTKUNSTWERK"* of our times. so the etoy. AGENTS played this corporate game to excess, over many years and ongoing. we certainly won the grand prix d'attention! we never considered our game and our business as a direct or conscious critique on corporations. we were only trying to do about half as good of a job as multis do, whilst looking as if we were ten times better at it... and we actually are!
Did you make money out of your etoy victory?
the company running the TOYWAR campaign is only partially owned by etoy.HOLDING. there are different financial and legal fights in progress. i would prefer to not comment on the pending lawsuits.
I've heard before that the guerrilla marketing is used to create a buzz. Isn't this the same as saying advertising creates interest but isn't used to sell something? If the purpose of guerrilla marketing isn't to sell something, then what do you do to sell things? Aren't you just creating a new outlet for media control?
ubermorgen:: : we make money!
What is your view on corporate censorship?
senseless, it simply doesn't work! as with lots of things that are also technical in nature, it sometimes makes no sense to talk about the ethical values or consequences of a semi-technical action, such as censorship, because the technical aspect overrules the ethical one. hence the whole discussion becomes theoretical in nature. we prefer the practical, you may call it pragmatic, approach.
How does [v]ote-auction.com differ from online auctions such as eBay? What did you do to warrant FBI intervention?
it does not really differ so much. the major difference is the vice-versa anonymity of the buyers and sellers, and that buyers buy (or bid for) blocks (one block is all votes from one state), and not individual votes. so you would not bid for Mr. Littletown's ballot, but you would buy California's vote as a whole.
secondly, FBI intervention was ongoing since the project started. James Baumgartner, the initial creator of [V]a, was questioned several times by the FBI. we are also aware of possible intrusions into our server-network by the FBI trying to gather illegal information on vote-selling people. the NSA, the GSA and the CIA were involved in information gathering. additionally one of our servers was hacked into just when the public relations hype and the global focus on [V]ote-auction was fully going off. it was such a fun party for all involved. In the end, this party was even joined by the Ministry of The Interior and the secret services of Germany and Austria - and the global media [CNN, le Monde, Washington post, FAZ...] were playing the ultimate pop-soundtrack to this techno-political-action-thriller.
What is 'shock marketing' and what effect does its usage have? Isn't it just another form of trickery?
it's simple. you shock the user. due to this shock, the user's channels are wide open and you can feed information directly [unfiltered, uncensored] into the brain of the recipient. a fantastic tool to push top-down information [advertising mainly] or highly subversive and dangerous information [e.g. Coca-Cola contains gummiarabicum. Osama bin Laden used to control 90% of the global gummiarabicum production = subversive info and a shock by itself].
shock-marketing has a long tradition in advertising, but today, you can use it best on the net thanks to the structure of the net and its many hundreds of millions of naive users. it is here to be used not only by marketing-brains but also by artists, activists and terrorists.
Everywhere we go advertising surrounds us. The US spends 3% of its GDP on advertising - about $300 billion dollars. This is considered one of the major reasons of their success as advertising promotes consumption. Materialism is one of the end results of consumerism. We all know what effect this 'rampant consumerism' has on the environment and society. Does advertising make the world a better place?
no! anything involving primarily money is surely not for the benefit or improvement of the world. not that the world would need our human funds anyway. advertising is money, money is the language for markets, and markets make up economies. ubermorgen is proud to take part in some of the markets - they give us a really fat profit and that's what ubermorgen is mainly here for, next to our other reasons of existing. as all human beings in the western hemisphere, fame and money is all we want, and we want it now and we've got it now and we will get more later, thanks to the internet, thanks to advertising, thanks to ALLIANZ, MICROSOFT, SONY, NOKIA and other uberCLIENTS.
"The most important assets are brands. Buildings age and become dilapidated. Machines wear out. Cars rust. People die. But what lives on are the brands." Hector Liang, Chairman, United Biscuits. What do you think of this statement? Are consumers merely puppets of the media, controlled and willed by media owners?
no. well, actually, yes! there is a difference between consumers and human beings. the consumer is a product of the media. the human being is a product of nature [uberNATURE]. the media is also a product of nature, so therefore in the end, the consumer is a product of nature, but more indirect than the human being.
What do think of the reporting on the current military intervention in Afghanistan? How objective is the media? It is all about realtime [echtzeit].
the media has one problem. i wrote about this problem some hours after the WTC collapsed and the Pentagon crack in full Playstation-CNN-action-mode::
|"The question of true or false, him or her, CNN or independent- media, bird or cat... can under no circumstances be of value in the aftermath of this world wide media shock and mass psychosis. some [media] hackers [currently described as terrorists] have intelligently attacked central symbols of the American government and society with low-tech instruments such as knives, brains, money and flight education. the media impact, and therefore the global shock, can be understood and interpreted as a highly perverted and intelligent act of communication. like traditional artists, "they" have scanned the networks and infrastructures in order to find weak points. then they acted accordingly and underwent all forms of repression, observational and financial, logistical and psychological problems. they hit right on target with precision.
Now the impact of this subversive act is on the one hand extremely tragic [the human pain and fear is hard to imagine], on the other hand it is a shock wave which will overthrow and break, which will generate immense dynamics in various global and national communities and therefore generates its own reality. the political and military implications can somehow be imagined, the sychological implications are harder to imagine, the artistic implications are felt instantly. although, i have to admit that this action is clearly in between traditional forms of hacking [considered illegal under various national laws] and new forms of media hacking [considered legal form of action]. the media action consists of a majority of legal components, the physical action, if it took place the way we imagine and see through televised and networked communication], consists of illegal components: "the legal aspect of media hacking is important to note, as it separates media hacking from traditional forms of hacking. media hackers exploit weak spots within social, commercial, political, and technical networks and implement disinformation via these subverted interfaces. media hacking asks for chuzpeh in producers. media hackers cannot be afraid of playing with information and information distribution, but rather have to be able to witfully play with these mechanisms. bad strategies can result in personally catastrophic scenarios, and successful gaming presents the winners with the grand prize in the worldwide market for media attention."
lizvlx from ubermorgen, c17 [computer chaos club conference, 12/2000, Berlin]
so, who will take the grand prize of this [media] hack? who will put his brand/logo on top of it? who will be able to negate responsibility due to artistic argumentation of non-liability and freedom of artistic expression? who understands the U.S. constitution and its weak points well enough to produce a legal basis for the media hack-components of this action in the future?
Do the practices of media professionals have moral consequences? To whom are the media responsible: the public, stockholders, advertisers? Who decides what may "harm" an audience or what is suitable for consumption by adults and children alike?
the problem is, media is not considered as an entity such as the legal system or the parliamentary system, therefore there is no democratic control over the media and the media corps [all corporations deny democratic control! that is the only reason why they exist and why they are so powerful]. as long as the media, i.e. television, print and online magazines, are corporate, they will be out of control.
How do political agendas affect censorship and media profits? Is the internet too free? Are radical new media standards needed in light of increasing numbers of big stories based on bad reporting and lax research?
we like to cause chaos and to misuse the "pseudo" freedom of the net as it was and as it is. new media standards are developing, but we don't think and talk a lot about this.
In the battle to assert ownership of the domain name southafrica.com, South Africa claimed a legal victory. Who owns what on the internet? Does a sovereign state have the right to claim ownership of its domain name?
dunno, it depends on whether you look at domains/urls as virtual real estate or if you look at them just as alphanumeric addresses.
if you look at it as real estate, the gold rush in unclaimed territory will just go "first come, first serve". if you look at it from the address viewpoint, the domain southafrica.com could be at anybody's disposal that makes nice use of the domain.
Is the internet revolutionising communication?
yes, at least it did and still does revolutionise the way we communicate and organise social engineering and private communication. the real revolution is speed and, later on, the variability of tempo!
The world is polarised along social and economic lines - the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. The gap is widening within the developed world and between the developed and developing worlds. One percent of the population in the US holds over 35 percent of the nation's private assets, a level of concentration not seen since before the Great Depression. What can citizens of the world do to reduce inequality?
from a female viewpoint, use your brains and make one pragmatic step after another. from a male viewpoint, look at how women do it and try to learn and adapt and copy and paste. do not believe the pixel!
You are an internet pioneer. What do you think of the effect of the digital divide, and how can South Africans respond to this challenge?
understand the power of limitation. accept the limited resources and use them well. turn weaknesses into strengths with self-confidence and intelligence. be open and naive and educate yourself by asking questions all the time. at least that was the way we/i responded to the challenge of the net. i think it's probably still true as a strategy.
Has the internet made the world a better place?
no. just a faster and a smaller place.
What project are you currently working on?
one of our central projects is a series of transformations of digital actions into different goods, fine art objects. we need transformation in order to enter the art market and start to make profit with our actions. with this strategy, we will be able to finance future actions. we've self-financed all our operations and corporations until today and we are committed to continuing to do so.
additionally, we are just anxious to fuck around with the material world of objects after many years of focusing on digital production. the bridge [transformation] is the key to do so. our fine art production technologies range from oil paintings to acryl-glass objects, from metal coins to steel sculptures, from computer hardware to photos.
personally, i'm working on my PhD. thesis on "media hacking and affirmative strategies", while we work on consulting and running marketing operations for our current major korporAte fasch!st money-bag client "ALLIANZ." we are negotiating around a movie-script for one of our actions, working on internal tools, looking around for art agents, galleries and exhibitions and giving some lectures and workshops. uberBRANDING and sub-branding for our network of companies and products is strategically important and has to be designed in 2002. different book publications have come out or will come out soon, including a book about the history of the internet based around the development of etoy and eToys. this book will be published by HarperCollins in London, spring 2002.
ubermorgen:: : [lizvlx & hans_extrem]
http://ubermorgen.com/uberBESTOFPOPUPs/ ALLL! "we make money"
http://www.brainhard.com his story his story!
|HANS BERNHARD, OWNER, [V]OTE-AUCTION.COM: Yes, hello.
VAN SUSTEREN: Hans, why in the world do you think it is any of your business to get involved in this American election?
BERNHARD: We are interested in providing a forum in order to create a perfect market. That's also our slogan: bringing capitalism and democracy closer together. This is actually our task and we see this as a worldwide operation. The U.S. election is just a test pilot for us in order to do research, in order to bring out this perfect market.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does your website buy, sell, solicit, ask for donations, or use anything else in terms of getting American votes?
BERNHARD: No, we don't do that. We are just a plain forum for campaign contributors and voters to come together for free market exchange. That's all that we do.
COSSACK: Tell me exactly, sir, how you intend to accomplish this? As I understand it, prior to having your Web site taken down before, you would... if I wanted to, you could buy my vote, and then you could take that vote and then, I suppose, turn it around and sell it to the candidate who would pay you the highest amount of money. Why, isn't that just flat-out voter fraud?
BERNHARD: No, we don't buy or sell votes. We don't do that. We just facilitate a platform where we want to have this market done, and we see that there is a big future for this. We bring this business to business. You know, we have consultants. They cut, like, 10-15 percent for themselves, and they sell the vote to the campaigners.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's go - let me please interrupt you for one second and go up to Bill Wood from the state of California. Bill, is what Hans Bernhard is doing, in your view, illegal under Californian law? What is it that you contend as illegal, if indeed it is? Also the whole idea, which, I must admit, I'm a little fixated about; someone from another country interfering, or doing anything, in an American election. But go ahead, Bill.
WILLIAM WOOD, CHIEF COUNSEL, SECRETARY OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA: Very briefly, what this individual has described is illegal in California. The basis in California is that you cannot sell your vote, you cannot offer to sell it, nor can you buy other peoples' votes. That has been the law in our state for some time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it a quid pro quo, though? Or how different is it from this: you give your $1,000 campaign contribution on November sixth and November eighth, then you show up at your Congressman's office and say: Remember me? I'm a big contributor, I would like to talk to you about some project? How is that different?
WOOD: Well, it's absolutely different because it's fundamentally different. The actual buying of the vote is just that. It is that simple. It is the buying of some individual's vote. One of the things in the United States that we have prized above all is the vote. It is an inalienable right, and in every state in the United States, to my knowledge, the process of buying or selling votes is illegal. It is a federal violation.
CNN/ Burden of Proof "Bidding for Ballots: Democracy on the Block" Aired Oct 24, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET
David Arenson, new media adventurer, designer and copywriter is an Executive Committee member of DiMA, the Digital Interactive Media Association. David studied Architecture before being caught by the new media bug. Excited by how the web is changing communication, he explores usability issues on a daily basis. He has worked on wide-ranging accounts from Vodacom to Old Mutual, Cape Town One City Festival to Mark Gillman. Kudos includes judging the Loeries as well as the NTVA Stone Awards. Formerly Creative Strategist at Shocked, David has recently embarked on a freelance career. His passion is to explore the creative side of new media - "making technology more human, making the mundane beautiful."