abstract expressionism, contemporary art, hackgate, media art, textiles

The art of Hackgate

July 19, 2011

At about 12.30 last night a widely-published cartoonist had his email and password broadcast on Twitter. Mark Wood’s only connection to #hackgate is that he has also worked for The Sun.

If his characters are anything to go by, Wood is a likeable sort. His client list suggests he’s hard-working. And indeed a web listing makes clear he “will draw anything for anybody”.

Someone must have pointed out his innocence, because the offending tweet has been removed. But sadly a few journalists and techies still have mobile numbers, etc, in the public domain.

Disclosure of these details was the fairly shabby denouement to an otherwise spectacular assault on the servers of News International by a crew of hackers known as Lulzsec.

Lulz boast repeatedly about providing “high-quality entertainment”. But the fake death notice they posted on Sun online was not in and of itself all that funny or entertaining.

But what was gripping was the hacking procedural drama in which they played central characters and the metaphorical panache with which they suggest they operate from an incorporeal longship.

So when @Lulzsec tweeted about sailing over to NI and wrecking it, the image of vikings at Wapping coupled with that of geeks tapping away at laptops was a potent mix.

Elsewhere you can see what they’ve done with code. In their exaggerated reports of Rupert Murdoch’s demise, the group reported a body found in the mogul’s “famous topiary garden”.

Topiary, as has been mentioned in the Guardian, is also the handle of a prominent member of the group. Monocles also feature in both fake news stories and Twitter avatars.

With these in-jokes, Lulzsec hint at vast depths. It’s an informational chiaroscuro. If Stockhausen got in hot water for comparing 9/11 to a work of art, he might have waited for something like this.

Art has played a further role in the story this afternoon when Murdoch and his son took their seats before the Select Committee of ten MPs asking interesting questions on behalf of the DCMS.

This was, up to a point, a more polite drama. And behind the action on the far wall of the Wilson Room was a no less polite painting. I was told this was an Untitled work by Kate Blee.

The epic scale and red/brown colour scheme brought to mind certain Rothkos. Although the macho excesses of abstract expressionism were here trimmed by the employment of, I think, painted linen.

But when it was Murdoch’s turn to be attacked in person, we cut to this contemplative work. At that point art came across like the wilful blindness of which James Murdoch was indirectly accused.

As for that incident with the custard pie, it certainly wasn’t a very good performance piece. There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing and it ain’t on the “most humble day” of anyone’s life.

If you haven’t already, check out this post by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian in which he talks up the art factor in a widely circulated photo of Rebekah Brooks.

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