In 2014 I traveled to Bluffdale, Utah during an artist residence in a nearby town. There, I visited the NSA Data Center to simply behold it with my own eyes. As Arendt could have predicted, the cluster of buildings were drab and scarcely visible from the perimeter fence adjacent to the highway. I gathered some ground samples to put under my digital microscope upon returning to New York City.
With the help of the Bio Base in Lower Manhattan, I was able to isolate two microbial organisms from the sample and allow them to multiply in designated containers. From my work on the NSA Game, I was aware of the list of sensitive search terms that the NSA and DHS use to monitor our online movements. I combined the list of terms with the view from the digital microscope and a computer vision technique which detects movement within live video. When the microbes swim by a term, it becomes ‘activated.’ When enough terms have been activated, a haiku is formed and live tweeted. In this way, the microbes themselves act as subversive agents, saturating the Internet with sensitive search terms and jamming the surveillance apparatus.
To see a list of the tweets, visit www.twitter.com/nsahaiku. Tweets are live every Saturday during the month of May for the exhibition “Emerging Ecologies” at Kilroy in Brooklyn.