Darknet Poetry

Radiowork: Lasse-Marc Riek and Tobias Schmitt
Speaker: Julia Kümmel, Laura Cisneros, Sebastian Scherer, Bernd Herzogenrath
Production: Deutschlandfunk Kultur 2018
Length: 58'41

We have been researching the darknet for our work for several years. In the 'Waldlust' project, we usually work with field recordings of the performance location and its surroundings. True to this method, for 'DarkNet Poetry' we work with found material from the parallel world of the internet.

In the media, the darknet is synonymous with evil and the abnormal, but in times of election-deciding social bots, whistleblowing, Snowden, the NSA and censorship in authoritarian states, one must not stigmatise encrypted free access to the internet. In 'DarkNet Poetry', we contextualise and contrast the many sides of this virtual grey area.

On the one hand, we went on a search ourselves, and on the other, we built bots, i.e. small programmes that autonomously carried out a specific task on the Internet and thus automatically provided us with material. The collected material was then viewed and sorted. We tried to proceed without judgement and categorised the material according to content and aesthetic aspects. We then had four speakers and text-to-speech software read different text fragments and blog entries. Sound was also generated from images through sonification. And texts were encoded and the resulting material reinterpreted as sound.

All the data on the darknet is subject to the premise of the eternal game: what is fake, what is real? Ultimately, the darknet is therefore a place of trust: criminals do anonymous business with criminals and hope to get something for their bitcoins.
This is countered by idealism: Hackers who oppose authoritarian systems, in favour of barrie-free exchange on the net and, for example, whistleblowers who want to draw attention to abuses in the protected space of the darknet.
Half of all darknet content is fake. There are special service hackers from the police who are waiting for you to respond to certain things so that they can search for you to arrest you, to look at your profile, what you want with it, where you can be found. If someone is only interested in larger firearms and manpower from Bosnia, then they might look: what does he want with it? What does he want with six killers from Bosnia? The offers are so extreme that you think you could order them directly to your home. And if you really want to do that, there are ways and forums that will tell you where to find the right ones.

Everything scary is heavily encrypted in the piece, but there's a lot in there, from credit cards to residence permits. The worst things are, of course, services with people. The robotic voices you hear in between mention buzzwords like 'social engineering'. You can hire someone to terrorise your neighbour, it's a cabinet of horrors.
At the beginning you hear something about a USB stick. This is someone who has ordered one on the forum and is talking about it and explaining how it works. You use these killer sticks to destroy other computers. The sticks have something on them: Photos-Holidays-Rügen. And there's a code underneath that connects to your computer and tries to overheat it and destroy it. People put these sticks on the street and wait for someone to pick them up and say: Oh great, 32 gigabytes!

And on the other hand, you can get hold of things that are otherwise under lock and key because a political power doesn't want you to have them. The darknet is also a means for people who would otherwise not be able to give a truthful report, document sharing sites, forums for whistleblowers, etc. You have to search in different ways depending on the issue. You have to search in very different ways depending on the issue, and that's how you get to strange destinations. It's about everyone hiding from those they don't want to see. It's a form that you find by using different strategies of looking, or listening in our case."

Project via Deutschlandfunk Kultur