Exhibition: Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection at HNI

Bas van de Poel, Marina Otero Verzier,




Het Nieuwe Instituut – Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture in Rotterdam – presents Malware: Symptoms of Viral Infection, an exhibition about the history and evolution of the computer virus. Using the most infamous examples, the exhibition explores the cultural impact of malware and raises some questions around security, warfare and geopolitics.

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Exhibition: Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection at HNI As you can tell from the name Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) – Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, Rotterdam, explores a wide range of themes. Indeed, the exhibition called Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection, curated by Bas van de Poel and Marina Otero Verzier and running from 5 July to 10 November 2019 is part of the Landscape & Interior program line and links up with Het Nieuwe Instituut’s activities in the field of digital culture.
The first computer virus was designed 33 years ago as an innocent joke but has since evolved into a “digital weapon” of geopolitical impact, changing the way wars are fought. Because with the growing reliance of society on these technologies, critical infrastructures such as water and energy supply, public services, banks and transportation are more exposed than ever to infection from computer viruses. Computer viruses steal, damage and threaten our most sensitive information, files and privacy. Nevertheless, these viruses are also a unique combination of refined design on the one hand and a superhuman agency with a massive potential for destruction on the other, so a twofold effect.
In the exhibition: Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection, these viruses form the starting point to explore questions of security, warfare and geopolitics in times of rapid technological advance. While we are making huge strides in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning, this means that malicious programs too are better able to learn to adapt to human behaviour and emotions.
Which brings us to the challenge for the design community: how can we learn to design security and privacy under the current conditions in a way that can resist attacks from malicious hackers, malware and cyberwarfare?
Following the commitment of Het Nieuwe Instituut to look beyond the classical notions of design, this exhibition explores a design practice that is mostly anonymous and clandestine. Viruses are sophisticated acts of design that are not generally intended for social innovation or problem-solving. Yet these devices also deserve a close reading, one that reveals the paradoxical beauty and complexity of these types of technology: the smarter the design of a virus, the more devastating its potential consequences.
This journey into the dark side of computing illustrates the beauty and sophistication of some of these viruses, highlighting their unique method of destruction, impact and context. Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection presents a timeline of malware, from relatively innocent DOS viruses, such as Brain, CoffeeShop and Crash, with which the designers probed the visual possibilities of the operating system, often in a playful way. With the rise of the internet, viruses spread faster, first in the form of email worms such as Anna Kournikova, Happy99 and Melissa, and later as ransomware – criminal hostage software including PolloCrypt, Kenzero and Cryptolocker.
The exhibition will be running until 10 November and was created with the contribution of Kaspersky.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition: Malware. Symptoms of Viral Infection
curated by Bas van de Poel and Marina Otero Verzier
Artistic interpretations by Tomorrow Bureau and Bas van de Poel
from 5 July to 10 November 2019
Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, NL
Images: see captions
Find out more: https://malware.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/en

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