0100101110101101.ORG spreads a new computer virus
A virus is usually considered evil, chaos. But what happens when it's
created in the name of art?
Conceived and compiled for the invitation to the 49th Venice Biennale,
Biennale.py is both a work of art and a computer virus; the product
of the joint work of two organizations: epidemiC and 0100101110101101.ORG,
already known for other media hacks, often bordering with illegality.
The computer virus is made public and spread from the Slovenian Pavilion
on the opening day of the exhibition, June the 6th 2001. People can
read the Biennale.py source code and test its functioning on infected
computers. Thousands of t-shirts, carrying the source code of the
program, are given out and sold: Biennale.py spreads not only through
machines but, as happens for biological viruses, also through human
Biennale.py becomes headline-hitting news, suddenly turning into an
unprecedented performance, a controversial work of art revealing how
media hysteria can be theoretically provoked and raised. «As
part of an organization that produces art, my only responsibility
is to be irresponsible - says Eva, 0100101110101101.ORG's spokeswoman
- once you set a virus free you loose control over it, you decide
on when and where the performance begins, but you'll never know when
and where it'll lead. It'll spread out of control, it'll make a round-the-world
trip over two minutes, it'll go where you'll never go over your entire
life, chased by anti-virus cops trying to regain control over it.
In this very moment it's wandering around at the speed of byte. It's
an art form that finds you, you don't have to go to museums to see
it, the work itself will reach you inside your house».
Biennale.py is the first computer virus ever written employing the
Python programming language, and one of the few, if not the only one,
whose name is written at the same time in the Computer Science and
Art History books. The virus stresses its "aesthetic qualities"
through the beauty of its own source code, a "love poem"
being an integral part of its executing code. «We've chosen
Python - says Massimo, Epidemic spokesman - exactly for the possibility
to give any name to the variables, in practice you can write software
with your own words».
But there's much more to it. The virus, a dangerous and fleeting entity
"par excellence", is for sale to especially adventurous
collectors and art dealers. «To buy a computer virus - says
Eva - is definitely one the most daring purchases one can make today».
And that's no joke, so far three copies of a cd-rom containing Biennale.py
have been sold for $1,500 each. And from 0100101110101101.ORG's website
is still possible to purchase them. «It's a fascinating paradox
- says the art critic Stefano Detoni - selling a computer virus is
more or less as selling an illness!».
Following the spreading of the virus, Symantec Corporation, world
leader in Internet security technology, detects Biennale.py and start
the hunt - see the official Norton AntiVirus Encyclopedia under the
name Python.Bien. From that moment on, every time a user reaches a
page containing Biennale.py he gets stuck by the popular anti-virus
software, with a consequent freeze of the machine.
«As soon as the virus is detected - says Eva - it officially
turns wanted, every PC becomes a checkpoint that the virus needs to
cross. Its own survival depends on its ability to remain hidden. It's
becoming a work of art that is more and more difficult to just "see",
and this very fact may even rise its value, in accordance with the
same old correspondence: the rarer, the better».
After a long time since its releasing, Biennale.py is still considered
a "wild" virus, meaning copies of it are still alive and
running through the digital highways. Viruses spread in accordance
with the conservation of the species laws. Following its instinct
of self-preservation a virus wants to exist without restrictions,
and this is exactly the main and only function of Biennale.py: to
survive. Once every anti-virus software will be able to detect Biennale.py,
they will slow down its runaway but «Biennale.py - reassures
Eva - will never be completely eradicated . A sample of it will always
be preserved in our server, protected from anti-viruses. In all probability,
it will outlive all of us».
«Within the computer web - writes Jean Baudrillard in Cool Memories
- the negative effect of viruses is propagated much faster than the
positive effect of information. That is why a virus is an information
itself. It proliferates itself better than others, biologically speaking,
because it is at the same time both medium and message. It is the
ultra-modern form of communication».