Dries Verhoeven, a gay Dutch artist, is making a public spectacle of himself in a busy Berlin intersection and angering quite a few Berliners in the process. His art project is called 'Wanna Play?' and he describes it, in part, like this:
The Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven is going on a search for answers, taking his own gayness as the starting point. For 15 days he is living in a glass space, visible to anyone who passes by. He is communicating with the outside world exclusively by means of Grindr and similar apps. The men that he meets online will be invited to join him to meet each other’s non-sexual needs. Anyone who downloads the dating app can see the profile shown here on his mobile phone. All photos will be represented without identifying marks. All chats will be rendered anonymous.
(read full 'about' page HERE)
Except that it has turned out to be not so anonymous for those who interact with Verhoeven, Same Same reports:
One particularly annoyed Grindr user wrote on Facebook that the artist had not mentioned to him that he was doing a project, and when he turned up to the square he was shocked to find his messages had been shown in public.
“Consider what it would feel like,” he wrote, “to walk into a public space looking for an address of a person you are meant to have a private encounter with, only to see your picture and your words projected onto a wall with a large group of people watching and reading, many of them pointing and laughing. People called my name!”
Another annoyed commenter added: “This is completely disgusting and not related to art at all.”
A third: “Your project is extremely exploitive and cynical, putting people’s privacy and safety at risk.”
Verhoeven's project seems to have sprung from an addiction to and subsequent dissatisfaction with the shallow social scene resulting from the rise of hook-up apps. He writes, on the project's "about" page:
I realized that many times it wasn’t sex that I was looking for, but more the affirmation that I got from the sex. The sounds of the various apps had the effect of a slap on the back, an incoming message meant interest. I felt like a teenager who needs the approval of his classmates and so conforms to their rules and their jargon. In less than half a year my texts had been reduced to simple headlines like “Hey there” and “Whats up?”, my photos did not show the man that I was, but rather a bad imitation of the typical torso photos…. The men that I met then were the trophies of my digital hunt. The more their outward appearance fit my ideal image, the higher their value in the imaginary ranking that I kept of them and of my own accomplishments. The sex was not the final goal, but it was a pleasant occupation while maintaining our Grindr market value. I felt like a superficial illustration of myself, a man that could fulfill many sexual fantasies, but who rarely went to the movies with a stranger. I hadn’t brought anyone home to the family for Christmas in years. Grindr kept me from dealing with my single life. A feeble surrogate, but good enough not to feel lonely. I decided to delete the various apps from my mobile phone.
Grindr objects to the project, and its spokesman told Same Same:
“While Grindr support the arts, what Dries Verhoeven is doing by luring Grindr users under false pretenses is entrapment. This is an invasion of user privacy and a potential safety issue. “We encourage other users to report his profile by using the ‘flag’ function on our app, so we can take action to ban the user. Together, we will work to keep these users out of our Grindr community.”
Verhoeven yesterday posted a response to the outrage on Facebook:
Today, he added: "Up for meeting up someone who questions my project in real life. I hope to meet on a non violent basis, in an approach to mutually understand each others point of view. (Things you post here are visible to the audience. Just consider if you are ok with that)"
The project is scheduled to continue for 11 more days. You can view a livestream of Verhoeven's "Box" HERE.
Watch an interview with him, AFTER THE JUMP…