Since 1999 artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have collected over 4,000 scam emails. In their new exhibit, I Must First Apologise… the artists explore why scam emails are still effective and what they say about the state of the world today.
The fraud, known as the Nigerian scam (due to the bulk of the cons originating from the country) predates email. While the tricks have been extremely effectively in manipulating thousands of people into giving up their savings, it has at worst resulted in bankruptcy, murder and suicide.
Ordinarily, both the victims and perpetrators of these deceptions remain anonymous. Hadjithomas and Joreige make the scams concrete, using sculptures and video installations.
Setting out to challenge our naivety in The Rumour of the world, (a darkened space that includes 17 screens, 100 loudspeakers and 38 digital videos) the installation allows you to weave in and out of various talking heads.
As you are drawn in to listen to personal monologues, the credible stories are revealed as readings of junk emails. Hadjithomas and Joreige not only offer a face to the ambiguous stories but ask the question “can we regard them not just as scams but as works of fiction in their own right?”
In The Trophy Room, the exhibition highlights extreme responses to these hoaxes. Displaying the results of the Scam beaters (a group based in the United States), who have responded to scammers in an effort to waste their time and money.
The group asks scammers to perform sometimes punishing tasks, including getting their arm tattooed and painting multiple portraits of their dog. Their final display of “trophies” often blur the line of abuse and power between the scammer and victim.