The Influencing Machine

1 December 2018–20 January 2019
Opening: 30 November 2018

Event Series

neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin


Anna Bromley, Mimi Onuoha & Mother Cyborg, Kajsa Dahlberg, Egemen Demirci, Fokus Grupa, Eva & Franco Mattes, Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni, Tactical Tech, Jane Topping, Sarah Tripp, Clement Valla, Sascha Pohflepp & Chris Woebken, Laura Yuile


Varoon Bashyakarla, Anna Bromley, Egemen Demirci, Ulrike Klinger, Sascha Pohflepp, Florian A. Schmidt

Project group

Vladimir Čajkovac, Kristina Kramer, Bettina Lehmann, Sophie Macpherson, Tahani Nadim, Neli Wagner

Bots (from ‘robot’ and Czech ‘robota’, socage, forced labor) are inconspicuous computer programs that perform tasks automatically.

Bots manipulate the masses, turn ‘fake news’ into facts, supersede human labour, colonise our objects and lead us into temptation: Based on digital code, bots perform thousands of minute routines which supplement and at times displace human agency and labour, thus shaping virtual and analog structures. They are often given human features––names, voices, bodies on occasion. Yet even when remaining invisible, they are increasingly becoming part of our everyday.

“The Influencing Machine” examines these diffusions and formations. Clustered around a series of famous bots, the exhibition assembles contemporary artistic positions examining the automation and datafication of our life worlds and work environments. Here, bots are understood as socio-technical phenomena; their efficacies requiring and provoking novel and manifold relations and imaginations:

How do bots and data form politics? In what ways do they transform political orderings of participation, accountability and knowledge? Why do racist or sexist logics reproduce and intensify on digital platforms, social networks, and data-driven expert systems? What does it mean for the value of labour and, more generally, human agency if transactions, communication, and decisions are increasingly carried out by fully automated devices? Which cultural imaginations shape the design and function of human-machine interfaces?

The exhibition provides insights into the socio-material ecologies of this new influencing machine and seeks to problematize the figure of the bot beyond the dominant narratives of society and technology.

The publication “The Influencing Machine” is addressing the exhibition’s various questions, extending its focus to historical continuities and social contexts, with contributions by Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star, Simone Brown, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Kashmir Hill, Lilly Irani, Lee Mackinnon, Tahani Nadim, Lucy Suchman, Cher Tan, and Neli Wagner.

Saturday, 8 December 2018
Guided tour of the exhibition with the curators

Thursday, 13 December 2018
eventspace, 1st floor
Book Launch “The Influencing Machine”

Saturday, 29 December 2018
Guided tour of the exhibition with the curators

Saturday, 12 January 2019
Guided tour of the exhibition with the curators

Saturday, 19 January 2019
eventspace, 1st floor
Event, Round table: »On Bots, Labour and Politics«

Bots and the Political (EN)

The scandal about the worldwide influence on elections has brought the topic of ‘bots’ into the mainstream media. But do we only understand bots as political when they influence the outcome of elections? The voices of digital language assistants or the algorithmically schematized classification of data which is produced by the usage of digital services also have political implications: Values, rights and conditions of existence are under scrutiny. What types of accountability, actionability and recourse are necessary or even possible in a world increasingly organized by algorithms? Is it ultimately (or not?) a political task to regulate the use of new technologies through legislation?

Bots and Labour (DE)

Opposed to the efficiency and comfort that the use of bots promises for repetitive workflows there is a whole series of questions: Do machines take away our work? Does an algorithm make personnel decisions that are more reasonable? Does one communicate with a person or with a machine in a customer service? Is a (ro)bot an assistant or a competitor? The state of development of artificial intelligence is still far from making human work redundant. But who trains the self-learning systems and under what premises? What about working conditions in the huge sector of so-called “human bots” (both economically and in terms of employed people)?


Varoon Bashyakarla is a statistician/data scientist and researcher at Tactical Tech Collective. He investigates how personal information is used for political influence in the 21st century. He is particularly interested in questions of ethics that are embedded in data, in algorithmic discrimination, and in ensuring our digital technologies respect and preserve the dignity of democratic process.

Jun. Prof. Dr. Ulrike Klinger is a junior professor for Digital Communication with a special focus on Gender Aspects at the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies at the Free University of Berlin and the head of the research group “News, campaigns, and the rationality of public discourse ” at the Weizenbaum Institute for Networked Society.

Anna Bromley, artist, develops exhibitions, installations, performances, texts, radio conversations, and radio plays. Her primary interest is in breaches and interruptions in representative ways of speaking and talking.

Egemen Demirci is an artist whose practice embodies a critical approach to the notion of reality in algorithm-based environments. He works with a range of media to investigate the conceptual boundaries of abstraction, space, and exhibition making practices.

Sascha Pohflepp lives and works in Berlin and Southern California. He is an artist and researcher whose interests extend across both historical aspects and visions of the future. His practice often involves collaboration with artists and researchers, creating work on subjects ranging from synthetic biology and artificial intelligence to geopolitics and space exploration.

Dr. phil. Dipl.-Des. Florian A. Schmidt is a Professor of Design Concept and Media Theory at the HTW Dresden. He is co-author of “Crowdwork––Back to the Future?” (2014) and author of “Der Job als Gig––Studie zur Gig Economy in Berlin” (2017) together with ArbeitGestalten. He is currently researching the role of human labor in the production of training data for autonomous driving.

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