Grindr art project stirs Berlin LGBTQ anger

Dries Verhoeven, a Dutch artist who showed his conversations with other gay men using dating app Grindr on a video wall in Kreuzberg, has had to end his project after an unknowing participant expressed his displeasure with his fists.

Grindr art project stirs Berlin LGBTQ anger
Paul Verhoeven inside his glass container. Photo: DPA

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At a meeting regarding the incident, it was announced that the project had been definitively cancelled, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

Verhoeven engaged American man Parker T. in a conversation over the gay hook-up app Grindr as apart of his "Wanna Play?" performance art piece. Parker had not been made aware that the conversation and photos the men shared, as well as his Grindr profile, were being broadcast across Kottbusser Tor, one of Berlin's busiest underground rail stations. 

Upon coming to the station and seeing his profile information for everyone to see, Parker found the artist and punched him. 

“I lost it. I opened the trailer and lunged at him. I punched him. I screamed," Parker, under his performance name Pansy Presents, posted in a message on Facebook accusing the artist of digital rape. "I have never experienced anger like this before."

Amennie Vanackere, manager of the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) theatre, which provided funding and provided the space to host the 200 people to discuss the fall out, said that, as a result, the project was cancelled just five days into its planned two-week run. 

The artist himself was almost silent, saying only that he had made a mistake by starting the project and had been naive about the potential consequences, although he believed it had been misunderstood.

He claimed in a blog post on Friday that he had been trying to “make visible what is under the surface – in this case, the parallel world of the internet, in which we sometimes feel safer than in public space.”

Parker said Verhoeven's project only violated one of the few online spaces made specifically for the LGBTQ community.

“Gays require safe space to exist in,” he added. “Grindr is not exactly a safe space, but it is a space for us to communicate our desires and needs,” Parker wrote. " In this digital world, it's one of the few safe spaces we have. He is violating that."

Verhoeven was particularly criticized for the poor job he had done of obscuring his chat partners' personal information, including profile pictures and usernames, something HAU took care to address in a statement.

"HAU and the artist are far from wanting to conduct the same old kind of outings," a posting on the theatre's website on Thursday in response to the initial criticisms said.

As he was inviting the people he met through the app to visit the container, critics had complained that it would be easy for passers-by to recognize one of them in the street based on the digitally-altered pictures displayed on the video wall.

Taylor said that "there is no anonymity in this act," saying he had been recognized from the information that had  been displayed. 

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