Webdriver Torso is the name of a Youtube user account that has systematically uploaded a video every 11 seconds since September 2013. Reaching 66,000 videos, the account was subject to numerous theories including viral marketing, espionage, alternative reality gaming and extra-terrestrial activity. It was later identified as an internal testing utility for YouTube’s performance that mimics a real user. Despite this, its myth of speculative video symbolism persists as an online culture that detail specific theories of meaning attributed to these videos. For the duration of the exhibition, videos from the Webdriver Torso YouTube account were displayed intermittently on the information screens at the entrance to Firstsite.
Video as symbolism is mirrored in additional works that present a video parody of the destruction of computer hardware by editors of the Guardian, which contained classified documents leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. In the original video, GCHQ agents forced Guardian editors to physically destroy the hardware using power tools, and a degausser. This was understood as a symbolic act by the journalists, for the data was neither leaked exclusively, nor isolated to a physical artifact.
Works were presented in the project space and surrounding areas throughout Firstsite. To reflect the nature of developmental practice, the works were presented at various stages of completion, changing during the run of the exhibition. With special thanks to Jane Morrow.
Images: Installation view, Web-driver Torso, Firstsite, 2015.