January 27th 2016, TivoliVredenburg

LET’S LIFE-HACK – Ine Gevers

LET’S LIFE-HACK – Ine Gevers

April 20th, 2016

By Ine Gevers, curator of HACKING HABITAT

“We go from being a surveillance state, which is the basic state of Western society, into being a surveillance society, where everybody has the mindset from being spied upon all the time. And that mindset is like we are a young couple in love with extremely paranoid parents, who have bugged every room in the house, have bugged the car, have even bugged every tree in the park. It changes behaviour. Love become a pantomime and society itself starts to shift”.                – Julian Assange

In short: all of our data is out in the open, or more precisely: in the hand of giants like Google and Facebook, forwarding it to the NSA. How easy it is to be blackmailed, forced or even gently nudged into behaviour that is in their advantage, performing our lives instead of living it. We live in a surveillance state and move towards a surveillance society. IPHONES are SPYPHONES… Do we believe Dave Eggers’ The Circle is actually happening?



HACKING HABITAT is an international exhibition on how we are captured by invisible high-tech control systems and how to escape – all in the best location to make this show happen: the oldest prison in the Netherlands (Wolvenplein, Utrecht).  The exhibition brings together works by 86 famous artists about contemporary, high-tech forms of surveillance, manipulation and constraint. HACKING HABITAT not only deals with loss of privacy due to surveillance security measures, but also with financial logics and other destructive forces around us. Artists, designers, hackers and citizens make us aware and show how to act.

Prisons are threatening but the worst prisons are the ones we build ourselves.

Your smart phone’s time and location data combinations are more precise than your finger prints, for which 12 data points are needed to safely identify a person. Add to this the capability to download all data from any mobile phone or to turn it into a listening device, even when it is switched off. Then further add to this the option to take pictures of you and your home and to track your digital identity—via relationships, money trails, likes and comments. Include face and voice recognition in order to identify individuals on videos, pictures and audio files. And add the option to download all emails directly from your providers’ servers, and to copy your hard drive’s contents remotely. All this is no science fiction. It is possible and it’s being done. Do you still think that privacy issues do NOT affect you? Our lives have been hacked: let’s hack ourselves!

What is hacking?                                                                                                                              

Hacking is smartly and playfully searching for the weak spots in existing systems. Hackers usually deal with technology, but, although many people think it is, hacking is not confined to high technology. Complexity plays no role. On the contrary: easy and quick alternative solutions are preferred. For example: using a clothespin to avoid your earphone wires to get all tangled is basically a hack. All “ordinary” inventions, improvements or technologies can be hacks, when they are used for any other purpose than for which they were made.

An example of a life hack

What is life hacking?

Although life-hacking has become a cool advertising word these days, my inspiration for life-hacking comes from the French philosopher Michel de Certeaux. Against the strategies of those in power, he proposed the tactics of life to those who are not in power. Their assets: being sometimes invisible, but always unpredictable. Life hacking means intervening into a framed environment, in such a way that the system starts working to your advantage instead of against you. Clearly life hacking is rather ‘normal’ human behaviour: everybody does it, although not everybody is familiar with the term. The best way to learn more about life hacking is taking a closer look at the survival tactics of minorities and the excluded: people who are forced to adjust to rules of others. The ones who are NOT in the position of power, as Certaux put it. The best known example of a big life-hack? Democracy!

How to become a life-hacker?

We used to have ‘real’ soldiers on the ground with guns, tanks and airstrikes. Now we have remote controlled drones, control rooms and mass surveillance. Big Brother was easy to spot, but its little sisters are everywhere, from inside our homes to every corner of the street. The internet-of-things (computers and things connecting and talking to each other) is a new form of intelligence (a-whereness), that becomes a precondition for life hacking. Our citizenship has been decides by algorithms these days.

One example of a life hack that is part of the exhibition is from Pedro Reyes. He collected thousands of pistols and guns on the Mexican-American border and rebuilt them into musical instruments. Both a clever way of reusing waste but, more importantly, he was hacking weapons. The instruments can be played and due to the success Reyes has build a whole orchestra with these instruments.


An example of Reyes’ creative transformations from weapon into musical instrument.

Keep in mind: HACKING HABITAT is like a giant escape room teaching us how to hack our lives. One last thing about hacking: fun, everyone does it, sets you free.


HACKING HABITAT is on view every Wednesday till Sunday from 10:00 till 18:00 at the Prison Wolvenplein in Utrecht until the 6th of June. For more information and tickets, visit www.hackinghabitat.com.

Ine Gevers at TEDx 2