The installation of Secrets at the San Francisco Mint examines how the distribution of information structures social, political, and economic life. While a liberal democratic frameworks value open and transparent processes, the value of secrecy is often under examined. A secret might be clandestine, or it may be used for legitimate purposes to guard private information from exploitation. Often the sharing of a secret fosters intimacy and trust among communities, friends, and peers.
If decentralized systems regard secrets as composable elements, might we also consider secrecy as a medium in itself? For instance, the architecture of blockchains represents both complete secrecy (accounts are controlled by private keys) and complete openness (transactions are always available to everyone). Likewise, a gossip protocol is scheme in which ‘secret’ information may be freely shared amongst a distributed network of peers.
The works in this exhibition examine the secret as an information structure within today’s social and technological context, from algorithmic “black boxes” and state classification schemes, to new digital infrastructures built upon cryptographic primitives. These artists consider both the possibilities and the dangers of secrecy. While Paolo Cirio intervenes in offshore finance’s complex architecture of concealment, American Artist navigates dynamics of participation and refusal online by intentionally obscuring his Facebook photographs. Taken together, the works in Secrets forge a growing aesthetic vocabulary for the unknowable and the encrypted, the private and the hidden.
Co-curated by Sam Hart and Sarah Hamerman
Sam Hart is a scientist, curator and editor working across computational biology and distributed publishing.
Sarah Hamerman is a librarian and arts researcher based between New Jersey and New York City. She currently works as Poetry Cataloging Specialist in Princeton University Library's Rare Books and Special Collections. Her research is centered around experimental publishing as a networked practice across print and digital media. Sarah is a founding member of the Cybernetics Library, and has presented at venues including the NYU Center for Experimental Humanities, the New York Art Book Fair, and the BABZ Art Book Fair. Her writing has appeared in Temporary Art Review, Avant.org, In The Mesh, and Art Libraries Journal.