33 years ago the public faced the first computer virus. Since then more than a million viruses have been developed, hundreds of millions of devices have been infected, billions of dollars have been lost in productivity, and the anti-malware industry has become a significant market in the ICT business.
What started as an innocent prank has evolved into a digital weapon of geopolitical significance, transforming the way wars are fought. Today, malicious software is used to steal sensitive emails from political parties, infiltrate and attack nuclear facilities, and disrupt entire economies. Malware - Symptoms of Viral Infection presents a timeline of infamous malware, from early DOS viruses pushing the visual aesthetics of the text-based operating system, to advanced worms, spyware and ransomware used as geopolitical weapons.
Following Het Nieuwe Instituut’s commitment to looking beyond the classic notions of authorship in the production of spaces, objects, and virtual media, this exhibition explores a design practice that is mostly anonymous and clandestine. Viruses are sophisticated acts of design that are not generally intended for social innovation or problem solving. Yet these devices also require a close reading. This journey into the dark side of computing illustrates the beauty and sophistication of some of these viruses, highlighting their unique method of destruction, impact and context.