HOME, Manchester’s new centre for international contemporary visual art, theatre and film, presents the first UK solo exhibition by artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, a co-production with Villa Arson, Nice (France) and MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (US). This major new exhibition explores the history of online spam and scamming through film, sculpture, photography and installation.
I must first apologise… gives a face to the ambiguous and hidden voices found in junk email, creating an immersive world that seeks to challenge how ideology is constructed. How do we develop intimacy and proximity with individuals whom we have never met? How are systems of belief valued?
Since 1999, Hadjithomas and Joreige have collected, archived, studied and tracked back more than 4,000 scams in the form of junk emails. Written in the first person and structured like monologues, the spam messages often usurp famous individuals’ identities, posing as the children or wives of politicians or as notorious dictators claiming to possess a large sum of money they need to transfer urgently. The scammers base their scheme on a plausible reality, rooted in news or real events, often referring to present-time conflicts and with the aim to manipulate people’s gullibility. A substantial amount of this money is promised to the person who accepts to help—a stranger nominated as the only trustworthy person.
Also known as the “Nigerian scam,” as the messages have often originated from that country, these frauds have been surprisingly efficient to the extent that thousands of people are conned every year, sometimes leading to the murder or suicide of scammed individuals.
Curated by Omar Kholeif, Senior Visiting Curator, and Sarah Perks, Artistic Director: Visual Art at HOME, Hadjithomas and Joreige’s latest collaboration maps out a genealogy of online scamming, revealing a complex world where greed and desire question traditional ethics. As the narrative unfolds, a colonial map is presented, one where the victim and the scammer have paradoxical relations. Through these tales, a new view of the world emerges: a chronicle of conflicts, war, uprisings, geopolitical shifts, global economic developments, religious extremism, political turmoil, and even ecological disaster—a strange history of our contemporary time, but also a place of singular encounters and poetic experiences.
Originally exhibited at Villa Arson in 2014, I must first apologise… acts as a narrative itinerary, a film that unfolds in the shape of installations, sounds, videos, sculptures and drawings, deconstructing this data and transforming it to produce images. The viewer will encounter recurring lead characters and minor ones, scammers, victims, scam beaters eager to scam the scammers, parallel edits, scenarios and virtual fictions.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige say: “At first, we started to collect these scams without really knowing why. Progressively, we questioned ourselves on what representations and methods of knowledge production they contain. Can one build a story with these emails; give a shape to these imaginaries?” Sarah Perks says: “I firmly and genuinely believe that Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige are absolutely at the head of their field as artists. They have a unique ability to cross art forms, from sculpture to feature film and beyond, whilst engaging with sophisticated global political and theoretical concerns. They continually impress and challenge, and this exhibition is an amazing current culmination of their talents.” Omar Kholeif adds: “I am delighted to be premiering this work by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige for UK audiences. I have worked with the artists for a number of years and I am looking forward to seeing how audiences engage with this most universal of subject matters!”
Accompanying the exhibition is The Rumours of the World: Re-thinking Trust in the Age of the Internet, a new publication edited by Omar Kholeif and published by Sternberg Press, with special contributions from Nicolas Auray, Finn Brunton, Laura U Marks, Rasha Salti, Uzma Rizvi, Omar Kholeif, Norman M Klein, Henriette Huldisch, Sarah Perks, Jacques Ranciere, Eric Mangion, and the artists. A special film program has also been selected by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige to accompany the exhibition.
Co-produced with Villa Arson, Nice (France) and MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (US). With thanks to Galerie In Situ/fabienne Leclerc (Paris), The Third Line (Dubai) and CRG Gallery (New York).