The art of Code

As an european artist in pandemic times i have to re – think new aims and goals of contemporary art. Surrounded by agony and fear, by obedience and violence, i have to question my ideas, plans and strategies in art production , – distribution and – marketing.

I do not want to line up with those, who dream from returning to the before. The past moved us into or NOW! and i do not want to repeat history.

This article is about a new field of contemporary social art, driven by coding in PHP, a common programming language for web server based algorithm and logic. I am designing a tool to aviod SPAM and to protect WORDPRESS installations. You can activly support me to reach the goal, to give a useful tool to more than 20 Million website admins – for free!

The article is also about the starting point of a journey, in which i really do not know where it will lead us to. At the end for sure we will see a post SEO world.

On of my art projects is called artsurprise.eu. I mount refurbished secodn hand tobacco vending machines in art spaces in Europe and i run a little website to promote the project. This website, as many other was realized in different CMS (typo3, joomla, wordpress) and it was hacked three times in the last 10 years. As a freelancer and artist, working on my art, my focus can not be to maintain a webserver as much as a full professional and like many other artists i meander on a daily basis between art production and office work and documentation.

The website is not a very interesting target to be hacked, it does not provide any secret or important data and it is not protected by a huge budget to protect and defend intrusion and brute force attacks or SQL injection. Luckely i know what i am talking about here, so in this lock down times in summer 2020 it was time to cover the fundamental problem of this mess.

I decided to monitor the websites to learn whats going on with all these bots and automatically delivered attacks. The website artsurprise.eu is under fire, between 1 and 90 attacks per minute are registered in the server log and most of the traffic is just SPAM. Surprisingly after only 3 days i already collected more than 11.000 (!) sources of bots and malware trying to break in the website.

Artsurprise.eu is running under one of the most known CMS WORDPRESS., with more than 20 million installations worldwide a huge playground for Cyberattacks.

After studying the way of this game i prepared some honey pots and coded some walls to eliminate most of thi attacks. On the way i realised a shift in looking on the whole thing, and this is related to my aktive part in the early years of internetworking between computers and the FIDOnet.

Years before the rise of the Internet some enthusiasts connected their BBS systems runing on Desktop Computers via Modem (happy to listen the US Robotics on trying to establish a handshake). I was one of these nerds, long before the word was established and widly accepted.

What i remembered now from these early days was the peace and harmony of “free speech”. The most imporatnt rule over all was that every source of data was itself responsible for its content. The clear and openly published list of hubs, nodes and points (like IP addresses nowadays) was tracked with every message. Any source of SPAM was obviously identified and directly outsourced.

This had serious consequences. If a node – running a BBS – was not able to stop sending SPAM or even not able to configure the bulletin board in a propper way, he lost connection and all points behind him (the users) as well.

This self policing structure was very efficiant and SPAM was no big deal at that time.

Looking with the eyes of a FIDOnet BBS sysadmin on the contemporary internet its a wild west full of trash and spam and most of the admins are kept busy to maintain and protect their systems.

On sundays we are talking about CO2-foodprint and clima change, and over the week we contribute to a hell of nonsense and we are wasting time and real energy for such an amount of senseless data.

If we see Covid-19/20/21 as a proxy and amplifier of the unpossible, we should redesign our view on this malefunction in communication.

In the case of artsurprise.eu i coded a multi layer wall to reject and to reduce the transmitted data. As a main function i block IP sources permanently from access to the content of the website.

Shop operators or other data providers may reject the permanent exclusion of IP addresses at first, but at second glance it opens up completely new possibilities and a culture of communication that is hardly imaginable post-modem today. First of all it redistribute the responsability to the soruce of the communication. In the roman forum romanum the free speech was a valuable asset, but the responsibility of the word from the mouth of the free citizen was also tied to the responsibility of the owner of that mouth.

In economical terms we can predict that on a long term the second law of thermodynamics ever will show us the right direction. For some providers it might be a nice business model, one source of SPAM, millions of potential clients desperate to buy the newest ant virus software or intrusion detection system, for a society it is an unbalanced and unsustainable weak subsystem.

The website Artsurprise.eu is an add-on for the art lovers and historians searching for documentation and further information about more than 25.000 art works related to that project. The SPAM ist reduced dramatically and most of the clients are still able to use the funcionallity of the website.

As a contemporary artist i coded my solution as a tool for every WORDPRESS based website. I see it as a social sculpture and a blue print of this rebirth of an old idea from FIDOnet times, to keep the source of communication responsible for emmiting the data.

On api.anyfree.org i will publish soon the source code under the creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode (CC-by-sa-3.0).

In a follow-up to this article i will discuss details about the tool, the efficiency and daily handling and the evaluation of aim and outcome.