Five days into his public performance art piece, “Wanna Play? Love in Times of Grindr”, Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven, whose project has drawn widespread criticism, is having the plug pulled for violating gay men’s privacy on the gay “dating app”, Grindr. For “Wanna Play?”, which was partially funded by the Dutch embassy, the performance artist deigned to live in a glass house erected in a public square for 2 weeks, while he chatted with men on Grindr and invited them over. His conversations were projected and video of his box was streamed live online. He said the interactions weren’t meant to be for sex, necessarily, but rather he hoped to challenge what he perceived to be an increasingly sexualized and superficial gay community. Verhoeven wrote in the project’s manifesto that he thinks gays have constructed a new “invisible closet,” again hiding their sexuality from public view. But Verhoeven never told the men that they were part of a public art performance. A Berlin-based artist and performer Parker Tilghman has been a leading figure in the outcry against Verhoeven’s performance. Tilghman chatted with Verhoeven, who invited him over to “shave his beard”. Tilghman made went over to what he believed was Verhoeven’s apartment and instead he found a large screen displaying their conversation in the public square –with details about where he lived, his dog,etc. Tilghman punched Verhoeven, and screamed at the film crew. He said on Facebook;
“I… feel violated in a way that is impossible to fathom. That feeling of violation is devastating.”
Verhoeven later changed his tact started telling participants at the beginning of their interactions that they were being broadcast publicly. But in a follow up post on Facebook, Tilghman hired a lawyer and has threatened to press charges, expressed his concern over Verhoeven’s willingness to use unsuspecting gay men for his project. Verhoeven wrote his experience that lead to “Wanna Play” made him feel that;
“The men that I met then were the trophies of my digital hunt. The more their outward appearance fit my ideal image, the higher their value in the imaginary ranking that I kept of them and of my own accomplishments.”
Fascinating. Kinda weird. And considering all the controversy, wonder in this semi-fiasco has opened the dialogue about love and sex and art in a 21st century digital age… or promoted Grindr to a straight audience?