Review of »Search Routines« by Neural

»These essays constitute an added value, providing an extended account of databases’ historical development, informing the reader about a strategic past that is often overlooked.« Read the full review on

→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2017-Jun-30

Inside the Data Bank. Privatizing profits, socializing losses.

lecture at the Kulturen des Kuratorischen in May 2017 for the seminar »Leaking Bodies (and Machines)« by Julia Kurz and Anna Jehle. The session was joined by students of Peggy Buth who work about the topic of Big Data and Post-Internet art.

lecture and discussion about Data Banks

lecture and discussion about Data Banks

While the seminar was developed around reading Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT Press) by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Francis Hunger was invited to add a more materialist perspective. Two lectures were delivered, the first developed a historical perspective on the development of computing technology in general and discussed relational databases in closer detail. It tried to give an overview about the state of art in computing technology and interconnect this with the social dimension of labor and cultural questions such as the crisis of the public/private and the cultural function of the archive. The second lecture introduced basic concepts regarding electronic infrastructure as developed by Bowker, Ruhleder and Star and ended with a discussion of data centers, the ideology of the »cloud«, and the function and meaning of data in »big data«. The following discussion evolved into a rather broad and general argument about how the mediocene emerged and influences current social relations.

→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2017-Jun-15

Deep Love Algorithm exhibited and Database Talk in Osnabrueck

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View 2016 EMAF Osnabrück

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View at European Media Art Festival 2016, Osnabrück

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View 2016 EMAF Osnabrück

»black tower« with digital print showing two workers, one operating a punch card machine, the other working on the IBM calculation machine

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View 2016 EMAF Osnabrück

Main projection screen with narration. Videoanimation, HD, 32 min

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View 2016 EMAF Osnabrück

office workers on punchcard machines – digital print

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View 2016 EMAF Osnabrück

Deep Love Algorithm – Exhibition View at European Media Art Festival 2016, Osnabrück

Big Data as permanent future

panel discussion with Marcus Burkhardt (Uni Paderborn) and Francis Hunger (Leipzig), moderator: Lena Brüggemann (d21 Kunstraum, Leipzig)

Under the banner of big data, states and enterprises are collecting data with the intention of using it some time in the future. Seen from the perspective of databases, humans are transformed into data bodies and data potentials that are to be saved and algorithmically processed. While states, for example, allow their police to experiment with systems to predict criminal activities and their political parties to mobilise the electorate for their election campaign using big data, enterprises such as Amazon, Allianz Insurance and Deutsche Bank use their customers’ data for strategic business development purposes.

Panel discussion Francis Hunger, Lena Brüggemann, Marcus Burkhardt
→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2016-Jun-09

Tabellen im Spiegel der drucktechnischen Innovationen des 20. Jahrhunderts.

This text describes the interdependence of table making and printing process innovations during the 19th century. It is largely based on Doron Swades article »The ‘unerring vertainty of mechanical agency’: machines and table making in the nineteenth century.« from Campbell-Kelly »The history of mathematical tables: from Sumer to spreadsheets.« (2003). I had to shorten this part from my larger essay about Tables, and for the sake of saving it somewhere, it is published here.


Tabellen im Spiegel der drucktechnischen Innovationen des 20. Jahrhunderts.

Die Berechnung der Tabellen war mit einem komplexen Druck- und Publikationsprozess verwoben. Bis zum Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts[1] wurden Publikationen per Hand gesetzt, das heißt, der Setzer las die Zahlenfolge im Manuskript ab, entnahm die einzelnen Lettern einem Satzkasten und arrangierte diese auf dem Satzschiff in Spalten, Gruppen und Blöcken welche die Seite formierten. Beim Herausnehmen wurden die einzelnen Lettern nicht auf ihre Richtigkeit überprüft, vielmehr griff der Setzer gewohnheitsmäßig – man könnte auch sagen »blind« – in die Kästen.[2] Es war daher eine neue Drucktechnik, die wesentliche Unterschiede für den Buchdruck allgemein und für Tabellenproduzenten insbesondere machte: die Stereotypie, die Verwendung von Druckplatten aus Metall. Dabei wurde vom Setzschiff, in dem die Lettern vorübergehend fixiert waren, ein Abdruck genommen, der in eine Metallplatte gegossen wurde. Diese konnte aufbewahrt und wiederverwendet werden.

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→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2016-Apr-26

Computing In-Formation: Data and its Base

Workshop with Francis Hunger, artist (Leipzig)
18th + 19th January, 10am-4pm
Research Center for Proxy Politics (Hito Steyerl, Vera Tollmann, Boaz Levin, Maximillian Schmoetzer, Anil Jain)
UDK Berlin, Raum 115

This workshop aims to establish a notion of computing history that is oriented towards database software. During the first day we look into diverse practices of database usage, its historical and social origins.
Knowledge production by way of the library, the collection, the processing of mathematical equations in the age of human computing and bio-political practices such as statistics, data collection, resource management and insurance business have informed database technologies.
Lately, notions like big data or large scale search engines were added to this set of practices. During the second day the discussion focuses on tables and relations that form and put in form the base of data. And we go for a database dérive, which means we go outside to observe databases in their natural habitat to sense the infrastructural dimension of database usage today.

Day 1:

  • Lecture »Computing In-formation: Data and its Base«,
  • Introductioduction to SQL and relational databases
  • Close Reading – Mark Poster: Databases as Discourse or Electronic Interpellations. In: The Second Media Age. Polity Press 1995

Day 2:

  • Continuation of Close Reading – Mark Poster
  • Database Derivé
Close Reading Mark Poster

Close Reading session of Mark Posters text about Databases as electronic interpellations. We read the text paragraph by paragraph and subsequently discuss each section until it is understood.

Database Derivé

On our way to Berlin stock exchange Building. As we learned, the stock exchange has moved out, because it is computer based now. A few people went into the hotel to find out, what data needs to be stored in their booking system, in order to get a room.

Database Derivé

Theater des Westens has an old-fashioned ticketing system on paper cards for the subscription. But you can buy tickets online via a third-party service.

Database Derivé – ID

Database Derivé: ID Number at a door – electric switch room for U2 subway line

Notes: This time the database derivé took place in February which turned out to be cold. So we went mostly into buildings and asked the businesses about their database practices. One could do so individually each day, but here it seems that the groups’ supportive existence encouraged inquiring.
Some of the participants were dissatisfied because »it seems with every workshop comes a we-go-into-the-city-and-experience-it-differently session«. That made me think about it and understand that a derivé may be me more exciting for a diverse crowd as it was drawn by the Galerie Wedding database derivé last year, but may be less interesting for art students. However, what worked well in both occasions, that the sheer fact of moving around, instead of sitting in a room, fosters communication amongst the participants – it is informal but still the conversation connects to the overall topic. Also the sceptics agree.
The close reading (paragraph by paragraph) of Mark Posters essay was very appreciated by the participants, both because the text itself is inspiring and because the reading and discussing paragraph by paragraph enabled an intense debate within the group. This session also benefited from the comments of the RCPP-members who provide additional input on a high academical level.
→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2016-Jan-15

Universal Concept

The database became an universal concept for software such as the Von-Neumann-Principle for computing hardware.

→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2016-Jan-02

Search Routines – Publication

The publication »Search Routines: Tales of Databases« enlarges on the topics discussed in the exhibition, the workshop and during the symposium which took place at D21 Kunstraum and sublab hackerspace Leipzig in 2014. A series of interviews with Francis Hunger, Kernel, Pil and Galia Kollectiv and Sebastian Schmieg review artistic strategies like narration or the translation of data and algorithms to adress the invisibility of databases. Reports from the workshops with Heath Bunting and WaiWai tell about the potential of making the invisible visible or simply of hiding oneself from the databases’ range of view. The symposium discusses databases from a sociological and cultural science perspective.

Download: Lena Brüggemann / Francis Hunger (eds.): Search Routines: Tales of Databases. D21 Kunstraum Leipzig, 2015

Search Routines – Bookcover


Search Routines Publication


Search Routines Publication


Search Routines Publication


Search Routines Publication


Design: Paul Spehr
Copy Edit: William Clapp, Juliane Richter
Printed by: Bod, Norderstedt 2015
Authors: Lena Brüggemann, Marcus Burkhardt, Cesca Golodnaya, Francis Hunger, Daniel Pauselius
Artists: Francis Hunger, Kernel, Pil and Galia Kollectiv, Sebastian Schmieg, Jonas Lund und Johannes P Osterhoff

Funded by Kulturstiftung des Freitstaates Sachsen. Realized in cooperation with the Hybrid Publishing Lab, Innovation Incubator, Leuphana University Lüneburg.

→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2015-Nov-10

Deep Love Algorithm Exhibition and Database Derive in Berlin

Deep Love Algorithm is shown at Unsichtbare Manöver, curated by Sabine Winkler at Galerie Wedding/Berlin. July 21 – August 29 2015,

The exhibition included the workshop Database-Derive, an exploration into the concept of »Infrastructural Inversion« (Bowker/Star) and »Infrastructural Tourism« (Mattern). For the workshop the non-profit city-run exhibition space Galerie Wedding issued an invitation to participate. About ten people with diverse backgrounds, mostly art-affinicados, artists or students of related fields attended. After a 45 min introduction into the topical field, the idea was to walk around the Berlin streets and try to identify the visible ends of database systems. I had a few paper forms on pads prepared where participants could take notes. One was simply space for a hand drawn map, another recorded the general mood or spirit of the particular participant and another form allowed to record a list of our observations. Initially I had also prepared a coin, so we could throw coins, when deciding which direction we should take – inspired by the chance operations of John Cage. It turned out however, that in this particular street, the occurences of database signs were so dense, that after one-and-a-half hours we were still on that same street and decided to finish the walk in a cafe. The walk turned out to be inspiring since it produced new knowledge to which all participants contributed. It also fostered discussion amongst the participants. Some of them enjoyed the opportunity to discuss and interact, to experience the city differently and to acquire or share knowledge, but it also was questioned if what we were doing, could be called art.

Bus Stop with Schedule – Database Derive

Bus Stop with schedule. Basically we assumed from common knowledge, that all the scheduling data is stored in the municipal transport services’ database.

Tree with ID Number – Database Derive

Tree with ID number. The ID indicates that this tree is recorded on file of the Berlin land-registry office. We assume that it is used to store information about the trees health status and calculate the environmental balance on that particular street.

Gas pipe sign with ID Number – Database Derive

Gas pipe sign signals, where the gas pipe is to be found on the ground. The ID (11-digit number on top) implies that this location is stored in a file at GASAG, the local supplier.

Computer Store

Computer Store – We asked the owner, which Enterprice Resource Planning System (ERP) he was using…

Post Box – Database Derive

A participant explained, that inside each post box is a bar code to be scanned when the post box is emptied. The status of the emptied post box is then updated in a database and recorded for tracking reasons.

Database Derive Participants

Database Derive Participants (with pads, taking notes)

Photos by Elena Ilina and Kathrin Pohlmann

→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2015-Jul-02

Database Infrastructure – Factual repercussions of a ghost.

»The US-societies’ low income fringe, which grew significantly during the crisis years, includes people who rely on state-run food support. These benefits still bear the name ›food stamps‹, a term that refers to the post-World War II period although a private company actually runs a digital system called ›Electronic Benefits Transfer‹, in short EBT, that deals with the financial transactions. […] Last Saturday, around 9 a.m. [Oct. 12, 2013] in some northern federal states the electronic EBT-cards began to malfunction. The food chains‹ shopping peak time had not yet begun. One and a half hour later the EBT-payment system failed at the West coast and shortly after in the East as well down to Florida, at a time when many clients began their shopping. […] Within a few days the situation escalated. The computer problems appeared to be of serious nature and the EBT-system stayed offline. Occasionally reports of organized supermarket plundering appeared on the Internet – it got dicey in gunmens’ country« (Kurz 2013:37, transl. F.H.). This is how journalist Constanze Kurz describes in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung an infrastructural breakdown, providing an impressing example for infrastructures getting visible only during break-down.

Aim of the following text is to develop a notion, how the visibility of database systems – understood as basic infrastructure in Post-Fordist societies – can be raised. Infrastructure studies, a relatively new theoretical field, provides the theoretical framework, which is enriched with methods from media studies, media history and media art. First I’ll discuss infrastructure in general, and in how far database systems can be addressed as infrastructure. Further we look into the various dimensions of database infrastructure, such as time, space, membership, organizational structures and practices. This shall lead to an practical approach for making database systems more visible, through paying attention to recurring aspects of user interfaces that can help to identify underlying database infrastructures. My intention with this text is to develop a theoretical base for further practical, artistic explorations.

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→ author: Francis Hunger, published on: 2015-May-21