The Artists Behind the Darknet Shopper Bot Made a Glitch Art Building
Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik


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The Artists Behind the Darknet Shopper Bot Made a Glitch Art Building

Was this building constructed by drunks? Nope, just artists.

Walk down the street in Basel, Switzerland, and you might notice a building that's just a little … off. Look a bit closer and you'll see that, yes, there is a museum that has been designed to look as if it's a real life glitch.

Glitch art has become quite popular in recent years—pixelating or distorting an image gives it a cyberpunk feel that lets you know that, yes, this is digital art. But for possibly the first time, glitch art has come to the actual architecture of a building, with pipes, windows, and railings physically moved in order to give the desired effect.


"We were interested in applying something digital, like an error from the software world, and building it out of stone," Domagoj Smoljo, one of the two artists who worked on the piece, told me. "When you see it, you don't really see it at first, you come at it from the sides and think, 'what kind of reality is that? Is it an image or is it real?'"

Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik

You may remember Smoljo and his partner, Carmen Weisskopf, as the artists behind the Random Darknet Shopper Bot, which automatically purchased items off the dark web, eventually getting the pair arrested. That piece led to a long discussion about who is responsible when a robot or algorithm commits a crime (Smoljo and Weisskopf were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing).

It's unlikely the pair, who operate under the name !Mediengruppe Bitnik, will get into any legal hot water for their real life glitch art, but that's not to say there were no risks. They had to work with the building's original architect and construction team to make sure that the structural integrity of the building would remain intact. Smoljo said that the piece is ideal for the House of Electronic Arts museum, a nod to the fact that the inside of the building is about the digital world.

Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik

To create the effect, pipes were cut and moved slightly in one direction, as were window and door frames, stone pillars, and metal railings. Certain windows couldn't be totally altered, because it'd require tearing the whole building down and starting from scratch.

"We had to make sure it was going to still stay up," Weisskopf told me. "The building was finished last year, and now contractors have come back to do the alterations—so you've got them wondering why we're glitching it."

The facade, which is being called H3333333K, was revealed today and there are no bug fixes expected—Basel now has a glitch that'll stick around for decades.

"It should stay for at least 25 years, maybe more," Smoljo said. "It's part of the building now."