OPEN THE BLACK BOXES is a participatory digital art project founded on the principle of “think global – act local”. It invites people across the world to submit a Single Word online in reply to one of two questions:
“What threatens you the most?”
“What are you most eager to preserve?”
OPEN THE BLACK BOXES provides an ongoing open-source database created by mapping people’s hopes and fears.The word-maps emerging from the participants’ replies in real-time reflect the evolving concerns of citizens globally.
OPEN THE BLACK BOXES offers real-time cultural and statistic material online for public use. Via visually engaging formats, the open-source platform reflects an ever-changing portrait of contemporary society. The project investigates the space between art, democracy and political action by focusing on how society responds directly to issues that affect us the most through the medium of art.
At a time marked by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, social and environmental crises, we find ourselves in the clasps of multiple fears. We are in need of expression, and Digital Media offers the most liberating and ecological space for this action. By opening the ‘Black Boxes’ we symbolically bring to light the words that reflect what threatens us the most, or that which we are desperately eager to preserve. When put together, these single words help paint a magnificently insightful picture of our priorities, offering an opportunity to explore our shared public space, our shared fears, our shared aspirations. The main objective of this project is to help us visualise our angst and the hope that springs from it at the current juncture.
OPEN THE BLACK BOXES is a collaboration between the Greek artist Danae Stratou and the non-profit organisation Vital Space, a global, interdisciplinary, cross-media art platform addressing the pressing issues of our time.
The project builds upon the physical installation IT’S TIME TO OPEN THE BLACK BOXES! that Danae Stratou has exhibited across Europe, each time inviting people from the diverse local communities to participate: Athens (2012); Krems (2016); Paris (2017); Mallorca, (2017); London (2018); Ghent (2019). #opentheblackboxes
This project is a response to the pressing issues of our times. Greece, Europe and indeed the World are experiencing multiple crises – economic, social, political, environmental. IT’S TIME TO OPEN THE BLACK BOXES! is an ongoing participatory art project initiated in 2012 by the Greek artist Danae Stratou.
Living in Greece in a time of multiple crises, it was ever so easy to fall into a state of fear-induced paralysis. This art project was a reaction to such a prospect. It has its roots in the time when the global economic meltdown took place back in 2008. Since then we are traversing an era that generates crisis upon crisis. The need for change has been present ever since and ready to surface in every aspect of our lives and our societies. The project generated in a time when we witnessed the Arab Spring, the era of the rising East and the era of Wikileaks. It is the era of our diminishing tolerance to the lies and subterfuge of politicians, bankrupt bankers and assorted vested interests.
When Julian Assange designed Wikileaks, his goal was not just to get some hidden information out there but, more specifically, to put all sorts of “powers” under the threat of transparency – to let those in power know that transparency and the emergence of the truth awaits. Since then, the alliance of toxicity and opacity, the omnipotence of the Black Boxes, has been strengthened and, at the same time, has given birth to the crisis of our times. Via this project we propose It’s Time to Open the Black Boxes!
On a practical manner, distanced from traditional commercial practices, the art project aspired to undercut its own costs, to give voice to and to assist materially as many as people possible, to help attain a deeper understanding of our collective predicament, to empower a joint response to the paralysis that is causing us to ‘freeze up’. The project activated a dialogue constituting, in itself, a collective response to our multi-faceted predicament. By opening the ‘Black Boxes’ we symbolically bring to light the words that reflect what threatens us the most, or that which we are desperately eager to preserve. #opentheblackboxes
The installation comprises 100 black aluminum boxes geometrically positioned on the floor equidistant from one another, so as to form a rectangular grid. The boxes’ lids are open at an angle. Inside each box, a black screen is positioned at a 450-degree angle in relation to the floor. The boxes are surfaced with translucent mirrors, thus creating the illusion that they are filled to the rim with a liquid substance and that the screens within them are submerged in polluted water akin to an oil slick. Upon entering the exhibition space the viewer is confronted by a mixture of sounds such as beeps, heartbeats, explosions and flat lines. As one approaches and walks through the installation it becomes apparent that the screens inside the boxes are displaying words and numbers. Each word appears for a few seconds before being replaced by either a numeric countdown or a count-up (depending on the word). As the numbers race (down toward zero or up to a specially chosen limit), their pace, style and accompanying sounds resemble a ticking bomb. When the countdown, or count-up, reaches its climax, each box emits the sound of either an explosion or a flat line. These sounds are designed to intensify the sensation of tension, crisis, and alarm.
IT’S TIME TO OPEN THE BLACK BOXES! has been exhibited across Europe, each time based on single-word answers sourced locally: Athens, Greece (2012); Krems, Austria (2016); Paris, France (2017); Mallorca, Spain (2017); London, UK (2018), Athens Greece (2018, Ghent, Belgium (2019), Berlin, Germany (2021).
Installation artist, born in Athens, Greece
BA (Hons) Fine Art – Sculpture, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, London Institute. London, England (1983-1988)
Adjunct Professor at the Superior School of Fine Arts, Athens, Greece: Masters of Fine Arts Program. Athens, Greece (2007-2012)
Danae Stratou is a visual artist whose work consists of large-scale site-specific installations and audio-visual environments. She uses various media ranging from digital and audio technology, video, photography as well as metal and natural materials and elements. The artist uses a minimal, geometric visual language and engages in contemporary issues such as the climate crisis, immigration, life in contemporary cities, the growth of population, the relation to the environment as well as political and social tensions worldwide. From 1997 until today he has a systematic presence in important group and solo exhibitions internationally.
Representative of her work are projects such as: Desert Breath (1997), one of the largest land art installations worldwide located in the Sahara Desert, The River of Life (2004), a video installation recording the flow and rhythm of the world’s seven largest rivers, Cut – 7 Dividing Lines (2007), a photographic installation that investigates the connections between politically or religiously divided parts of the world, Upon the Earth Under the Clouds (2017), her largest site-specific installation in Greece conceived for the Old Mill and the ancient city of Eleusis. Using water and soil as its core materials and 1000 hand-made ceramic pots. Her latest installation Concentric is a permanent water installation utilising an underwater device to turn a lake or reservoir into a subtle but powerful locus of perpetual concentric ripples, it is located at Nirox Sculpture Park, Johannesburg (2019).
She has exhibited her work widely, including in the 48th Venice Biennale, Italy (1999), the 1st Valencia Biennale, Spain (2001), the Bienal International del Deporte en el Arte – BIDA 2005 Seville, Spain (2005), the 5th International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Gyumri, Armênia (2006), the 1st Thessaloniki Biennale, Greece (2007), La Verriere (Fondation D’ Enterprise Hermes) – Solo Show, Belgium (2010), Istanbul – Cultural Capital of Europe 2010 International Program, Turkey (2010), the Adelaide International Festival 2012: Restless, Australia (2012), the Annual International show Icastica, Arezzo, Italy (2015), Borders, Barriers, Walls, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia (2016), Lanceurs D’Alert, La Gaite Lyrique, Paris, France (2016), It’s Time to Open the Black Boxes! Museu de Pollenca, Mallorca, Spain, (2018).
Since 2016 he has been active in DiEM25 and has played a central role in the implementation of DiEMVoice, the movement’s artistic platform, which aims to strengthen the dialogue between art and politics at a broader level.
In 2010 she co-founded together with the renowned economist Yanis Varoufakis the non- profit organization Vital Space, a global, interdisciplinary, media platform addressing contemporary issues of art and politics. The platform aims at playing a decisive role in the dialogue and resolution of issues that affect our society in terms of its relationship with nature and with itself, introducing the artistic perspective of these issues.
Distinctions include the Runner Up Prize in the National Public Art Competition for the airport high street of the City of Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Texas, USA. Proposed project entitled: Airth Gates (2014) and the Commission’s Panel Award in 18th Biennale of Cerveira, Portugal (2015) awarded to the video installation The Globalising Wall.
She has initiated the ongoing participatory project It’s Time to Open the Black Boxes! Living in Europe in this time of multiple crises, it is ever so easy to fall into a state of fear-induced paralysis. This art project is a reaction to such a prospect. Through the specially designated web site, the artist invites you to actively participate by contributing one word. By joining our “voices”, the project aims at activating a dialogue constituting, in itself, a collective response to our multifaceted predicament. By opening the ‘Black Boxes’ we symbolically bring to light the words that reflect what threatens us the most, or that which we are desperately eager to preserve.
She was recently elected Chairwoman of the Steering Committee of mέta * the Center for Post-Capitalist Civilisation, which through research and art, aims to support, develop and expand the goals of MERA25, DiEM25 and the Progressive International.
Inés Muñozcano - Curator
Inés Muñozcano is a curator currently based in Madrid. She has been involved with the project since the exhibition of It’s time to open the Black Boxes! in Mallorca, which she curated in 2017. Since then, she works closely with Danae Stratou on this art project and other endeavours, such as Vital Space, a multidisciplinary platform founded by the artist focusing on the social, political and climate issues that affect us most.
She is the cultural manager of ELAMOR and the co-founder of Frenesí Fine Arts, from where she develops artistic projects and works as a cultural advisor and coordinator. Her practice is diverse in terms of geography and content, focusing on the connections – historical, economic, virtual – that link different countries and artistic communities.
Zac Ioannou - Designer
Production Designer & Art Director
Experienced Production Designer with a demonstrated history of working in the TVCs and performing arts industry. Skilled in Decoration, Set Design, Spatial Design, Interior design, Graphic Design, hand and 3D Drawing. Strong arts and design professional holding a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Scenography from University of the Arts London.
Esmeralda Momferratou - Coordinator
Esmeralda Momferratou is an artist and filmmaker based in Athens, Greece. She holds a BA in Performance Design and Practice from Central Saint Martins, London (2014) and completed her Erasmus at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She is an MA Fine Arts Digital candidate at Central Saint Martins.
She is a partner of the non-profit organization Vital Space and has assisted in the production of most of the IT’S TIME TO OPEN THE BLACK BOXES! installations on tour.
Selected exhibitions/festivals include ROOMS2021, Kappatos Gallery, Greece; Prospect, RAUM Gallery, UK; TSA_PDF x SVA, Tiger Strikes Asteroid NYC; Video Art Miden Festival, Greece; Mykonos Biennale, Greece; Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Greece; Drama Film Festival, Greece; Secret Cinema, UK; as well as Dance Umbrella Festival, UK.
Judith Meyer - Computational linguist
Judith Meyer is a Berlin-based polyglot and web developer, specialising in the development of technology-enhanced language courses and language-related programming. She holds an MA in French studies and computational linguistics. She presently works as IT coordinator at DiEM25 and has recently published a series of paperback alphabet courses for Greek, Arabic, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Persian and Hebrew.