Forensic Fantasies trilogy

Forensic Fantasies’ is a series of three artworks dealing with data breaches of private information. In the artworks we use data that was recovered from hard-drives that were illegally dumped in West Africa. Despite international regulations recyclers gain higher profits by selling electronic scrap through informal channels, than properly processing it at advanced facilities in their home countries.

Through various trade routes electronic waste often ends up in developing countries where valuable metals and materials are extracted in highly toxic environments causing both health hazards and ecological disasters. Reports suggest, that at these e-waste dumps, criminals extract data from hard-drives to demand payments from their pre-owners or to resell the information.

When returning with 22 hard-drives from Agbogbloshie in Ghana, one of the biggest e-waste dumps in West Africa, we had two questions;

could data be recovered?,

and if so, could the found data be used and abused?

The trilogy ‘Forensic Fantasies’ reflects on these questions after recovering data from six of the hard-drives. Data that was possibly ones believed to be deleted, trashed and forever gone, has now resurfaced. We know that dealing with data is a rather lucrative business today, yet data points are only valuable when connected to others, revealing patterns of behaviour and desires. Selling the content of a hard-drive to data brokers is worth less than selling its spare parts to a company in the data-recovery business. What can make a hard-drive valuable, on the other hand, is sensitive personal data that can be abused, including access to online banking or shopping accounts, private images for blackmailing and harassment, or identity theft.

The potential abusing of data is in the focal point of these works, illustrating a number of “worst case scenarios” based on the recovered data. On the other hand most of the recovered data, when lacking personal meaning turns to gigabytes of junk, that has no value. A hard-drive with recoverable data poses an opportunity to find something of value, never the less most often this turns out to be just another ‘forensic fantasy’.


Forensic Fantasies – #1: Not a Blackmail

Forensic Fantasies – #2: Identity theft

Forensic Fantasies – #3: Found footage stalkers



2016: Art meets radical openness festival, Linz/Austria.
2016: Ars Electronica 2016, Linz/Austria.



2016: Die Springerin: Müll zu Gold? (German)
2016: Behind the smart world book (English)
2016: New Media Caucus: Behind the smart world research lab at Ars Electronica 2016