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Ours is a culture obsessed with the unseen, the inaccessible and the known-unknown.

Open Secret is a six-month long program that explores images of the technological hidden in our apparently ‘open’ society.

Technology is supposed to increase our access to knowledge, making the world more legible, while undermining ignorance and superstition. At least, that’s what we are told. But it sometimes feels like we have entered a new dark age of black boxes. In computer science, a black box is a unit of software or hardware that interacts entirely through its interface. What happens inside it is opaque; veiled in shadow. Users of black boxes may only partially understand how they work, but can easily observe their effects in the world.

There is drama—desire, disappointment, and uncertainty—in coming to terms with these effects. Contemporary intellectual labor is frequently defined by attending a black box as it works on you. The resulting black box culture is marked by affective responses: wonder, paranoia, mythopoesis, and so on.

Black boxes are key props in the personal-political drama of being shut out from a hidden order of reality—unable to access or read its code. As we make our way through a landscape of inscrutable machines (and the life they make for us) we attempt to come to terms with them through incommensurate means, projecting wishes, insecurities, and analogies of what they might be onto them.

Open Secret pursues this topic through numerous artistic commissions and essays by leading thinkers. Additionally, the project critically examines the digital infrastructures that organize civic life. Discourse takes place in hybrid online-offline formats, and are realized in collaboration with a diverse group of interlocutors.

Nadim Samman

Site Notes

Phantom cursors track your fellow visitors in real time.

AI facial anonymization  for sign language videos.

Team & Collaborators


Curators: Nadim Samman, PhD. (Curator, Digital Sphere),in collaboration with Katja Zeidler (Head of Education & Mediation)

Project Assistant: Luisa Haustein

Graphic Identity:  Sometimes Always

Developer: Fluxo

Sign language videos: yomma GmbH
Sign language interpreter: Benedikt J. Sequeira Gerardo
Facial anonymization: Adam Harvey

Sound effect: Ed Davenport

Translation English – German: Lilian-Astrid Geese
Additional translations / Copy editing: Lutz Breitinger, Sofie Krogh Christensen, Isolda Mac Liam, Tina Wessel


Nora Al-Badri, Maithu Bùi, Erick Beltran, Tara Isabella Burton, Caroline Busta, Jennifer Chan, 
Wendy Chun, Joshua Citarella, András Cséfalvay, Inland (Ed Davenport), Constant Dullaart, Orit Halpern, Adam Harvey, Vladan Joler, Bea Kittelmann, Kateřina Krtilová, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Lukáš Likavčan, 
Jen Liu, Eva and Franco Mattes, Tom McCarthy, Lisa Messeri, Ramak Molavi Vasse’i, New Models, 
Lisa Rave, Rachel Rossin, Konstanze Schütze, Caroline Sinders, Dirk Sorge, Charles Stankievech, 
as well as the AURORA School for ARtists, Jugendgremium Schattenmuseum, and MOTIF.


Natanja von Stosch
Tel. +49 30 243459 41


Data policy

A project by KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Open Secret is developed as part of the dive in. Programme for Digital Interactions of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) with funding by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) through the NEUSTART KULTUR program.

© Open Secret 2021
Website by Sometimes Always & Fluxo