I Must First Apologise…

Art, Contemporary art
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
I Must First Apolgise

A major new exhibition from Beirut-based artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige.

Exploring the history of online spam and scamming, this immersive new exhibition uses film, sculpture, photography and installation to give a fast to the ambiguous and hidden voices behind a junk email, whilst also helping us question how we develop intimacy and proximity with people we've never met.


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A mind-boggling amount of work has gone into this exhibition about the historical and modern day practices of scamming strangers for money. Starting out with the 'Jerusalem Letters' written by 18th century French brigands about imagined buried treasures and political imprisonments, and going all the way up to today's highly complex and specific spam emails about tens of millions of tax-free Euros in offshore bank accounts protected by the presidential sons of former Swaziland dictators, I Must First Apologise provides a blow by blow examination of this highly prevalent conning technique, explored through the removed medium of expressive film re-enactment. 

Of all the slickly edited videos and recordings and art displays, which are are based off of around 4,000 genuine emails received from 'Nigerian Scam' runners (all of which are also printed and readable in booklets dotted around the gallery), the most fascinating was the room about the counter-scammers. These self-appointed 'Scam Baiters' communicate on internet forums, sharing their scam baiting exploits with fellow moral avengers of the online world, and helping one another to humiliate the real scammers who've tried to fool them. For the African-based conmen it's a case of attempting to use technology against the people who invented the technology, and becoming victims in the process. 

Scam baiting is hard to explain, but it is basically my new favourite thing. Anonymous Westerners with aliases such as ShiverMeTimbers and Trolljan Horse get these pesky pretend aristocrats and refugees to perform embarrassing stunts before agreeing to send them the 'essential funds' which they request. Stuff like getting criminals to hold pagan sacrifices or have full-back tattoos of a Buffalo saying "I give BJs", with the photographs to prove it. Yeah, it's great.