Passwords and the Artist

Posted by Sticky Password Dec.28, 2013 in Passwords & Security

Kasseler Kunstverein / Aram Bartholl - Hello world! © Nils Klinger - Sep. 2013

We’ve seen lots of lists of passwords that were exposed as the result of security exploits (in recent years Adobe, Yahoo!, Hotmail, LinkedIn and many other companies, large and small, have been hacked), but we’ve never seen a list like this. Earlier this year, German artist Aram Bartholl published created “Forgot Your Password?” – an 8 volume set of books listing 4.7 million passwords hacked from LinkedIn in 2012.

The main debate about the piece seems to be whether this qualifies as art (see comments here and here). Beauty and art are for the beholder to decide, but in our view, Mr. Bartholl’s piece is thought-provoking art.

We’ve never seen anything from Mr. Bartholl before, but we think this piece certainly deserves the attention it’s getting and the attention it’s generating for passwords.

The presentation is engaging. Each of the 8 white volumes is 800 pages long and small black font covers each of the 21cm x 27cm pages (approximately 8 ½ inches by 11 inches). The visual image of the many variations of the word ‘noah’ is actually, well, stirring; a goading, graphical display that we’re not as unique as we’d like to think we are when we use names or words as the core of our passwords. We’re sure there are many similar pages displaying riffs on other words.

forgot-your-password-12-800

The interactive element of “Forgot Your Password?” shouldn’t be overlooked. Being able to physical turn the pages of a book (albeit at a museum) to check for ‘your’ password is more stimulating than entering a search term on your computer, and there is the additional impression of permanence.

One thing is certain, no one likes to be ignored and that goes double for artists. With ‘’Forgot Your Password?” Mr. Bartholl has earned all the attention he can get.

But is it art?