Dutch hackers had a much sexier idea for this art installation

Public indecency at its finest.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Published Sep 3, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 7:29 am CDT

There’s a lot to be skeptical of in the reports of a public sidewalk art installation in the Netherlands, originally designed to emit bird sounds, being  hacked, its audio component replaced by unmistakable human sex noises. In the first place, does any city really need to pay an artist $150,000 for recordings of bird chirps? Pretty sure the actual birds around there have that covered.

Secondly, we don’t speak Dutch, so we can’t be sure of what’s being said in this news report, or whether the sex sounds were edited into the clip, though the baffled expressions on passing bikers’ faces—to say nothing of the downright appalled faces of parents with small children in tow—add to the technically difficulty. 

According to a later comment on Reddit, which initially brought the story to light here in the U.S., the apparent prank has at least one fan who understands its linguistic origins:

There is one guy in the interview who is finds this very funny. He remarks that the original word for bird in dutch is ‘vogel’ which can also be made into a verb; ‘vogelen’. This is slang for ‘having sex’. The nuance of this joke is that “vogelen” is an incorrect way of describing the plural of birds. The actual plural of birds is “vogels”. So the (intended?) pun would be that we are listening to birds (vogels), but by implying the in correct plural (vogelen), we are listening to people having sex. … He also adds in the beginning that he thinks its great that the people now are able to intervene in this artwork, making it another sort of art.

Strangest of all is the assertion that local authorities in the the town of Enschede, where the metal cylinders were installed by American artist Bill Fontana as part of a larger local project titled Cultuurmijl, cannot just turn the devices off altogether. Perhaps that’s because they first showed up four years ago and some administrator has forgotten their password in the interim? Hate it when that happens!

Photo via peter Geerts/YouTube

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*First Published: Sep 3, 2013, 6:00 pm CDT