Poetics of Encryption
17 February – 26 May 2024

<p>Trevor Paglen, <i class="">Because Physcial Wounds Heal…</i>, 2023. Copyright Trevor Paglen, Courtesy of the Artist, Altman Siegel, San Francisco and Pace Gallery</p>

Trevor Paglen, Because Physcial Wounds Heal…, 2023. Copyright Trevor Paglen, Courtesy of the Artist, Altman Siegel, San Francisco and Pace Gallery


Though we rely on digital tools for many things, we rarely understand how they work. Moreover, due to the proprietary nature of much corporate tech, even the most curious among us cannot gain deeper insight. Today, we are forced to come to terms with our relative lack of power in the face of inscrutable systems. What symptoms of this personal and political drama register in the cultural field? What moods, symbols, or narrative frames capture the aesthetics and politics of exclusion, occlusion, secrecy, and speculation concerning technology’s inside? This extensive group exhibition at KW builds upon the recent book by Nadim Samman titled Poetics of Encryption: Art and the Technocene. It surveys an imaginative landscape marked by Black Sites, Black Boxes, and Black Holes—terms that indicate how technical systems capture users, how they work in stealth, and how they distort cultural space-time. These themes form the basis three chapters that play out across all gallery floors at KW. Spanning analogue and digital media, Poetics of Encryption features both historic and newly commissioned works by more than 40 international artists.


Featuring artists: Nora Al-Badri, Morehshin Allahyari*, American Artist*, Emmanuel Van der Auwera, Gillian Brett, Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion, Juliana Cerqueira Leite, Julian Charrière, Joshua Citarella, Clusterduck, Juan Covelli, Kate Crawford, Sterling Crispin, Simon Denny, enorê, Roger Hiorns, Tilman Hornig, Rindon Johnson, Vladan Joler, Daniel Keller, Andrea Khôra, Jonna Kina, Oliver Laric, Eva & Franco Mattes, Jürgen Mayer H., Most Dismal Swamp, NEW MODELS, Carsten Nicolai, Simone C Niquille, Trevor Paglen, Matthias Planitzer, Jon Rafman, Rachel Rossin, Sebastian Schmieg, Charles Stankievech, Troika, UBERMORGEN, Nico Vascellari, Zheng Mahler, among others. The exhibition architecture has been made in collaboration with architect Jürgen Mayer H. / J. MAYER H. and partners, architects. A dedicated website-as-catalogue also features three ‘web-first’ artistic commissions, rich media, and a bespoke AI chatbot. See poeticsofencryption.kw-berlin.de


Curator: Nadim Samman

Assistant Curator: Linda Franken

Curatorial Assistant: Lara Scherrieble



*The artists, whose names are crossed-out, have chosen to strike against German State-funded institutions and therefore withdraw their participation from the exhibition. 




<p>The <em>KW Digital Program</em> in 2023–2024 is supported by Volkswagen Group.</p>


The KW Digital Program in 2023–2024 is supported by Volkswagen Group.


The exhibition Poetics of Encryption is supported by Apalazzo, Blessed Foundation, max goelitz, Harlan Levey Projects, and Sprüth Magers. The exhibition is initiated by KW and a new iteration will be shown at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen in late 2024.


<p>Media partners to the exhibition</p>
<p> </p>


Media partners to the exhibition




Curatorial Text


Biographies of the artists


Plain language/
Discovery questions


Public Program


Exhibition opening
16 February 24, 7 pm


KW x Flipping the Coin
16 February 24, midnight


Calculating Empires:
A Genealogy of Technology and Power, 1500–2025

with Kate Crawford and Nadim Samman
18 February 24, 4 pm


Reading Performance:
Secret Words and Related Stories
with Jonna Kina, Shade Théret und Monilola Olayemi Ilupeju
6 March 24, 7 pm


Performance Lecture:
Surveillance as Material
with Rindon Johnson
20 March 24, 7 pm


Poetics of Encryption x panke.gallery
Conversation and Live Set
11 April 24, 8 pm


Book Launch:
The Desert Turned to Glass
27 April 24


Early Labyrinth
27 April 24, 8 pm


Inhabiting SHEE
with Juliana Cerqueira Leite and Dr. Barbara Imhof
26 May 24, 4 pm




Guided tour for teachers
29 February 24, 4.30 pm


Open studio for children and adults:
Encryption or abstraction after all?
3 March 24, 1–5 pm


Curator's Tour
with Nadim Samman
14 March 24, 7 pm


Workshop Special:
Decoding Embodiment: Somatic Exercises in the exhibition
22 March 24, 7 pm


Holiday Workshop:
From reality to unreality and back again
25–28 March 24


Curator's Tour
with Linda Franken
25 April 24, 7 pm


Public guided tour with German Sign Language
5 May 24, 2 pm


Focus Tour
9 May 2024, 6 pm


Curator's Tour
with Lara Scherrieble
16 May 24, 7 pm


Part of


KW Digital


KW Digital:
Poetics of Encryption