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Blast Theory, lead by artists Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanit use interactive media to combine performance art, digital broadcasting, surveillance, and the study of human behavior. Their purpose is to challenge how popular culture has us think, and how we react to the technological world in which we live.

Blast Theory ran an experiment in 1998 that started with a contest advertising the opportunity to be (safely) kidnapped for 48 hours. Ten finalists were chosen at random from England and Wales and put under surveillance, and two “winners” were ultimately kidnapped. The two winners were Deborah Burgess, 27, and Russell Ward, 19. Kept inside a ‘safe house’, the two were taped and broadcast online the entire time on a website called “Kidnap HQ”. At this website users could interact and communicate with the victims.

This piece raised a lot of phsycological questions and responses, not just from the kidnappers, but from those interested. They receieved a lot of odd inquiries, many interested in a sort of kidnap fetish. However Blast Theory retains that they had no intention of making light of kidnapping, instead focusing on the serious issues and psychology of a kidnapped victim. Adams said, “The main aspect of it that fascinates me is the idea of
the symbiotic relationship between the kidnapper and the victim [one
manifestation of which is the Stockholm Syndrome, where the captives
start to empathise with the captors]. We’re aware that a kidnap is a
deeply traumatic experience, but it does gives you time to reassess your
life, and it can fundamentally alter your sense of self. Everyone comes
out of a kidnap changed.” (1)

This challenged English laws, that stated one can not consent to a crime that is perpetrated against them. Is one’s body not their own to do with what they wish? This issue is still a relevant question today, making the piece somewhat timeless in nature.

The work was nominated for an International Media Art Award, ZKM Centre for Arts and Media, Karlsruhe, in Germany in 2001and a Creative Freedom Award in the UK in 1999.



Kidnap HQ (video feed HQ):