The Critical Engineering Working Group Julian Oliver
Danja Vasiliev

Men In Grey (2009-2014).
"We are the lightning in an age of cloud computing."

The Men In Grey (2009-2014) was a conspiracy, applied research framework and street intervention series that sought to engender greater techno-political subjectivity among computer users as to the growing risk of mass surveillance on computer networks.

To do this, the Men In Grey deployed intervention strategies within the frame 'DISSECT / REFLECT', asserting that only when networked computer users are made to tangibly witness their vulnerabilities will they reach vital criticality, or a 'healthy paranoia'.

Wireless exploits, content manipulation and total exposure were tools primary to the street interventions. Alongside, the narrative of a secret society of men in grey suits - active for many years in surveillance cells around the world - served as the frame.

The Men In Grey had public appearances throughout Europe, in Tokyo (Japan) and Lima (Peru).

The interventions or 'walks' were often coupled with exhibitions of supposedly captured and quarantined M.I.G. devices presented in collaborative conspiracy with local curators; authors' names suppressed. Some of the M.I.G devices were purely speculative, designed only to render anxiety while others were fully functional and presented as such.

In 2010 Men In Grey won an Award of Distinction at Ars Electronica whereby Oliver and Vasiliev gave a public address as representatives of the 'organisation'. Four years later, for the major exhibition Schwindel Der Wirklichkeit in Berlin, Oliver and Vasiliev finally publicly signed the project for the first time, presenting it as a work under their name.

M.I.G Briefcase
Used in street interventions and in exhibitions of 'quarantined' M.I.G equipment, this device captures, vocalises and manipulates chat sessions, reconstructs and presents images, web pages and other data harvested from open wireless networks. In an exhibition setting, audiences interact with the briefcase by joining local wireless networks with their personal devices. See the video below.


This video by Mikael Brain was made in 2010 and is intended to document the actions and events in a typical Men In Grey intervention.

The front page of the original M.I.G. site, archived here.
Statement (2010)

Network Working Group                                  Officer 002
Request for Comments: 14                               Munich, Germany 
                                                       October 29 1969

    The Manifestation of Network Anxiety

System Primitives:

    We are the direct manifestation of a Citizen's Network Anxiety; our metal and
    flesh yields from a citizen's networked fears, doubts, delusions and the lies of others. 

    We carry the signal and as such are a part of that signal. What passes through
    the air will pass through us. 

    We span the space between the invisible and the corporeal; as Adaptors
    comprised of flesh and metal, we capture and reconstruct that which hides in
    the air.

    We are prisms: a citizen's network fears, doubts, delusions, desires and lies will
    be revealed through us. 

    We are the lightning in an age of Cloud Computing.

        _________             |         _________
       |         |         ___|___     |         |
       | Network |---//---|       |----| Network |---( Wide Area Network )
       | Citizen |        | M.I.G |    | Gateway |
       |_________|        |_______|    |_________|

    Figure 1:  User accesses distant serving HOST through M.I.G bridge subsystem.
    Packet payloads are reconstructed from network streams and reflected into the


16 Dec 2014,