PUBLiC UNiVERSAL FRiENDZ is a digital community space founded by DERK, a mysterious entity.Upon entering, you are invited to join DERK’s community, guided through a path that lets you shape your environment within the community. What is inside will reveal itself to you once the process is completed. How long this communal space will be open to join will then be decided by the community.
The structure is designed as a platform-independent space and artistic infrastructure, inspired by Insa’s various research strands. It opens itself to a participative group-dynamic, aiming to connect the user to the building material of the web: code.
The design and concept mesh values and structures of CSS code with terminology from nail culture and technologies, creating a hybrid of the two tech worlds.
Decisions on self-portrayal are explored through a wizard-like interface, embedded in an enigmatic storytelling.PUBLiC UNiVERSAL FRiENDZ also questions and queers binary-gendered online forms – by computing and assigning neo-pronouns in the process, which then can be changed by the user.
It conciously reproduces and confronts the user with the gender assignment process, but then offers a perspective with the personal choice to self-determinate and reclaim.
The semi-permeable community further plays with the tension between public vs. private – with certain parts revealing itself to the outside (trust), while others stay hidden within the community (curiosity).
The name PUBLiC UNiVERSAL FRiENDZ is based on the true story of The Public Universal Friend, an:r American preacher:in who:was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island, in 1752. The:the preacher:in reported having "died and been resurrected as a sexless evangelist named 'the Public Universal Friend'" after a life-changing event. Because P.U.F. did not identify as either a man or a woman, he:in asked not to be addressed by gender-specific pronouns and names. The supporters:respected this request and spoke only of the "Public Universal Friend" or used short forms such as "Friend" or "P.U.F.".
Based on Insa Wagner's own experience as a non-binary trans person, the story served as inspiration for the naming of the platform: As soon as users join the community, they become the PUBLiC UNiVERSAL FRiEND for all the other users who belong to the community.