Artist Fits Homeless People with GPS Tracking Devices, Sells Them as ‘Real-Life Pokemon’

Danish avante-garde artist Kristian von Hornsleth recently drew criticism for his latest project, which involves turning London homeless people into real-life Pokemon that can be tracked 24/7 via a special app. To make matters worse, every “human Pokemon” can be bought for $32,700.

Von Hornsleth, whose previous artistic endeavours include paying poor African villagers to change their name to Hornsleth in exchange for aid, describes his latest idea as an “ethical boundary-smashing work” that “fuses homelessness, privacy invasion, inequality and reality TV, with present day cultural decadence and interactive conceptual art.”

Photo: Kristian von Hornsleth

“Each homeless person, so far 10 in total, has been fitted with a tracking device, so the buyer, or owner, can follow them 24/7 through an exclusive app, effectively converting the homeless into a real-life Pokémon Go or human Tamagotchi,” the Danish artist told the Evening Standard.

Von Hornsleth paid the 10 homeless men, all of whom are volunteers, to take part in his project. He took photographs of them and then fitted them with a device called the “Hornsleth homeless tracker”, which connects to an app to show the person’s location at all times. However, in order to keep an eye on your very own “human Pokemon”, you’ll have to pay $32,700 for him first. That will also get you a gold-plated portrait of the homeless person, so you know what that dot moving around on the screen of your phone actually looks like.

Photo: Hornsleth Homeless Tracker

“We already have buyers. Some are activists, some are business guys who get the ironic interplay,” von Hornsleth told VICE Creators. “One of them is so at ease with it, that he jokingly refers to his guy as his tramp-agotchi. And his homeless guy is completely okay with it. The homeless are so in tune with the project that I have to hold them back from making the project even darker. In one meeting, the homeless guys asked to actually change the name of the project to tramp tracker. They seem to get the mirroring of the crazy absurd world we live in. The clever guys are not questioning it, they just get it.”

This is the artist’s way of raising awareness to homelessness in big cities, but some people are worried that the issue itself could be buried beneath avant garde sensationalism.

Photo: Hornsleth Homeless Tracker

Over the next few weeks, von Hornsleth will release a series of videos documenting the lives of the homeless people involved in the project. “It is a spin on reality TV and will show they are more interesting than the Kardashians,” the artist said. Homeless owners will be able to track them for a whole year.

Asked to comment on claims of exploitation involving his project, von Hornsleth said “Of course, it is exploitation. That’s the way the world works. I exploit them and they equally exploit me. There is another word for it, it’s called business.”