!mediengruppe bitnik is an artist collective from Zurich, Switzerland. Carmen Weisskopf & Domagoj Smoljo came to Brussels to talk about their project Delivery for Mr. Assange. They take hacking into their main artistic practice, allowing them to go deeper into a system than a “normal” user would. “Hacking is finding clever solutions to an interesting problem.” The project was developed during a residency in Constant Variable out of their interest in ways to intervene into processes in radical realtime.
Read the live notes at: <http://vj14.constantvzw.org/r/notes::thursday>
Bitnik looked into the situation Julian Assange was in at the time. He was in London, staying at the Equadorian embassy, where he fled to in June 2012. After the embassy announced in a press conference where they stated Assange would be accepted as a refugee in Equador, the British government sent police to surround the building.
“How could we connect to Assange?” Bitnik wondered, “What tools do we have?” Bitnik visited the surroundings of the embassy many times and found this huge contrast between the tourists flocking around giant warehouses and the Embassy surrounded by police. They decided to send Assange a package and to track it. They put a camera in the package that took pictures every couple of seconds, and uploaded it to their server. They selected images from the stream and commented on them via Twitter and their site. The project ran for two days. On the 16th of January the package was posted in East London from a post office.
Dirk gets extra chairs! Full house
People still eating rice and dessert
Battery runs for 2 days
Jan 16 post in east London
It passed its first “barrier”, it was accepted by the postoffice employee and placed in a red post bag. Darkness. The GPS data showed the package moving, suddenly they had light again and images of another package handling facility came through. Unmanned photography created really interesting images, they spread very fast on the internet. After 2 or 3 hours they had 10.000 people visiting their site, crashing their server. People started sending messages about where they thought the package was, they started mirroring the server to spread the load. After a while they realized the package had moved out of the city, to a delivery center outside of Heathrow. Another post center. Back to black. 70% of the images were black.
Our body was an information processing machine
BBC on the phone, radio, newspapers
See the house!
13h27: people ask each other to go round, have a look in the van
44 Hans crescent
Train goes south, long one
2pm: still nothing happening
Wooden floor and black
3 Hans crescent
Since 2hs in front of embassy
14.49 Wikileaks @ Bitnik, package has arrived, waiting with security
Over 9.000 images
Only 5.000 images are black (someone is analyzing pictures online)
16h: Excited every time an image was not all black
“we would be moved again!” we!
Sofa colonial English, fire extinguisher
An image of an empty van… They started wondering whether they were being taken back to the post office. A view of the street of the embassy… a finger covering the hole… Twitter feed: “is the delivery guy on a lunch break?” Image of a floor, looks like the package is inside… Tweet from Wikileaks: “Package has arrived and parcel is in embassy security”. Still 6 hours of battery life left. Some images of a sofa and battery life getting critical. Then suddenly a view of a room with a sofa and a fire extinguisher. Someone on Twitter said it is the waiting room of the embassy. Stripes. Something fluffy like a cloud. A dog or… ah! A cat. A paper with the message: “Is this thing on?” So yes, the package was in the hands of Assange. ”Hello world!” is the first thing he writes. “Postal art is contagious”, Assange started this live performance with messages written on notes reading things like: “Free Bradley Manning”, “Free Nabeel Rajab”, “Free Anakata”. Anakata responded later with a photo of him holding a note saying “Free Assange”. “Free Rudolf Elmer“, etc. … until Assange was out of cards.
so i start writing something here with this strange green i’m wearing today.
i continue to write
are you in the pad?
- Why Assange?
- His situation shows an international political crisis in the center of a Western city. It shows how absurd it has become, this fight against the people who try to keep the Internet and digital systems open.
- The first person Assange chose to send the parcel to is Chelsea Manning. But at that time Wikileaks had to get Snowden out of Hong Kong and they had to focus their energy on that. So they then chose Nabeel because he’s in prison because of a tweet. For Bitnik it was interesting because they had no knowledge of this territory.
- You spoke of technological layers, interaction layers and political layers… How do you see these three layers interact?
- The parcel connects all these three things. It is a bit strange that your physical mail has better laws protecting it from being opened by the state than your email.
- Why didn’t you put a microphone in the parcel?
- We had to technically produce it really fast. We didn’t know how long Assange would stay at the embassy. The contents of the parcel shouldn’t take too much battery. We had to deal with bandwidth, battery, photos per minute. There were more possibilities but not enough time to realize them.