Access Survival Guides By Lighting a Fire Under a Rock

Access Survival Guides By Lighting a Fire Under a Rock
Arts & Culture

An art installation requires you to light a fire to access PDFs

Laura Yan
  • 10 march 2016

Keepalive is an installation by German artist Aram Bartholl that consists of a Wi-Fi router hidden beneath an inconspicuous boulder in the green fields of Lüneburger Heide, in Hartböhn. The router is not connected to the Internet, but locally hosts a library of PDF survival guides. To access them, users have to light a fire at the foot of the boulder, activating an internal thermoelectric generator, which converts heat to electricity that powers up the library.

Anyone can access the data stored in the installation once they find the exact location of the stone. Users can also add data or text to the device using a smartphone or laptop. The survival guides will help prepare you for “solo survival in the chaotic world of computer programming as much as for solo survival in the wilderness,” according to Jennifer Bork on Bartholl’s website.

The PDFs are hosted on a router inspired by piratebox, and contain a dizzying and bizarre array of guides: from a guide to the end of life to SSL certificates, a steampunk’s guide to sex to the introvert’s guide to small talk at work. The router will stay switched on as long as the fire produces enough heat. All you have to do is light the fire and have a smartphone on hand to read the texts.

Bork continues: “Keepalive examines what ‘survival’ really means and sounds out our true needs. The work resists the centralising forces of the Internet, raises questions about the democracy of knowledge management and ignites an autonomy backlash.”

The title Keepalive itself refers to the empty message one network or device sends to another to ensure that the connection is functioning.

Bartholl’s work often explores the relationship between technology and culture. His previous works includes a figure drawing session in which the artists used laptops to draw using MS Paint, and an exhibit room full of giant wooden cut outs of hands holding out smartphone frames.


+aram bartholl
+art installation

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