AUTONOMY CUBE: Trevor Paglen and Jacob Applebaum at Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art, Oldenburg

Trevor Paglen and Jacob Applebaum, Autonomy Cube, 2015


Autonomy Cube is a project by Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum at Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art. The Autonomy Cube is a sculpture designed to be housed in art museums, galleries, and civic spaces. The sculpture is meant to be both “seen” and “used.” This happens in different ways. Several Internet-connected computers housed within the work create an open Wi-Fi hotspot called Autonomy Cube wherever it is installed. Anyone can join this network and use it to browse the Internet. But the Cube does not provide a normal Internet connection. The sculpture routes all of the Wi-Fi traffic over the Tor network.  “Tor” stands for “The Onion Router,” the encryption is like an onion with many layers. This means that a global network of thousands of volunteers made available servers, relays and services, enabling the anonymization of user data.

Free internet access
The sculpture Autonomy Cube thematisizes the future of the Internet and the complex ways in which art can join into this discourse. At the exhibition in the Edith-Russ-Haus the sole artwork on display is the Cube providing free Internet access as a service, while also creating a truly inviting public space, an Agora; an open gathering place for anyone to activate the sculpture by using it. For the duration of the exhibition, entrance to the Edith-Russ-Haus is free of charge in order to guarantee the accessibility of the Cube.

Surveillance technology permeates everyday life
In developing an entire exhibition around a single artwork, the Edith-Russ-Haus seeks to make a statement on the proliferation of surveillance technology upon our daily lives, and the disconcerting obliviousness of public knowledge on this issue. An issue that risks transforming open societies into control states. In light of the rapidly expanding techno-sphere and after journalistic revelations exposed massive surveillance operations by powerful states without civic consent or democratic procedures, the Autonomy Cube project revives the utopian ideas from the initial years of the Internet. In so doing, the project aims to generate necessary public debate concerning the freedom of communication and individual privacy rights (including our dignity) in an era in where we increasingly “live” online, under constant threat of espionage.

In the exhibition halls of the basement, Paglen and Appelbaum have developed additional presentations in collaboration with the curators of the Edith-Russ-Haus, addressing questions of the Tor network, as well as surveillance and privacy so as to create a space that engages with the social and political contextualization having influenced the inception of the Cube. Adjacent to a public library and reading room, video screenings of talks and debates elaborate on the complex issues involved in techno-surveillance, and a visualization of the constant data flow to and from the server-sculpture will be on display to complement the Autonomy Cube as an ongoing systems-analysis.

A book, entitled Autonomy Cube will be published by Revolver Publishing Berlin, with commissioned essays by the art historian Dr. Luke Skrebowski and the architect and theoretician Prof. Keller Easterling.

Artist preview talk with Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum 21 October at 7pm. For more details, click here

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art –  Katharinenstraße 23 D-26121 Oldenburg, Germany
Opening 22 October at 7pm
October 22, 2015–January 3, 2016