At first glance, this rock, placed strategically in a small clearing in the woods part of an outdoor museum in Germany, seems like an ordinary boulder. But a closer look will reveal that the inconspicuous 1.5-ton boulder is far from ordinary. It’s actually an art installation with a fire-powered WiFi router and USB drive hidden inside !
Created by Berlin artist Aram Bartholl, the rock, named ‘Keepalive’, tries to highlight the contrast between ancient and modern survival techniques. Bartholl revealed that his inspiration to merge the concepts of primitive and modern survival came from the sight of people selling BioLite stoves during Hurricane Sandy. In the absence of electricity, people were actually using the flame-powered stoves to power their devices and stay connected. “It was funny – the power goes out, and people would buy these little stoves and make a fire to charge their phone,” he said.
So he created a rock that runs exclusively on the energy generated by a thermoelectric generator that converts heat into electricity. Visitors at the Springhornhof museum need to return to the basics of survival and make a fire next to the rock in order to use the installation. When a sufficient amount of heat is produced, they can connect to the router using their smartphones.
The network runs on Piratebox, a DIY-software that creates offline wireless networks. Using this network, visitors can access, browse and download files stored on a USB drive, bored into a different section of the rock. The drive contains a range of interesting, bizarre PDF survival guides for the modern world, including a Do it yourself Divorce Guide’, a ‘Drone Survival Guide’, a ‘Single Woman’s Sassy Survival Guide’, and ‘A Steampunk Guide to Sex’.
Some of these weird uploads might have been the work of mischievous visitors, but Bartholl doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s all about public data-sharing, having created Dead Drops, the world’s most epic file sharing network consisting of USB flash drives embedded into walls all over the world. But Keepalive, named after the technical term for a message sent between devices to check connectivity, is meant to be more obscure.
“It’s not about easy access,” Bartholl said, speaking to Hyperallergic. “It has a whole dystopian idea to it, like, will we need something like this in the future? Or somebody finding this in a hundred years – is it still working and they figure something out and they make a fire, or is there going to be a moment where we’re going to need to make fire again to get access to the data?”