Fakugesi Residency (2015)

My interest for the residency was in the informal networks intrinsic to Braamfontein (and other cities) which are often neglected in discussions of the “Future”. The future is often conceived of through a technological lens that overlooks the present relationships that define a space in favour of more structured networks with the belief that these more organised and technological structures are better by their very nature.

Looking at the existing technological networks in the space, it became apparent that the most formal of these networks, the wifi hotspots spread throughout the city, were inaccessible to the majority of those that encounter them. Unable to access these networks presented to us on our devices, they become nothing more that ornaments.

Below is a map of all the wifi networks I could scan whilst I drove through the area on a Sunday afternoon. All of which where closed off from the public yet visible and in a sense still part of the public space.

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Throughout the residency I began looking at using the names of these wifi networks themselves as a means of communication and as a material to be manipulated and played with. This was practically explored through a series of wireless modules I got hold of a designed a really simple breakout board for.

The first piece that was produced in this process was the “Our Exquisite Corpse”. This work came from the want to reintroduce a poetic(infromal) dimension into an otherwise very literal technological network and as a way to assert some sense of agency in this public space.

The poetic machine was made from a repurposed photo mount, ADSL Router, several wireless modules and some LED’s. User would log into the wireless network supplied by the router, a network that couldn’t actually connect to the internet,  and access a small webpage hosted on one of the wireless devices. From there could follow the site prompts in a group to follow a common exquisite corpse formula or ‘wing it’.

Once complete, each phrase would be sent to a wireless module which would in turn create its own wireless network using that particular part of the poem as its network name. You could then go and view the entire poem or phrase by scanning the wireless network from any capable device such as a smart phone or tablet.

Extending on this idea of using the wifi networks as a material the second work produced “Informal Networks Message Board” focused on trying to use the networks names themselves as a means to communicate. It operated as a kind of low-fi physical version of the older BBS systems. Using this messaging board as a means of communication was a process whose very futility spoke to the failure of these technologies and their revolutionary promise, when they are still not freely accessible to all.

Again using a mobile device or anything device capable of connecting to a wifi network, users would connect to any of the open wifi networks. Once connected they could leave a message by renaming the current wireless network.

This piece was installed in the gallery in a walk way opposite a window looking through to a sidewalk. This allowed the work to be operated at anytime of the day by those inside and outside of the museum space. In addition to message being left as a wireless network name, light bulbs were suspended from the ceiling and lit up as a message when a message was left. As the message got older the light bulb began to flicker, eventually going completely dark.




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