A Berlin-based conceptual artist, Aram Bartholl, has published a website to assist the craft-inclined and surveillance-averse in the making of their own Faraday cage pouch for their cellular telephones. The site’s launch followed a live, participatory event Bartholl staged at Hamburg’s Chaos Communication Congress in late December 2013. Such pouches have long been prized for their ability to restrict the transmission of electromagnetic waves, limiting both active-transmission devices, like cell phones, and inhibiting passive connections to RFID units embedded in devices or documents like passports. The material Bartholl instructs his participants to use is “a copper or silver coated cloth or fleece especially developed for electromagnetic protection.”
But with Faraday pouches a long-standing fixture of the pre-Snowden paranoia circuit — and widely available for a few dollars online — why launch this project now? Bartholl explains that he has held similar events in 2003 and 2004, but back then the interest was significantly attenuated.
“10 years ago not too many people were interested in such devices … Today all these topics are much broader,” the artist said in an interview with Hyperallergic. He added that there is a unique social value to holding such events as participatory occasions, which he has done most recently in Hamburg. “As the sewing machine is worked, conversations run,” he said. “The social situation is very strong, but with the website I encourage people to run their own workshops, so it’s not just about me.”
Bartholl’s project joins a number of other digitally-minded artworks concerned with surveillance in recent months, including the artist Zach Blas’ anti-facial-recognition Facial Weaponization Suite, recently on view at Eyebeam, and the anti-surveillance merchandise available at the New Museum.