USB Ports on New York City’s Streets: Plug in if You Dare

By Jennifer Welsh | November 2, 2010 11:05 am

[zenphotopress album=209 sort=sort_order number=5]

Would you connect your laptop to a random USB port installed on a wall on a city street? I don’t think I would, but Aram Bartholl, a German artist and architect currently residing in New York City, is betting that some people will be brave enough.

Bartholl explains the purpose of his new art installation on his website:

‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. I am ‘injecting’ USB flash drives into walls, buildings and curbs accessible to anybody in public space. You are invited to go to these places (so far 5 in NYC) to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data.

The USB sticks are supposed to act like a spy’s “dead drop,” a spot where two agents transfer information without ever actually meeting. Bartholl is hopeful that people will share something important to them, possibly pictures, art, or words.

Currently the installation is only a five-stick preview, but Bartholl is planning to expand the operation to more sticks and more cities. Check Bartholl’s blog for coming information including “full documentation, movie, map, and ‘How to make your own dead drop’ manual coming soon!”

This isn’t the first of Bartholl’s installations to probe the intersection of our physical and digital lives. His website explains his take on the intersection of art and digital media:

In his art work Aram Bartholl thematizes the relationships between net data space and public every day life. “In which form does the network data world manifest itself in our everyday life? What returns from cyberspace into physical space? How do digital innovations influence our everyday actions?” Through his installations, workshops and performances Bartholl developed a unique way to discuss the impact of the digital era on society.

But in this day of ubiquitous malware, could curiosity kill your computer? It just might if you decide to take a peek at these USB drives and see what’s there. Make sure you use protection! Hit the map below for the locations of the five current sticks and visit Bartholl’s Flickr account for more pictures detailing the installations.


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Images: Flickr/agoasi

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