Copy this drive, real hard disk sharing

Copy this Drive

Is baring a hard disk by making its content public still considered an act of provocation? In 2000, starting with the sarcastic idea that “privacy is stupid”, the 0100101110101101.ORG group launched the project “Life Sharing”, a real-time file sharing system in which the group transmitted online all their daily computer activities. In 2011, almost a decade later, artist Nick Briz has made all the content of his hard disk available to the public in the work “Copy this Drive”. The installation consists of a transparent monitor, supported by a (transparent) column that contains the artist’s hard drive. Anyone is welcome to connect via a USB cable and copy any relevant file or make a clone of the whole drive. Compared to 0100101110101101.ORG’s work, Briz’s installation is more agile, because of the simplicity of the gesture needed to access the data and the blatant aesthetic of transparency. Due to this transparency the physical presence of the hard disk as an object in itself becomes more preeminent: this presence underlines the fact that although small, it contains a large amount of precious data. Such aesthetic choices are not new, however. For example in 2004, the net artist Brian Mackern, auctioned his computer containing the source code of all his works and everything he had collected over several years, leaving all the content inaccessible until its eventual sale. In 2011, the artist Manuel Palou exposed a hard drive in a more traditional way, enclosed in a glass case, to ironically emphasize its value: the artist in fact said that it contained proprietary software illegally downloaded of an alleged value of $5,000,000 (but without providing any proof of this). In the case of “Copy this Drive” the intent to share is more clear and immediate: we are not faced with a stream of remotely-accessed data, nor with an object with an unverifiable economic value. Following the explicit invitation of the work’s title we can really look around, peek and click the contents of the hard drive that we want to copy and take home. Copy this Drive stands thus in stark contrast with the historical function of the artist as a privileged reader of a hidden reality that he chooses to reveal in a more or less accessible way. In this case the value is in the extreme accessibility of the data: the artist is totally undressed in front of his audience. He makes the public an active participant in all the resources that are available (including the personal ones) as a starting point (and not an end) for all the countless developments that may arise from those files.

Chiara Ciociola