Artist installs sculptures that are also Tor nodes in the world's galleries

Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum collaborate to create beautiful, acrylic-encased computers that are also Tor nodes, anonymizing data that passes through them, and install the in art galleries all over the world, so that patrons can communicate and browse anonymously, while learning about anonymity and Tor.

The sculptures are called "Autonomy Cubes" and there are four on tour around the world. Three more are coming soon. The cubes run on Bunnie Huang's open source hardware/firmware computers, and a few brave galleries have set up the cubes to run as "exit nodes," which allow the Tor anonymity network to exchange data with the public Internet. (At Boing Boing, we run a high capacity Tor exit node, which sometimes attracts attention from law enforcement).

Paglen is a prolific surveillance-themed artist, whose work we've featured for many years.

The creation of the Autonomy Cube, Paglen says, was inspired in part by a 1962 sculpture called the Condensation Cube, created by the artist Hans Haacke, which consisted of a similarly translucent plexiglass cube containing a small amount of water, which would repeatedly evaporate and condense. ("The box has a constantly but slowly changing appearance that never repeats itself," Haacke wrote in an artist's statement at the time. "It is changing freely, bound only by statistical limits. I like this freedom.")

But beyond its physical design, Paglen says the idea of the Autonomy Cube also came out of his impulse to create what he calls "impossible objects," things that seem to have arrived from another world that contrasts with our own. "What would the infrastructure of the Internet look like if mass surveillance wasn't its business model?" he asks. "My job as an artist is to learn how to see what the world looks like at this historical moment. But it's also to try to make things that help us see how the world could be different."

The Artist Using Museums to Amplify Tor's Anonymity Network [Andy Greenberg/Wired]

(Image: Trevor Paglen & Jacob Appelbaum/Metro Pictures/Altman Siegel)