Not Available In Your Country
Not Available In Your Country provides participants with a personal and immediate experience with online censorship in an everyday setting. It functions as a digital medium that is expressively non-transparent, and which emphasizes how media are always showing only part of the picture. It works by provocation: Participants use an interactive system that is successively shutting itself down. This paradoxical situation creates tensions that lead to critical reflection and exchange between people.
The participatory installation consists of networked computers that allow users to surf the web for content of their choosing. Subsequently the viewing of a selected web site on one of the computers will result in that particular domain being automatically blocked or banned on the other computers, and later, on this computer, too. The censoring challenges the user to challenge the system itself and to test which web sites can be accessed. Popular sites will be accessed and in turn censored, leading web site searches down an obscure path in an effort to beat the censoring system. And it is entierly possible, although unintended, that users succeed in beating the system, for instance, circumvent the proxy server or modify the router settings.
The work is realized as a generic mock-up commercial Internet cafe. It is a run-down place and furnished with a number of desktop computers of different brands, cheap plywood tables, broken chairs, bad lighting, old magazins, lots of power cables and extension cords, and some fans. At a sales counter dubious snacks such as instant soup, chocolate bars, lollies and chewing gum are on display. There is also a cookies box with some plastic chips in it (with a handwritten sign Please place chips in box for paying. Thank you!). Since the counter is permanently unattended, access is in effect free, although the special plastic access chips are given out at the exhibition entrance. The chips are visibly used and give different names of the place as ownership and names apparently change fast. There are numerous signs in the Internet cafe that are printed or hand-written or a mix of both. There are no ads for online gaming, no online games are installed on the computers, and no headphones are available: The game is the system itself.
The installation invites exploration by the participants who increasingly become aware of the situation and inevitably communicate with each other, for instance, by talking or leaving notes, in an attempt to fight the system from within. The system that is put in practice is a seriously defunct system that shuts itself down successively, and stops working eventually, long after it has become functionless to its users. The message for a banned site reads This site is not available in your country.
ISEA 2014, Dubai, UAE, Oct 30-Nov 8, 2014
Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath, Clinton Watkins. Not Available in Your Country. Installation. 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) 2014, Dubai, UAE, Oct 30-Nov 8, 2014.