Last Sunday, we decided to go to the very first Dead Drop in Paris. For those unfamiliar with the Dead Drop, it’s a USB cemented into a wall in a public place where you can go and share files with other equally adventurous individuals. Dead Drops is an attempt to destabilize our knowledge of public space and redefine the distribution of information–an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network accessible to all. For us architects, it’s blurring the line between digital and physical–and all for the better. What’s more, anybody can install one and add it to the growing collection (141 worldwide). The first five were installed in New York City in 2010 by German artist Aram Bartholl.
This one was cleverly camouflaged into one of the drainage holes:
The first Dead Drop in Paris was installed in the Jardin du Carrousel at the start of the Tuileries Gardens just outside the Louvre. The listing on the Dead Drops website warned “gay cruising zone by night” but let me tell you, it was a gay cruising zone by day too. We found the collection of used condoms and torn wrappers (which I affectionately named “Condon Corner” before we found the Dead Drop. But the moment we found it was glorious. It was filled with music, ranging from Beethoven to electro to hip hop, a PDF on how to become a hacker, notes from other excited Dead Droppers, and art. We transfered everything to the Mac, left a love note from Untapped and went to the nearby outdoor Paul café stand to peruse the files in detail.
While doing so, we realized we didn’t sign the txt.file “guest registry” and went back to upload it. Unforunately, someone had peed on the Dead Drop wall so we had to skip this last step! As we left, the cruisers were still out wandering and checking out the scene. It’s amazing that this is taking place in such a public space in broad daylight. In truth, it is the least populated area of the gardens and with the furtive looks everyone was giving each other (and us), it really felt like we were in an old spy film, ready to deliver a sensitive document to a handler. In reality, we were just delivering a a new document to…the Dead Drop.
One of the cruisers, continuing to check out our antics:
Untapped also interviewed the founder of the Dead Drops project, Aram Bartholl. For another fun project that blurs the line between digital and physical, check out the Jeu de Paume’s geolocation project tracking Mr. Potato.