2022 | Expanded Cinema Installation  | Hi8 | Loop


in collaboration with Nestor Siré and Erick Mota


MEMORIA is an immersive four-channel expanded cinema installation with specifically developed software and hardware components. It combines ethnographic research, science fiction, and “recombinatory” forms of cinema based on pirated footage.


The work superimposes two narrative layers: the dystopian vision of William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic (1981), one of the earliest cyberpunk short stories, and the ethnographic reality of Cuba’s “offline internet”, the physical data distribution network El Paquete Semanal. MEMORIA appropriates Gibson’s fictional story of a data courier who has crucial information locked in his head and projects it onto the Cuban media reality with its informal networks and human infrastructures of data exchange and distribution.


Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic is a data trafficker who has undergone cybernetic surgery to have a data storage system implanted in his brain. The system allows him to serve as secure storage for digital data too sensitive to transfer across the net and he makes a modest living by physically transporting delicate information for corporations, underworld crime rings or wealthy individuals. As the story opens, Johnny learns that the latest data package that was uploaded to his brain was stolen from the Yakuza who now is after him. With the help of Jones, a heroin-addicted, cybernetically enhanced dolphin who retired from Navy service he tries to get the data out of his head.


Shot in 2021, the year in which the plot of Johnny Mnemonic takes place and during a pandemic as described by Gibson in his screenplay for the Hollywood version of his story, MEMORIA explores how Cyberpunk’s s predictions shape our contemporary reality. The work contrasts the imaginary of the Internet in 1980s Cyberpunk literature with the contemporary Cuban experience of the Internet as a particular conglomerate of differing horizons of technical and social possibility. Hence, it examines both sci-fi, as well as real-world alternatives to the mainstream capitalist consumerist version of the net that we are left with today, envisioning more decentralized, (net-)neutral, non-commercial iterations of the web.


It does so in the form of a “documentary remake” in which actors, performers, and actual Paqueteros embody Gibson’s fictitious characters and in which Havana stands in for the “Sprawl”, the urban dystopia Gibson describes as a ruin of the future where technological and scientific advances, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics go hand in hand with the breakdown of the social order. The Cyberpunk genre has had a very peculiar presence in the Cuban context since the dystopian and alienated societies the genre presented were uniquely similar to how Cuban Sci-Fi writers experienced their own social reality. In the 1990s and early 2000s, after the fall of the socialist camp, Cyberpunk emerged as a literary genre in Cuba during a period of economic crisis, the so-called Special Period.


As a collaboration between a media artist, an anthropologist, and a Sci-Fi writer, MEMORIA is based on longterm ethnographic fieldwork on Cuban alternative data distribution networks. With online access heavily restricted by the government, but also the US trade embargo, Cuba still has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. Yet its citizens have found a way to distribute all kinds of web content in the form of the Paquete Semanal (The Weekly Package), a one-terabyte collection of digital material compiled by a network of people with various forms of privileged internet access. It is circulated nationwide on USB sticks and external hard drives via an elaborate human infrastructure of deliverymen, so-called Paqueteros, who, like Johnny Mnemonic, the main character in Gibson’s story, physically bring the content to the remotest corners of the island and deliver right to their client’s homes. It forms a sort of offline version of the internet and contains data such as the latest episodes of popular Netflix series, funny YouTube videos, pop music albums, downloaded websites, celebrity social media content, anti-virus, and software. Gibson’s work arrived 20 years late on the island via informal media distribution networks through which foreign entertainment materials like novels that were left behind by Western travelers or sent into the country by relatives from abroad were circulated. These networks were the precursors of what later would become the Paquete Semanal.


MEMORIA’s narrative is presented on 4 synchronized screens that merge live-action footage with found footage from videos that have circulated in Cuba through the Paquete. These materials are taken from Nestor Siré’s ARCA [archive], an artwork consisting of a 64 TB server that contains 52 weeks of the Paquete Semanal. It is the only large-scale archive of this ephemeral phenomenon.



Dayron Villalon

Chris Gómez Gónzalez




Director of Photography  | Nicole Medvecka 
Costumes |  Raki Fernandez
CGI & VFX  | Alexander Bley
Editor  |  Ginés Olivares, Miguel Coyula
Sound design  | Lorenz Fischer & Malte Audick
Music  |  Johannes Klingebiel