Fragile Connections

2022 | Interactive installation consisting of three synchronized videos (16:49 min.), an offline web server, and DIY WI-FI antennas

In collaboration with Nestor Siré

Commissioned by the 2022 Warsaw Biennial

  

Fragile Connections is an installation co-created with members of the SNET community in Havana. SNET, or Street Network, is a sprawling grassroots computer network that interconnects tens of thousands of users in the Cuban capital. It emerged organically as a response to the challenges of internet access limitations within the country. This unique network has grown from hundreds of localized neighborhood LANs (local area networks) coming together and is recognized as the world’s most extensive community network that operates entirely independently of the global internet. SNET serves as a platform for a multitude of activities, allowing users to engage in multiplayer video gaming, messaging, forum discussions, file sharing, and even web hosting. Its existence relies on the dedicated efforts of thousands of participants who collectively create, manage, and maintain its hardware and software infrastructure. As a result, SNET not only compensates for the restrictions of regular internet access but has also given rise to new social connections and community dynamics.

Fragile Connections faithfully replicates the technological setup of an SNET node, effectively emulating a fully operational LAN. Audiences can connect to the simulated network using their smartphones, granting them access to explore various aspects of SNET. Through a QR code, they can access a curated collection of modified video games and multimedia content hosted within the network.
 
The design of the installation is inspired by the antenna towers erected by SNET administrators on building rooftops to ensure uninterrupted Wi-Fi signal transmission. It mirrors this tower structure, complete with several discarded antennas, including homemade ones contributed by administrators, affixed to the top. The central segment of the tower prominently features three screens, displaying a focus group interview conducted with three SNET administrators that delves into their personal experiences within the network. The conversation took place and was recorded within the voice channel of one of SNET’s TeamSpeak servers while the interlocutors were playing friendly competitions within SNET’s most popular games. Other elements of the work include an infographic showing the power dynamics and hierarchies of SNET and a set of stickers with icons and symbols used by SNET members to express their digital identity, allowing visitors to adopt an SNET persona themselves.

EXHIBITIONS

Off Stage, re:publica Berlin, Germany

Osmo/za Art Center, Ljubliana, Slovenia

Seeing Stones and Places Beyond the Valley. Warsaw Biennial, Poland

other Work