Wherever you go the network is there with you, you're constantly connected to it through the device you carry around in your pocket that keeps buzzing with notifications every other minute. But, as suprising as it may seem to us now, there was a time before cell phones, a time when all this was fields and you could ride a bus across the country for the price of a lump of coal.
Artist Julian Oliver wants to take you back to those times using a battle tank. Not a real one, that would be daft, instead he's built a 1:25 scale model of a British tank called the Chieftain for his project No Network. Lovingly crafted by Oliver and a friend from hundreds of parts it acts as a jamming device, blocking nearby cell phone communications.
Oliver sees it as an embodiment of how warfare could be waged digitally, with criminals or countries blocking access to the internet of their opponents and crippling economies and infrastructures—not to mention the anxiety it will cause when we're unable to check our social media feeds for five minutes.
With the flick of a switch No Network implements a blanket ban of mobile telephony in its presence. All access to the cellular (mobile) network within a 6-15m diameter aura around the object is jammed, including calls, SMS and data connectivity.
Oliver goes on to says its the second in a series "exploring fully functional, poetic manifestations of ‘cyber warfare’ and ‘cyber weapons’". The first was his Transparency Grenade, which tackled the idea of transparency, or lack of, with regards government communications.
Oliver plans to build a further two tanks which will block GPS signals and WIFI to complete his hacking trilogy, and goes on to make a disclaimer saying "civilian use of mobile jamming telephony is illegal in most countries. The artist intends no use of this work outside the confines of a gallery setting, with audiences fully aware that proximity to it will result in them having no access to the network." Before anyone gets any ideas.
Oliver's previous provocations have included Border Bumping, where he redefined national borders based on cell phone signals and The Artvertiser, which digitally sabotaged advertising billboards and turned them into art.