Art Commission

Vending Private Network by The Critical Engineering Working Group

We are delighted to announce the selection of Vending Private Network by The Critical Engineering Working Group, for the State Machines new art commission.


Touring to 4 International Galleries

The first public presentation of the commissioned project will be at the Furtherfield Gallery in London, Sept – Oct 2018 as part of Transnationalisms, an exhibition curated by James Bridle.

Then the piece will be shown at the Stateless group exhibition in the NeMe Arts Centre, Limassol, Nov – Dec 2018.

Vending Private Network will then be presented in Aksioma Project Space (Ljubljana) and Filodrammatica gallery (Rijeka) in early 2019 as a solo exhibition by The Critical Engineering Working Group.


Vending Private Network

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have come into increasing demand in recent years, providing route encryption through hostile networks.In China, Vietnam, Turkey and Pakistan they also serve to mitigate government censorship, so that foreign sites otherwise blocked by state firewalls are made available to VPN users (Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, activist sites and digital libraries being the most common).

Vending Private Network takes the form of a condom vending machine, such as those typically seen in toilets. Equipped with mechanical buttons, a coin-slot and USB ports, it offers 4 VPN routes, each adorned with an animated graphic depicting a fantasy destination.

Audiences are invited to insert a USB stick into the slot, and a coin into the machine, then to select a VPN destination by pressing a mechanical button, a unique VPN configuration file is then written onto their USB stick. Special instructions (in the form of a README.txt) will also be copied to the USB stick. They will explain how to use the VPN in a special ‘sheathed’ mode that evades detection methods (namely Deep Packet Inspection, or DPI) used by corporations and state-controlled infrastructure administrators. This is the only means known to work against state controlled firewalls, for instance and requires an extra install of freely available, open source software.

Vending Private Network‘s ulterior motive then comes into play; leveraging economic and cultural privilege to benefit those not included.With each VPN config generated, another is covertly shipped to contacts in Turkey, China, Vietnam and Iran (and other countries to be confirmed).

The coins inserted into the vending machine fund the VPN running costs; the running tally is displayed on a small screen on the vending machine. Should a particular VPN not have enough money deposited to pay for monthly running costs, the VPN server is shutdown, with a white on black notice on the display that it no longer functions due to insufficient public funding. Should money sufficient to cover costs be donated (1 month’s running costs, or approximately EUR7,00 a month), the dormant server will boot back to life and public service continues.


About the Open Call

The State Machines Open Call received over 100 submissions from around the world. Artists were invited to consider how might the digital subjects of today become active, engaged, and effective digital citizens of tomorrow? To reflect on increasing governmental and corporate surveillance; and the contradictions between the technical cultures of globalisation, that nevertheless does little to slow the construction of physical borders.


About The Artists

In October 2011 Julian Oliver, Gordan Savičić, and Danja Vasiliev formed The Critical Engineering Working Group and co-authored The Critical Engineering Manifesto

Julian Oliver

Julian Oliver is a New Zealander, Critical Engineer and artist based in Berlin. His work and lectures have been presented at many museums, galleries, international electronic-art events and conferences, including the Tate Modern, Transmediale, the Chaos Computer Congress, Ars Electronica, FILE and the Japan Media Arts Festival. Oliver has received several awards, most notably the distinguished Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica 2011 for the project Newstweek (with Daniil Vasiliev). He is the co-author of the Critical Engineering Manifesto and co-founder of Crypto Party in Berlin. He is also the co-founder of BLACKLIST, a screening and panel series focused on the primary existential threats of our time.

Oliver has also given numerous workshops and masterclasses in software art, data forensics, creative hacking, computer networking, counter-surveillance, object-oriented programming for artists, augmented reality, virtual architecture, video-game development, information visualisation and UNIX/Linux worldwide. He is an advocate of Free and Open Source Software and is a supporter of, and contributor to, initiatives that reinforce rights of privacy and anonymity in networked and other technologically-mediated domains.

Danja Vasiliev

Danja Vasiliev is a Critical Engineer born in Saint-Petersburg, currently living and working in Berlin. Vasiliev studies systems and networks through anti-disciplinary experimentation with hardware, firmware and software. Using computational platforms he engages in examination and exploitation of system and network paradigms in both physical and digital realms. Based on these findings, Vasiliev creates and exhibits works of Critical Engineering.

Since 1999 Vasiliev has been involved in computer technology events, media-art exhibitions and seminars around the world. He has received a number of awards and mentions at Ars Electronica, Japan Media Art Festival, and Transmediale, among others. Vasiliev gives public workshops and talks, as well as regularly teaching courses on topics of network insecurity, software/OS modification, hardware re-engineering, digital forensics and other technology related subjects.

September 2018 - Early 2019
Furtherfield Gallery, NeMe Arts Centre, Aksioma Project Space, Filodrammatica


Julian Oliver
Danja Vasiliev

Project coordinator:

State Machines