Kenneth Dow

The Great Wall Of China

Great Wall of Fire Digital sculpture, performance Barcelona, 2018

The Great Wall of Fire is a router software that selectively blocks Western media channels and propagates blocking events as OSC messages.

Once activated, the program filters out social media, porn, and other popular websites used in the West, such as Wikipedia. However, it does not use Chinese media, which discourages self organization tactics. Instead, the program limits users to navigate slivers of the internet that occupy both realms.

The program reflects the artist’s experiences during their time as an exchange student in Shanghai Institute of Visual Arti, where they existed in a somewhat liminal cyberspace, not being able to consume either Western or Chinese media.

In this time, they grew fond of the firewall because it encouraged Dow to find new methods of research, live without the Western internet’s surveilled user experience, and be free of distractions.

Upon returning home to Germany, Dow found it difficult to acclimate to the barrage of targeted ads and search engine algorithms manipulating their path. They missed the firewall.

Having created a program in the Chinese firewall’s image, Dow could bask in the pleasure of its limitation. Upon further reflection, the program demonstrated a fantasy where capitalist media was suspended and time was free from the specter of productivity. Despite only being an attempt, the software promised the possibility of another world.

The Great Wall of China was produced in participation with the Hangar.org exchange.