The Droids was comissioned by Fermynwoods as part of their Open Online Six for 2016, an online-only exhibition. The subject is “Too Long For iTunes: Challenging the limits of online presentation and exploring offline digital culture” referencing an intriguing situation in digital distribution:

Terre Thaemlitz’s 2011 album Soulnessless included a nearly 30-hour piano solo filling a single maximum length 320kB/s MP3 file of 4GB – yet the file playback [on iTunes] was limited to the first two hours and 40 minutes! Challenging the era’s dominant media format the album was sold only as a 16GB microSDHD card, drawing a distinction between online culture and digital culture, honouring the authors ‘specificity of content’.

The Droids takes a piece of copyrighted and highly protected film footage – “These are not the droids you’re looking for” from Star Wars - and re-encodes it over and over so that the video and audio slowly degraded to incoherent digital mush. Each iteration is then uploaded to YouTube and only some of them are caught by the ContentID algorithm.

My work looks for the edge cases in our emerging algorithmic police state; searching for the points where a copyright infringement evades the pattern-matching robots running algorithms searching for copyrighted material. These edges will shift throughout the exhibition.

The work exists as a playlist on YouTube under the account Too Long.

Here’s a promo video which shows the edge as is stood in December 2016.

On January 1st, when the exhibition opened, the first 50 or so videos were blocked but the remaining were passed. As of September all the videos are available to watch. It’ll be interesting to see if the enforcement picks up again future Star Wars films are released.

Fermynwoods posted a look-back on their blog in May 2018.