Hybrid Art

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

This Tape Will Self-Destruct

Diego Trujillo Pisanty (MX)


In July 2013 the BBC reported that the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation would revert from using computers to typewriters for the production of sensitive documents in order to prevent information leaks. The following January The Guardian newspaper released a video of its editors destroying the computer equipment that stored the National Security Agency (NSA) files provided by Edward Snowden. Wikileaks and the release of the NSA files will likely be part of this decade’s history. However, the debate around governmental espionage and secrecy for the sake of national security seems more related to the Cold War era than to modern living.

This Tape Will Self-Destruct explores the intersection between our present-day techno-political status and spy fictions from the Cold War. The project consists of an electronic device that produces self-destructing documents, a motif within the Cold War spy genre that has regained relevance in the context of digital communications and mass surveillance. The self-destructing documents created by the machine contain extracts from spy-themed films, television and literature produced during the Cold War, paired with excerpts from real, current day, leaked documents. The documents’ contents were manually curated so that the contemporary leaked documents resonate with their fictional counterparts; matching the two extracts results in an amalgam that blurs present reality with past fiction.

The machine prints each document in this emergent collection on thermal paper. Through a series of complicated electromechanical actions it is then treated with glycerol and potassium permanganate. Approximately one minute after the two chemicals mix they produce a strong exothermic reaction resulting in a fire that ignites the printed message, its content forever gone as the flames consume and blacken the paper.

The printer and the documents it produces raise questions on the current value of secrecy and the role it plays in aspiring transparent democracies. It also makes us consider the rhetoric in political fictions that can lay the groundwork help ideologies establish themselves.


Diego Trujillo Pisanty

Diego Trujillo Pisanty (MX), born 1986 in Mexico City, where he studied a short degree in photography and a BSc in biology. His degree thesis on computer-simulated evolution spurred an interest in digital arts, which that led him to take an MA in design interactions at the Royal College of Art in London, from where he graduated in 2012. Diego’s background has provided him with a broad set of skills, material knowledge and theory, which he integrates into his work characterized by an exploration of technology as a materialisation of human complexity. He currently works in Culture Lab at Newcastle University, where he will remain until September 2015. Diego recently concluded a Young Creators’ fellowship from the Mexican Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) to develop This Tape Will Self-Destruct.

Supported by: Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA)
Thanks to: Antonio Arango, Juan Manuel Escalante, Santiago Itzcoatl, Arturo Alvarez