Parcel for Julian Assange is geo-tracked by artists

By Dave Lee
Technology reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
An X-ray image of the parcel the artists sent to Julian Assange

Two Swiss artists have used GPS tracking and live webcam to follow the progress of a parcel intended to reach Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Domagoj Smoljo and Carmen Weisskopf have posted updates on the parcel's progress online.

At the time of writing, the parcel had reached the embassy and appeared to be being checked over by security.

For the past seven months Mr Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.

The artists posted the parcel at a post office in east London on Wednesday at 12:43 GMT. Later, they emailed Mr Assange to explain the project.

"The parcel is a live mail art piece. It is intended as REAL_WORLD_PING, a SYSTEM_TEST inserted into a highly tense diplomatic crisis," the email read, making reference to program code functions.

"Since you took refuge there in June last year, the Ecuadorean embassy in London has been the spectacular staging of an intense clash between the international order and freedom of information activists.

"We want to see where the parcel will end. Which route it takes and whether it reaches you."

The artists requested that Mr Assange use the camera to "show us your view of the diplomatic crisis unfolding outside the embassy".

When finished, Mr Assange has been encouraged to send the camera on to another person of his choosing.

Prior to its arrival, the package broadcast pictures of its position within a Royal Mail sorting office - before being put into the back of a van and taken across the city.

Image caption,
The GPS locator tracked the parcel as getting to Mr Assange via the South London Mail Centre
Image caption,
Sorting office staff are seen in some pictures. The Royal Mail said it had no comment to make on the project
Image caption,
The parcel spent almost an hour outside the embassy on Hans Crescent
Image caption,
The first glimpse inside the embassy as a member of staff appears to carry the parcel

Artist Ms Weisskopf told the BBC that they did not know what to expect when they sent the parcel.

"We were actually expecting everything, from the parcel not being accepted to it being taken out of the system and destroyed," she said.

Explaining the motivation behind the project, she added: "We like to experiment with technological systems and see how far we can take them. We wanted to visualise the invisible journey a parcel takes through the postal system."

Sorting office staff can be seen in some of the photographs taken. The Royal Mail told the BBC it had no comment on the project - or whether it would encourage similar tracking or broadcasting of parcels.

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