From a distance, there’s nothing unusual about this 1.5-ton boulder sitting at the center of a forest clearing in Neuenkirchen, Germany. It’s only once you get closer that you notice part of the boulder has been hollowed out–and the opening sealed with a sheet of metal.
Keepalive is a thermoelectric Wi-Fi router powered up by lighting a campfire underneath the boulder. Created by the Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl and installed at Springhornhof, a land art museum in Germany, it’s both an artwork and a functioning piece of technology. Once it’s activated–which happens after you build a fire underneath it–the router connects to any nearby phones, piping in a list of downloadable survival guides. From Bartholl’s website:
Visitors are invited to make a fire next to the boulder to power up the wifi router in the stone which then reveals a large collection of PDF survival guides. The piratebox.cc-inspired router which is NOT connected to the Internet offers the users to download the guides and upload any content they like to the stone database. As long as the fire produces enough heat the router will stay switched on.
The survival PDFs are loaded onto a USB drive located inside the cavity of the rock, and they range from the possibly useful (Don’t Panic: The Engineering Physics Survival Guide) to the amusing (Boy Basics 101: A Survival Guide for Parenting Male Tweens) to the straight-up impractical (Instagram Identity Guide). It’s designed to be helpful as much in the wilds of the online world as much as a future apocalyptic dystopia: “Following the advice in the survival guides prepares you…for solo survival in the chaotic world of computer programming as much as for solo survival in the wilderness,” Bartholl writes. The combination of both primitive and high-tech means of survival is fitting, given that access to the digital data in the first place requires one of the oldest forms of technology: fire.
At a time when survival kits include USB ports and even camping stoves can charge your phone, our smartphones have become a key element of even the most remote adventures. Still, it’s helpful to have some survival instincts. After all, Keepalive requires that you can at least be able to start a fire–even your iPhone can’t help you there.