Where's the Fire?

To understand 'File Extinguisher,' you've got to understand Vuk Cosic--which isn't always easy. Who else would create the 'ASCII History of Art for the Blind?' 'File Extinguisher,' the latest work by this pioneer net artist, claims to rectify an error in engineer Paul Baran's seminal Rand Memorandum, RM-3420-PR. First published in 1960, the document blueprinted a communication network invulnerable to nuclear attack. Cosic uses the memo to springboard into tongue-in-cheek land. Due to the limitations of print technology, in 1960, Baran's document omitted a red dot identifying a file extinguisher as the network's last-ditch safeguard. "We can now recognize that today's internet vulnerabilities are a direct result of this tragic mishap," says the artist. His site presents a map that restores the file extinguisher, which looks remarkably like a fire extinguisher and can be used to browse for and extinguish users' files. Fusing retro-technology with Cold War paranoia, this project is as much present-day social commentary as it is vintage deadpan. Cosic says of his project, "Now the internet is finally safe, as Baran originally intended." Whew! - Peggy MacKinnon