For the project 17.(SEPT) [By Weist_Siré Records]™ American artist Julia Weist collaborates with Cuban artist Nestor Siré to explore the lack of contemporary internet in Cuba and the systemic alternatives that have developed in place of connectivity. The pair present works created for, and also about, the most significant of these phenomenon: El Paquete Semanal, a 1 terabyte digital media collection, aggregated weekly and circulated across the country via in-person file sharing.
Since 2015, Siré has been curating art into El Paquete through a project called !!!Sección A R T E (!!!A R T Section), a series of folders updated monthly with original artist projects, art documentaries, publications, announcements and more. In early 2016 he invited Weist to contribute an artwork. Developing this piece was the beginning of an ambitious partnership and over the subsequent year the pair traveled thousands of miles together, ultimately meeting with Paquete distributors in every city in Cuba.
The centerpiece of 17.(SEPT) [By Weist_Siré Records]™ is a 72 terabyte super server containing one year, or fifty-two weeks, of El Paquete Semanal from August 2016 to August 2017. It is the only comprehensive archive of the Paquete in existence and its construction and deployment was designed around the legal and logistical restrictions of the current political climate. In addition to presenting a near complete record of Cuba’s digital consumption for one year, the archive also captures a form of media that has been largely absent in the country for the last half-century amidst a political regime of aspirational socialism: Advertising.
Weist’s project for !!!Sección A R T E, an original video series, is also included in the installation. For this project Weist and Siré partnered with celebrities of highest interest to the Cuban audience to record screencasts of their quotidian Internet browsing. In a context where web use is limited, slow, expensive, and public (connections are accessible exclusively at municipal hot spots), the casual, routine surfing of celebrity subjects represents a significant shift in perspectives of access and use.
A section of the archive is made accessible to exhibition visitors as a digital catalogue. For this publication, Weist and Siré contacted every copyright holder represented in the Paquete from the week of August 8, 2016, in an attempt to legalize its contents. Where possible they secured the rights to distribute the same material circulating in Cuba to Queens Museum visitors, free of charge.