v1.0 by: Michael Takeo Magruder, 2011

A new media installation reflecting on issues of information freedom and secrecy in today's ever-shifting media landscape.

Historical Context:

On 28th July 2010, WikiLeaks – a non-profit international media organisation renowned for publishing classified and censored materials – posted a link to a mysterious 1.4GB file entitled insurance.aes256 on its Afghan War Diary website. The file's appearance generated considerable speculation and debate as no official explanation was given about its contents or purpose. Some believe that the file is encrypted and contains blackmail information intended to insure WikiLeaks against attacks by those compromised by the Afghan War Diary. Others surmise that the data is a hoax designed to distract the organisation's growing list of government and corporate enemies. Numerous public and private investigations have returned no conclusive evidence either supporting or discrediting these theories.

Countless individuals and interested parties have now downloaded insurance.aes256 and redistributed it across innumerable hard drives and servers spanning the world's vast unregulated file-sharing networks, virally embedding it into the fabric of the Internet and rendering it forever obtainable and impossible to eradicate. An anonymous collective now patiently awaits the day in which the key to opening it will be revealed.

What knowledge (or secrets) will be uncovered within its cryptic digital form? Will we learn of atrocities concealed by those intent on constructing alternate versions of history in order to hide their crimes, or will it simply contain information too dangerous to release now that needs to be safeguarded for future generations to consider? Or will we discover that insurance.aes256 has merely exploited the global online community to sustain the media hype surrounding WikiLeaks and the cult of personality enveloping its de facto leader Julian Assange? Whatever the reality may be, for now, the truth about insurance.aes256 remains unknown.

Installation Documentation:

Source Material:

· insurance.aes256 data: a 1.4GB encrypted file that was published by WikiLeaks on its Afghan War Diary website on 28/07/2010 - obtained via
· Collateral Murder footage: a classified US military video released by WikiLeaks on 05/04/2010 that shows the killing of over a dozen people (including two Reuters news staff) in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad on 12/07/2007 - obtained via
· various audiovisual footage concerning WikiLeaks and Julian Assange - obtained via
· various online news articles concerning WikiLeaks and Julian Assange - obtained via

Digital Media Documentation:

In Dialogue with:

Alfredo Cramerotti [ curation ]

With Thanks to:

Simon Sheikh [ curation ] . Jill Carruthers, Hannah Conroy & Oli Melia [ QUAD exhibition production ] . Emma Puente [ media production ] . Hugh Denard [ discourse ]

Supported by:

Insurance.AES256 v1.0 was commissioned and produced in 2011 by QUAD for All that Fits: The Aesthetics of Journalism with generous support from King's Visualisation Lab, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London.

Artwork Requirements:

[ gallery ] Modular new media installation using: Windows/Mac computer system capable of real-time audiovisual rendering; single-channel high definition video system; 2.1 audio system; digital prints; and artbook publication.

[ online ] Windows/Mac computer system with Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari; the Adobe Flash and Reader plugins; and stereo audio. A high-specification CPU/GPU, colour display with ≥1080p resolution and high-speed Internet connection are recommended.

Online Artworks and Resources:

© TAKEO 2011