We would find it incredible that a corporation declares total monopoly over the colours we see and use, yet precisely that has happened with another part of the electromagnetic spectrum - radio - where big business now has exclusive rights over nearly all the frequency space public might otherwise use.
Taking the form of a fully-functional cell tower (or GSM base station), Pink Cell Tower is a work of extroverted infrastructure that intervenes upon this electromagnetic capture. It represents an alternative to the innocuous, beige and secretive corporate-owned and state-monitored mobile infrastructure billions have come to rely upon.
Solar-powered and open source, Pink Cell Tower demonstrates that infrastructure for calls and texts can not only be truly free, but publicly owned and operated with no dependence on statecraft nor corporations.
Pink Cell Tower also serves a website with instructions to replicate it (from BladeRF SDR to mastpole design & antennae), and a downloadable ISO complete with source code to flash onto a Raspberry Pi.
Provided here is a bootable ISO image for the Raspbery Pi 4 (tested on Model B) and for use solely with the BladeRF Micro A4 and suitable GSM antennae. This will allow you to replicate the functionality seen with Pink Cell Tower in the Berlin deployment. It is a large download and the webserver has been set to throttle so as to allow for the rest of this and other sites hosted on this infrastructure to function.
The ISO is two partitions, one the bootable part, the other the actual OS. The decompressed OS partition is ~12G, 4.6G of which is used, with 6G to play with (logs, other data you wish to serve, etc). Unfortunately I didn’t have anything smaller than a 32G sdcard to play with, so it’ll expect that room during decompression.
Please only download this file if you have a Pi4, BladeRF Micro A4 and are prepared for a slow download on a sufficiently stable connection.The file is available here.
To write to an SD card:
gzip -cd /path/to/pinkcelltower-1.1.img.gz | dd of=/path/to/sdcard
You may wish to add something like
bs=4M to your
dd command to speed things
Only play with
dd if you know what you are doing and most
importantly what you are writing to. On a GNU/Linux system, the sdcard is
typically found in the filesystem as
/dev/mmcblk0. Please check
dmesg to be
sure, and if on OS X you ought to check the system utility for the correct
device name to use.
In the next weeks I will add more notes to this page as regards setting up and running a fully fledged cell tower, with a focus on tuning and hardware.
Served from Pink Cell Tower are a collection of critical writings for download. The texts generously provided are:
Photos 1 and 2 on this page by Philip Horst. Photo 3 on this page by Alexander Callsen.
Here is a thread on Twitter with more contextual information about the project at the time of launch.
This project was commissioned by Skulpturen Park Berlin for their 2021 RETURN festival program, exhibited at Skulpturen Park.