line drawing of a file bus by Gijs

Welcome to File Life–a touring project and travel blog about letting go of files. Follow along as a traveling fileman wanders.

my hand with a the File Life USB in it As I travel, I collect files that people want to let go of. I ask each participant to delete the file they've given me, so that the only remaining copy exists on a USB I carry. In return, I take their files on a tour of the mountains and the oceans. When the USB fills up, I will delete the files, along with this website. You could think of this website as a memorial to files.

– Such a contrast to the sandstone towers from a few days ago. In the mountains, I took the files to a place called "the labyrinth," an elaborate collection of pathways and alcoves between rock formations.


Athens, Greece Nov 7–28
Turku, Finland Nov 2–5
Tallinn, Estonia Oct 30–Nov 2
Rotterdam, Netherlands Oct 11–30
Saxon Switzerland, Germany Oct 7–10
Berlin, Germany Oct 4-6


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This will be my second full day in Athens. Yesterday, we met with Kristoffer at Adad Books. Strangely, this is also the same place that we picked up the keys for our apartment. The night before, we sleepily wandered to the bookstore after arriving. photo of two sets of keys at Adad Books The shopkeeper showed us five or six sets of keys, and we messaged the apartment owner to identify the right set. I love how he circled the correct key and sent the image back.

Back before this project started, I was in Paris with two friends. The morning we were supposed to leave, we walked to the top of the hill. We made up games as we climbed the hill, climbing across a playground, running around a courtyard. There was a playful energy. Soon I checked my pocket and realized the key to the apartment wasn't there. It had dropped out during all the playing.

Gijs climbing a playground in Paris

The reality of being locked out slowly dawned on us. We had left our bags in the apartment and the only other key was across the country. After thinking through various scenarios, I took a sleeper train to a small town six hours away. The only things I had with me were my phone, wallet, and a phone charger I borrowed from Emma. Her phone charger was wrapped in red duct tape. Emma's phone charger on the train Emma's life seems to be imbued with this tomato red. You'll see it through out the studio and her apartment. Maybe this is the hex code (#ff0000 ). Later, I would ask Emma about the meaning of this color:

I was wondering if it might have something to do with my grandmother - she loves red, she & grandpa lived in a black house with red shutters, and she had sown every detail in their interior and everything was red, and she loves red flowers

And that made my mom hate red, so my mom never wore or wears any red ever, and in my parents house I don’t think anything is red? Like she actively steers away from red haha

But I love red - only a certain tone though (same as grandma!) like a warmer, tomato red. I don’t know why I’m just drawn to it I guess. Maybe cause my mom always dressed me in blue? Idk

The phone charger made me feel a little less lonely on the train, reminding me that my friends were still there. It also reminded me of something Gijs had said earlier in the day after I expressed how terrible I felt for burdening them with this situation. He said, "no one is an island."

On the train ride, I thought about what the universe was trying to tell me. I also thought about the key and how strangely physical it is in the age of everything being digital. Thinking about it now, it feels like the key experience laid the groundwork for File Life.a hand reaching out to a iPhone with a photo of a key displayed on it Traveling with little to nothing, I realized how I actually needed this spontaneous movement. It somehow felt good. I also started thinking about how projects are just life experiences in containers. One of these containers could be a USB!

a view of mist and mountains out the window of a sleeper train in France That's all for now. It's late and we meet Kristoffer tomorrow to record a podcast. I have more to say. I have a lot of ideas. I want to share but I also want to keep it in my head if that makes sense.

a USB stick on the window sill in Tallinn

Hello from Tallinn. I'm writing this looking out the window, watching the Baltic Sea. I did two transfers yesterday during dinner with an artist and a musician. In the middle of the table sat a rock. The musician told us that it was from a glacier in Iceland and that it had been part of a performance. Its angular shape made it feel like a miniature replica of a mountain. The musician talked about how rocks are alive. As we made transfers, it had a presence, almost interchangeable with the USB.

I'm on the train to Amsterdam, but not to do a file transfer. I left the files at home today but as I board the train I think about the USB sitting at home and I miss it. It's strange how a piece of plastic and metal can evoke such feelings. laptoping on an NS train I wonder if the USB's aura will grow as it fills with experiences, memories, stories. When everything is shared publicly these days, the aura of a handful of files from individuals will glow on its own. And at the end of the project the files will be deleted, leaving only the memory of them and memory of this project.

I Ching reading at a bar in Rotterdam

I've been steadily consulting the I Ching over the last year. Initially, I tossed the coins digitally using an app. For my birthday, friends gifted me real coins. We taught ourselves how to perform a reading in the physical. Moving this practice into the physical transformed the I Ching for me. It became a way of relating, an activity. GPS and road curving ahead out the front window of a car in Saxon Switzerland While I still use the I Ching app occasionally on the go, I much prefer the slower rhythms of tossing the coins and building the hexagrams. Maybe in the physical realm it's taken on an aura. Maybe this is also what makes me miss the USB I left at home. Not what is on it, but the experiences that allowed for it to be there. Also, the feeling that it could jump out of my hand at any moment and fall through the drain grate on the sidewalk, lost forever. Are files here to teach us about life? Files are here to change, and change they do!

I'm back in Rotterdam. Back in horizontal mode. Such a contrast to the sandstone towers from a few days ago. In the mountains, I took the files to a place called "the labyrinth," an elaborate collection of pathways and alcoves between rock formations. a USB in a basin on the top of a sandstone tower We saw kids playing hide-and-seek between the rocks. Climbing to the top of the rocks, an entirely new landscape formed in front of us, existing in the tree tops. On one of these expansive rock surfaces, I found a basin with a collection of leaves. A good place to rest the files momentarily.

map of the labyrinth in Saxon Switzerland

coding in a car in Saxon SwitzerlandWriting this from my laptop while sitting in the parked car in Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna. Hikers keep passing by on the road and they look at us and smile when they realize that we are both on laptops with all the car doors open. Our mobile USB, email, website making office. You can hear the birds in the distance and a stream nearby. Car coding lifestyle.

Wandering into the visitor center, we overhear a group asking about the apple festival. Curious, we follow them to a small room near the back of the building where rows of various local apple varieties are displayed across a long table. apples on a table at the festival The smell is overwelming. Each apple variety has a placard with two pieces of metadata: when it should be picked and the optimal time for "enjoyment". The study of apples and tree fruits in general is called pomology. I wonder what the study of files might be called? There are terms like "data science," but nothing specific to files. Apples come in so many varities. Files also come in various sizes and types. apples on a table at the festival It's nice how a USB is a small physical container for files, almost like file tupperware. Should USBs have a smell like the apples at the festival? Should they have an optimal time for enjoyment? It also makes me think about how analog storage mediums degrade the more you use them, and that erosion gives the medium an aliveness and also a lifespan. apples with description cards at the festival I'm sure a USB degrades overtime but it's not so obvious or gradual. I wonder if this eternal feeling to files makes them a little lifeless and difficult to connect to? Maybe this project is all about giving files a lifespan.

Today I will try to complete the first file transfer. I'm meeting Bubby, a friend from LA who happens to be in Berlin while I'm here. Bubby Vernon transfering a file to USB via his iPad at Trust We plan to meet at Trust for an event and will try to do the transfer after the talks. The only issue is that the special USB Club USBs haven't arrived yet. Things got a little hectic over the last week, and I forgot how long it can take to ship to Europe. Hmm, I'll have to improvise. I'm staying with my friend Sarah, and she kindly lets me borrow her USB. Her USB is sky blue and contains one file, a video piece she created for a past exhibition. She tells me that she is willing to let go of this file and that it can be the first transfer.

close-up of Bubby's iPad file transfer Back at Trust, I run into another minor setback. Bubby has his file on an iPad (USB-C) while Sarah's USB is USB-A. I ask one of the Trust members if they might have a USB-A to USB-C adapter. Luckily they do.

Even though things don't go as planned to start, there's something beautiful about the friction that moving files via USB creates and also the dependency on one another. It's an IRL network of connections. A borrowed USB, a borrowed adapter. A community of interdependency is quickly forming.

At the end of the File Life project, this website will deleted. If you'd like to archive it on your own local computer or USB, you can always download the entire website at any time.

Download website (43.75 MB)
This download was created on Nov 26, 13:07 CEST.