Interactive Art

Auszeichnung - Award of Distinction

Disarming Corruptor

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez (GB)


Disarming Corruptor is a tool for doing reversible damage to your STL mesh file—the file format that describes the 3D surfaces used in computer-aided design and manufacture. This means you can obliterate it into something totally unrecognizable, share it online under its new guise, and selectively distribute the key code to recipients so they can reverse the damage and retrieve the original object.

In a time of prolific online espionage, crackdowns on file-sharing and a growing concern for the 3D printing of illegal items and copyright-protected artifacts, DC is a free software application that helps people to circumvent these issues. Inspired by encryption rotor machines such as the infamous Enigma Machine, the application runs an algorithm that is used both to corrupt STL files into a visually illegible state by glitching and rotating the 3D mesh and to allow a recipient to reverse the effect to restore it to its original form. The file recipient would need both the application and the unique seven-digit settings used by the sender, entering the incorrect settings would only damage the file further. When patent trolls and law enforcement agencies find these files on sharing sites they will only see abstract contortions, but within the trusting community these files will still represent the objects they are looking for, deliberately in need of repair.

Disarming Corruptor was released with deliberate ambiguity as to whether it was a serious app for IP circumvention or an art project commenting on the issues it highlighted through its apparent purpose. This ambiguity provoked many reactions from the press and the public. Interestingly, the project attracted people both interested in protecting IP and in circumventing it, as the software’s key-code access could also be appropriated as a crude digital-rights management system. The unknown corrupted artifacts created and distributed by public users are also considered part of the artwork. In this sense Disarming Corruptor functions like a generative art app that generates new 3D artifacts, under the guise of an encryption tool. Since the app retains the file format and distorts the form into something new, the objects can be considered new remixes of the original form, forms created as a by-product of another purpose.

The app was created with Processing.

Jury Statement

Disarming Corruptor is a free tool for concealing the identity of 3D printing files to allow users to share banned items. The software application runs an algorithm used both to corrupt and disguise STL files and allow users to repair them back to the original form. Disarming Corruptor is a critical project on the realm of digital manufacturing, which opens up an interesting debate about file distribution censorship, Internet control and encryption.


Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

Matthew Plummer-Fernandez (UK), born in 1982 in London, makes art in order to critically and playfully examine emerging technology and culture. Plummer-Fernandez received his MA from the Royal College of Art in 2009, after a BEng in computer-aided mechanical engineering at Kings College London and an unfinished BA in graphic design from UCCA. His work has been exhibited and published globally, including relevant articles in The Guardian, Wired, Forbes, Creative Applications, Rhizome, and The Creators Project*, and has received commissions from Abandon Normal Devices, Arts Co, It’s Nice That, and Selfridges. He is currently based in South East London, working in research at the Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths, University of London.