Art Machine Prints Self-Destructing Documents

October 13, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Diego Trujillo’s This Tape Will Self Destruct prints “a mixture of images and texts extracted from Cold War fictions paired up with excerpts from current secret documents.” Shortly after, these print-outs burst into flames.

With the Kremlin security agencies going back to typewriter and paper to prevent computer leaks and the Guardian having to destroy the hardware which stored Edward Snowden’s NSA files, the project makes for some timely, kinetic commentary.

In an interview with We Make Money Not Art, Trujillo explains that the works are treated with glycerol and a potassium salt. The paper is ignited by an exothermic chemical reaction, blackening and thus permanently censoring/encrypting the message.


The materials, for the brief moment that they exist, are collection of poetic juxtapositions. These include bits of the NSA documents found on the Intercept, declassified Cold War documents, bad dialogue from the 1960s “Mission: Impossible” television series and 007s movies from Dr. No to You Only Live Twice to Moonraker. Trujillo explains:

I designed (or more accurately curated) the documents myself based on relationships I saw between images and texts. For example one of the documents contains the famous Mission: Impossible (1966) phrase:

“As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

Presented next to an excerpt from an NSA leaked document reading:
“All publicly available information regarding work on this contract at Mangfall Kaserne will be sanitized so that no association with NSA will be made. This will entail removal of references to Maiyland Procurement Office/MPO, N S A-r elated DODAICs, NSA civilian/military affiliate names, NSA phone numbers, etc. (This is not an all-inclusive list.)”

Other documents focused more on visual aesthetics of devices and architecture, for example the parallel between the circular composition of the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and the GCHQ ‘doughnut‘ building.

And then BOOM; poof.