Next step: Reduce descriptions of previous works and maybe make a few pics.
As we take the Internet for granted, we never really ask where we are going when we are going on the Internet. A lot of things make me feel unsettled when I use telecommunication technologies, relating to the gap between where I stand mentally and physically. For a very long time I have remained disturbed having teleconversations with people living in different time zones. That because I knew my interlocutor was standing perpendicularly to a ground that is not aligned with the ground I stand on. Brought next to each other, this person and I wouldn't face each other. To circumvent the risk of magical thinking, I seek for rational answers to these types of existential problems. Eventually they led me to some interesting journeys.
So far, my attempts to relate physical experience with online experience have raised questions about the complexity of translating human navigation throughout the Internet into something tangible. This, I think, because the manifestation of the Internet is not physical as such, although it is supported by very physical material infrastructures and devices.
Indeed there are already plenty of means used to show us what the Internet may look like, or how it could be understood. I guess I don't necessarily find them satisfying as they only encompass a few portion of the possibilities. Also, their prescriptors can make choices about what story should be told and how users should mentally position themselves.
Circumventing the invisibility of the Internet can take many forms. So far, every strategy I've used to manifest the Internet in the most objective manner has actually demonstrated the subjectivity embedded within each process, whether it is derived from scientific practice or not. Nevertheless, I feel that they are not less valid than what has been offered by the corporate discourse. In fact, every strategy, that it is a scientific process or not, comes with a story. Revealing things that are imperceptible directly through human senses has been the source of a dilemma since about forever, especially in the Western culture.(which deeply occulo-centric).
If nothing could ever translate the whole Internet within a single representation of what it is, it is important to keep on asking questions, applying more or less appropriate methods and see how they help retelling the story and where they fail at being non-subjective. This way, one can imagine ways to autonomously reposition ourselves where they want to be.
Relation to previous practice
Gallery transfer – infrastructure level
With gallery transfer, I paid homage to Dennis Oppenheim's work called Gallery Transplant from 1969. This work consists in a transfer from the enclosed architectural and cultural space of the museum to an open exterior space. He applied the process to the Andrew Dickson White Museum and the Stedelijk. The plan of the gallery's floor was drawn in the snow outside the campus grounds of Cornwell University. The piece remains through its documentation, containing an official plan of the Gallery, a topographic map and a picture of the intervention. So all that remains of the work is pure information. Robert Smithson referred to that work talking about “Dis-location” to qualify Oppenheim's process. To him Oppenheim operated in a Data transfer from a part of the world to another. My aim was to draw floor plans, not to the exact dimensions but proportionally and document it through the use of a map where the extremity of the lines were ip addresses representing a machine connected to the Internet. Because I cannot really control the routing for obvious reasons I thought I could perhaps draw the points with server locations around the globe, people's minds would naturally draw the line, the straight line being in itself a human concept. Leaving a space for people to finish the artwork mentally also recalled me to the “Socle du monde” by Piero Manzoni, which is very dear to me.
Photographic-geomapping – user level
Following on with my interest in how Internet content is based within certain physical places. I have been working with this open source database from maxmind called GeoIP. With the help of this database, I retrieved geographical coordinates associated with IP addresses. I played with this to obtain a representation of the place where web content is hosted. For the visual representation, I used Panoramio, a geolocated image sharing website belonging to Google. It enabled me to geographically contextualize websites that I had found in my browser. The first thing I made was a little booklet associating URLs and photos of places. Then I also made some a few postcards, using the same method. It enabled me to make a shift from a biographic experience to an event as subject. The project became then some kind of nod to the Snowden affair. The important “websites” become important “places” where the events took place. I also came to think that the medium of the postcards, referring to the postal system, could be some kind of functional metaphor of how we reach content. In both cases, you need an addressing system. My last experiment with that method is a browser plugin which enables you once it's activated to have the image associated with the location retrieved through the url to be superimposed on the content in the browser tab. So there is no curation from me in that case, it adapts to different contexts. In a way these three iterations followed a path from a personal intuition, to a broader context, to a self-tailored dispositif that could be applied to any user depending on their own browsing experience.
It reminds me of a scene in Interstellar - naturalisation
For this project, a panel of 17 volunteers have been asked to rate a set of 25 video extracts of 15 seconds each. The rating has been established on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 corresponds to nature and 10 to technology. Sometimes, the volunteers explained the motivation behind the decisions they made. The videos have been selected on the basis of their ambiguity, either because they depicted phenomenons that could be attributed to nature but technologically reproduced, or because they showed natural phenomenons that inspired technology, or because they produced a visualisation of nature that can only be obtained through technological means. The average grades defined the positioning of the videos in the final montage. The result functions as a gradient, from one idea to the other. As it could be expected, the results are extremely variable from one person to another, underlining the difficult aspect of drawing a line between the two notions. The mental representation we have of what is natural and what is technological can conflict with the actual traces of human involvement to generate those representations. If the same panel of people would have been asked to do the same tasks about 20 years before, one can assume that the answers would have been very different as well. What I tried to address here is the difficulty to differentiate technology from nature once it has moved to the background of daily life, determining our intuitive relation to the world we inhabit.
Sculpting wi-fi – Infrastructure's integration to the physical world
While being at my parents I felt like getting some Wi-Fi signal strength heat map. I really struggle to get a decent Wi-Fi signal from upstairs so I thought this could be a good opportunity to observe some variation. I used some minimal phone app that enabled to simply add the data (signal strength) to a point I selected on the floor plans I imported. Then, I obtained a png generated by the app that can be exported as an html page containing the map.
As Martin Dodge demonstrated throughout his cybergeography research, the invisibility of Internet's infrastructure apply to many dimensions. Firstly, there is a big push towards hiding the infrastructure supporting its running. Secondly, its use doesn't correlate with any phenomenological sensation (unlike trains for instance). Lastly, the fast integration of the Internet as part of our daily life, always supporting more applications, has dissolved any questions relating to its functioning. There is a global lack of curiosity, that has served its blackboxing, which has also made it incredibly powerful. Even harder, the Internet has always been regarded as a place rather than a mere communication tool, like the phone. We have indeed never regarded the phone call as a place where oral conversation happens.
Earth works -> Art as interventions within systems
POTENTIAL EXPLORATION PATHS
Three different approaches came up to me, which are quite related to one another.
1. Mythology of the Internet
All the means to mediate the Internet as a space function as some narration devices. These have been evolving a lot since the first introduction of the Internet to the public, from the information super highway to the cloud or graphical representations. I would argue that any representation is subjective, even the most serious . All that because these representations always serve aims of what their prescriptors want to communicate about them. Therefore, the social relationship to it elevates it as some sort of myth were technology and fiction mix together to create the identity of a global Network that is more of a fable than a state of fact.
2. A natural history of the Internet
As Networked technologies become as ubiquitous and invisible as air, they penetrate profoundly our natural environment, on many levels. Rarely has a technology been naturalised so quickly and efficiently. Using knowledge extracted from “natural sciences” to evaluate measure and optimise data transfer is a way of assimilating it as a natural resource. Reciprocally, networked technologies influence the environment in which they are set, sharks get disturbed by the electromagnetic radiation of submarine cables. Nevertheless, the technics used by the sciences enable to reveal what cannot be perceived by the bare eye, therefore they are ideal processes for mapping the natural environment. There is also a discourse around this naturalisation. With the upcoming of the Internet of things, data is becoming a natural resource.
3. The tension between the ideal space and perceived space.
Tracing how the mediation of the Internet as space is intertwined with what it becomes. The way we think about it and determines how we experience it. This dichotomy in the understanding of space is rooted within a long genealogy in the Western culture, where experience and modes for representation have been in an unsolvable confrontation.
Previous practice involves :
- trying to link what's physically possible and what's computationally feasible
- trying to turn space into territory and failing at it
- how it raises more questions than it answers any
- trying to sketch a relation to a World embedding a space that cannot be physically experienced
- trying to apply scientific thinking, or methods aimed at the physical space surrounding us (geography, physics etc) to computer Networks
- bumping into points of convergence or dissonance
Relation to a larger context
Things I have looked at:
- Mimesis (plato, Aristotle, opposition between imitation of the real and idea)
- Land Art (Environment, entropy)
- Minimalism/conceptual Art (60s, process, performance, environment)
- Cybernetics (Feedback, Entropy) and “French theory” (structuralism, de subjectivisation)
- Physical infrastructures of the Internet (hidden container) vs behaviour or Protocols ruling the Internet (defining sets of rules enabling exchanges)
- Scientific methods (Geometry, Geography, Physics, extracting abstract set of rules to understand phenomenons that require abstract thinking)
- Maps (attempts to visualise)
- Metaphors applied to the Internet (cognitive medium influencing space perception)
I think it is important for me to establish a list of ways to approch the problem, like angles to highlight or understand things. Every time in the doing, I realise little experiments and I write a text about it for which I gather information, read and try to develop a logical approach. Very often this logical approach gets offended (I'll think of a better formulation). I think it is nice to establish a collection of those points where I get blocked, what I have learnt etc... Then it can become a text in different parts through being reorganised in a more logical order so there is a clear shape to it.
- Cyber geography, Martin Dodge
- Robert Smithson's writings
- Foucault's concept of heterotopias
- Le socle du monde, Manzoni
I have no capacity to understand very abstract things, so I always need to break them into pieces and reassemble them by comparing them to things I can visualise. I guess that's my method so it should remain that way.
→ video essay – worded ideas / narration / abstraction
→ environment and ideas
→ architecture / infrastructures / reseaux
→ Am I thinking about computer networks in physical terms?
This project shall be
A video "essay" as a way to articulate all the questions I have been asking myself in the form of something more global.
The way of presenting it is very important. Shall the video be within an altered environment or shall it affect people
This project is an investigation of
- how these two correlate (experienced environment and abstracted ideas about it?)
- How the smooth eventually becomes striated?
- how feedback applies until things break? (breaking stuff enables seeing parts?)
- electronic environment and physical environment merging?
- establishing parallels between the inhabited space (meatspace) and the information space
- looking at land art to find correlations between what happens in one environment and how certain mechanisms such as entropy, referred to as obsolescence
→ apply the same way (land art pieces can become obsolete unless they get upgraded like spiral jetty?)
- looking at the construction of categories and definitions to separate them both while we should merge those – naturalisation of technology?
- looking at the problem of the separation of idea and experience that generate certain bias