"What we understand our body to be, or to exist as, has been irrevocably complicated by the invention and expansion of the internet. As a public interacting with technology, we no longer exist as a singularly stable and defined, edge-bound being, as our data and lives leak out onto distributed nodes that augment our own sense of self further than it already is. Where we continue, where we are, even when we assume to be erased. Where and even when we think we are not. The perception of our body through information, as information, as a carrier and creator of information, as a subject of perception and object of translation. This appears, or rather, is felt as something media theorist Sun-ha Hong calls the “trace-body”: “When I feel my own trace-body as an absent presence, I am also experiencing what it feels like to have machines and databases mediate between me and myself.” A series of out-of-body experiences constantly overwriting, corrupting, glitching. We already contend with an unstable sense of self by just being human, but when faced with a multitude of other possible presences through the data profiles that we create ourselves, or through those that are created for and about us (with or without our knowledge) by corporate or governmental actors, this distribution across time and space feels necessary to account for through personal acts."
Trace Routes, Natalie Kane
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|A deer is
wandering through a data center. The beast looks scared of the sound he
makes by walking on the technical floor, of the cables scattered
around, of the flashing lights of the server. How did it get there,
under those artificial lights, in that space that is supposed to be
hermetically isolated from the outside? The low res footage, probably
recorded by a security camera, gives the touch of reality to this
otherwise magical and unreal picture of a living being sifting through
flows of data.
Shown on a vertical screen, the video is the centerpiece of Unfixed Infrastructures and Rabbit Holes (2020), a multimedia installation by Spanish artist Mario Santamarķa. Traditionally, rabbit holes are perceived as a backdoor between two different dimensions: it’s through a rabbit hole that Alice gets her first access to the wonderland. Yet, is networked space really different from physical space? Does it lack any materiality? Does it rely on a different notion of space and time? Since 2010, Santamarķa has been investigating the physical manifestations of data and information, and questioning the metaphor of the cloud that, before becoming “common faith”, has been widely used by anybody who registered a patent concerning the internet and whatever networked device, as demonstrated in the work Cloudplexity (2019), a collection of Internet representations extracted from the U.S. Patent database. In 2016, Santamarķa “tracerouted” the data of his website to follow their movement from his server (located in Bergamo, Italy) to his own computer screen; then he followed this path, traveling from Barcelona to Bergamo through Switzerland, Stockholm, Milan and Perugia. It took 14 days for him to do the same journey that data performs in 50 milliseconds: an absurd, illogical journey if we look at it in human terms, as it’s far from being linear, but that visualizes the infrastructure along which data is moving. With a similar intention, since 2018 Santamarķa has been organizing “Internet Tours” in various places, bringing groups of people around a city in search of the nodes of the local network.
In Unfixed Infrastructures and Rabbit Holes (2020), the floor of the exhibition space is partially covered by a technical floor, normally used to hide cables in data centers. Wired black tubes scattered around the floor form an artist designed router, generating an open network identified with the icon 🕳. The “rabbit hole” network has been programmed to send the signal to different geographical locations before arriving at the exhibition spot, seeking the maximum possible route allowed by network protocols, thus accumulating a certain amount of delay that becomes visible through another video work: two screens (one connected to the gallery wifi, the other to the “rabbit hole” network) displaying the live feed of a Foucault pendulum. Through an explicit reference to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Perfect Lovers (1991), the work manifests the materiality of digital time, usually unnoticed as data seems to travel in no time.
Allowing us to look through the “consensual hallucination” (William Gibson) of the cloud (formerly known as cyberspace), these three main installation elements (the partially installed technical floor, the deer in the data center and the imperfect lovers) help us to become aware of the physical, corporeal relationship we have with certain infrastructures, supposedly fixed and invisible, but that can be easily re-engineered.
Aksioma, Ljubljana. 2021