MEDIA UNDER DYSTOPIA 1.0
Vuk Ćosić | Filio Gálvez | Vladan Joler | Ernesto Oroza | Rodolfo Peraza
This project is co-curated by Rodolfo Peraza and Yuneikys Villalonga.
*Light refreshments will be served
Media Under Dystopia 1.0 delves on the nature of our hyper-connected society and its promise of democracy at a moment when its core foundation is at risk and issues such as Internet Neutrality are under attack. How are individuals, as well as local contexts with their specific histories and politics represented and served within the current digital landscape? How can the physical and the digital infrastructures of the Internet be mapped, and what do these new cartographies tell us about today?
As a laboratory of ideas, this exhibition showcases projects in different stages of completion, from the mere concept, to the documentation of interventions, to long-term, process-based works. These are often the result of multidisciplinary collaborations and group efforts.
Among the specific topics in question are the reach and impact of Facebook users’ data collection backbone (Joler;) the aesthetics of Internet glitches as another form of perception of digital content (Gálvez;) alternative digital networks in Cuba as platforms for collective creation (Oroza;) the restoration of memory and history through digital data archives (Ćosić;) and the reflection on connectivity and control –through the collection and visualization of Internet users’ metadata (Peraza.)
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Vuk Cosic. Invisible Museum of Slavery (Documentation of a site-specific installation,) 2015. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.
The idea for Ćosić’s Invisible Museum of Slavery was born as while in an artist residency in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. His host was a French coffee company who was refurbishing an 18th-century coffee plantation. As with many other buildings in Cuba, this historic site was being converted into a touristic destination and thus its memory of slavery was being overwritten by the nostalgic exaltation of the ruins. “Very quickly, it became obvious to me that Cuba has not found the way to deal with its history of slavery and that current social relations are marked by deeply-rooted resentment,” reflected the artist.
Given the lack of Internet, especially in isolated areas off the capital, and inspired by projects like SNET (Street Network, a popular intranet for gaming and sharing information in the Island) the artist thought to set up a local router connected to a hard drive, as an intranet hotspot, containing “every available documentary, movie and book about slavery.” In this way, people who visited the area and connected to it would be able to consume more than its landscape and architecture. The very presence of a digital data archive on slavery twisted the new concept of that space into a memorial site.
Vladan Joler Circle of Persons that are Close to Mark Zuckerberg. 2017 Digital Print on Foamboard. dimensions. Courtesy of the artist. Mapping Facebook’s Algorithmic Empire (triptych), 2017 Digital Print on Foamboard. 35.5” x 60” each. Courtesy of the artist.
Vadlan Joler is interested in exploring what he calls the invisible infrastructure of the Internet. Together with a multidisciplinary team that includes experts on Internet forensics and data visualization from the Share Lab –a project he runs in Serbia– he has conducted research on the reach and impact of Facebook’s data collection backbone.
Black and white prints selected from the many digital graphics conforming his study shed light on the potential use and misuse of the 1.6 billion Facebook users’ data (likes, profession, friends, associations, etc.) that the company collects. By combining numbers and facts with methods of investigative journalism and critical media theory, the research reveals potential destinations of this information –in his own words, it “maps how our behavior is transformed into profit.”
Considered the most comprehensive of its kind so far, Joler’s research feeds the discussion on the need for algorithmic transparency – ie. the access and power of decision of Internet users on the governing Internet rules and behaviors. As a professor of New Media at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, Vladan brings the conversation to an academic setting. This is an opportunity to go beyond the questions of cyber activism, economy and privacy into the social, political and environmental implications of this phenomenon.
Ernesto Oroza. Si despierta un pájaro intercambian sus cabezas los jugadores. Un poema de SNET. (Documentation of a site-specific installation,) 2015. Mixed Media. Courtesy of the artist.
The island of Cuba is at the opposite end of hyper-connectivity. With a very controlled Internet access and with an increasing number of computer engineers and other technology experts, people in that country has managed to interconnect their home computers to create an underground network popularly called “Street Network” (SNET.) This intranet is a platform for gaming and for sharing information extracted from Internet, offline. With the help of a local node administrator of SNET in Havana, Oroza intervened this network to create Si despierta un pájaro intercambian sus cabezas los jugadores (2015) –which roughly translates into “if a bird wakes up, the players exchange their heads.” The title is a quote from the poem Cielos del Sabbat (1960) by Cuban Writer and poet José Lezama Lima written using the exquisite corpse method.
The artist inserted a link in SNET’s opening page to a program stored in its server. For a week, it directed users to another page where they could join an exquisite corpse poem game. Players were prompted to come up with one or two words that would add to the poem. This random and anonymous process was not only reflective of the nature of the network but also of the experience of collectiveness in Cuba. On the other hand, in a context where collective statements are only issued by official institutions, the piece symbolically became an alternative platform for freedom of expression.
The resulting poem was physically brought to the States and printed fragments of it are given away in the gallery for people in Miami to take home in an inverse process to that of the “mulas” (mules) who, surpassing the strict commercial regulations of the two countries, manage enter goods from Miami to the Island; another example of the alternative creativity of the Cubans.
Filio Gálvez. GIS (Google Image Search) Series; Window Blinds, 2017 Digital print on window blinds. 10 pieces of 21” x 72” each. Courtesy of the artist.
The GIS (Google Image Search) (2017) Series is the result of Gálvez’s experiments with the bandwidth of his Internet connection, which affects the speed and efficiency with which content reaches the screen. The artist slows down the strength of his wifi signal to search for images that relate to certain words or phrases of conflicting meaning (for instance, words extracted from the social media, in contraposition to others which were fashionable a long time ago). As images delay in loading, colorful squares with different patterns replace them temporarily. Gálvez captures them through screenshots to later reproduce them individually, at a larger scale, in different mediums that go from paintings to prints. With this action, he is not only sublimating the glitches of the network, but also presenting to us another form of (aesthetic) perception of the digital content.
This series is reminiscent of the experiments by net artist pioneers –from Kenneth Knowlton and Leon Harmon in the sixties to the Vuk Ćosić of the nineties– who looked at the computer code, especially ASCII, not as an intermediary between the machine and the user, but as an element intrinsic of the medium itself, with its own beauty and its potential for communicating. As these artists thought to convey images through text, Gálvez turns the abstract concepts words represent, into images, as in a new pictogram system.