“The Internet machine” reminds us that the Cloud is made of metal

You’ve never, and you’ll never be able to, touch the web. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in thousands of locations around the world, flickering into life from secret servers.

Behind our ethereal connection to humanity’s best data depot, there’s metal. Millions of tones of metal. And plastic, and concrete, and, often overlooked, water.

Pretty much all internet data is stored in server rooms – be they giant or small – built of concrete and metal. These rooms turn electricity into processes and heat. Other rooms remove this heat by turning water into steam. Processed data goes back to you, steam goes back into the environment. And so it goes.

It’s interesting, because no-one considers this essential materiality at the heart of the web. For instance, Google’s server requirements are so large that they are estimated to use 0.01% of the world’s global power supply. That’s enough energy to power your house, and those of your 199,999 neighbours.

Timo Arnall has created Internet machine in part to foreground the realities of digital, and also to highlight the beautiful engineering that goes into the locations.

There’s ample use of the dolly zoom technique in the trailer, which is a good way of examining our experiences of the internet: persistent and gentle (like clouds).

As the film is designed to be played across three attached screens, Arnall is creating a materiality for his own movie, demanding that we travel to prepared installations to experience it.

In essence, he’s banishing the possibility of weightless web distribution of his video. Which is a shame, because I want to see it, and I’m not going to visit BIG BANG DATA, (open from 9 May 2014 until 26 October 2014 at CCCB (Barcelona) and from February-May 2015 at Fundación Telefónica (Madrid).) to watch it.

Sad face.

 

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