Monuments written at a distance, monuments scratched in stone. (2017)
An early data network. Wires of refined ore embedded in wood. Buried.
It would do for passing through terrain, but saline solutions seep and erode.
Noticing a handle on a faraway island, a tree sap would work as insulator,
but getting it meant deforestation and shipping before the containers had been standardised.
It worked though, and so the work was done, or often outsourced.
And the network crept along, and the trees proved harder to find.
Plantations planted but it takes some time and eventually the extractions spread deeper,
commercially produced petro-plastics coated cables.
But the trees were there and they found a place in our teeth too.
And the clandestine antennae for bouncing off the ionosphere eventually crumbled,
and the ruins are implicated in pasture land, and a history of selective breeding.
Docks are filled in, filaments embedded, some barely leave a carbon trace.
Look for scratchings at a distance though, an upturned cover, a displaced stone.
We’re not the only ones to use and read it, it’s done in different ways.
And taking account for that might lead us somewhere,
beyond a rigid logic of infrastructure.
A necessary tangle.
A video essay and installation examining the intersection of communications infrastructures, their surrounding landscapes and the geologies and other organisms they affect. Visiting sites of historical and current importance to the UK’s data networks, the film explores various locations including the site of transmission of the first transatlantic radio signal, and landing points for the submarine fiber optic cables carrying the internet around the globe. The installation comprises of research, and found and made materials relating to these ideas, including an examination of gutta percha resin and its use in data networks and human dentistry.
Digital Artist Residency and OVADA Gallery supported the research for this work.
Install images by Tom Milnes.