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Artists Imagine Life After a Total Internet Collapse

At Eastern Block’s ‘The Dead Web - La Fin’ exhibition, artists warn of a great collapse.

by DJ Pangburn
24 January 2017, 6:00pm

Julien Boily, Memento Vastum (2012). Images courtesy the artists and Eastern Bloc

At symposium at the British Royal Society in 2015, experts warned the internet could collapse by 2023 because of a “capacity crunch.” Picking up where this idea left off, curator Nathalie Bachand put an exhibition together called The Dead Web - La Fin, in which several artists explore how such a collapse might impact society, art, and technology.

“Each work address the exhibition’s concept through very different lenses, but they all relates to an idea of the after-web world and of technological obsolescence as well,” Bachand tells The Creators Project. “And of course through their own artistic practices, which are positioned at opposite points in some case: from 3D animation to oil painting, just to mention the two most extremes.”

ODI_PROMO_PHONE from Projet EVA on Vimeo.

In The Object of the Internet, Projet EVA creates a kinetic installation inspired by Bryon Gysin’s dream machines. Viewers sit on a bench with their heads inside the machine, and when the machine starts moving around its axis the viewer’s face gets “virtualized.” This, according to Projet EVA, creates an immersive spectacle of the viewer’s own face.

“We sort of drifted from [the idea of] a video projection to a purely electro-mechanical reflective machine,” Projet EVA’s Simon Laroche and Etienne Grenier tell The Creators Project. “The use of one-way mirrors as a primary medium allowed us to explore the theme of online narcissism in a novel way.”

Grégory Chatonsky & Dominique Sirois’ Extinct Memories III

Laroche and Grenier built models and mockups with pieces of mirrors, lazy susans, and flashlights before creating the final product. They were only able to see what it could do a week before the show, once they had done the final build with materials and coding.

“We want people to experiment a progressive dissolution of the self in a not-so zen way,” the duo says. “We are hoping that through aggressive abstract modifications of their own reflection, people will think about the vacuity of their online existence.”

Image from Frédérique Laliberté’s Infinitisme.com Forever A Prototype

In Infinitisme.com Forever A Prototype, artist Frédérique Laliberté envisions an eternally “progressive” web project: a makeshift, autonomous internet that generates semi-random virtual compositions. A web project with a computer as a papier-mâché hard drive that visitors can navigate, it is, as Bachand tells The Creators Project, a desperate attempt to create the internet as a hand-crafted data center.

This desire to resurrect that which is dead is also depicted in Extinct Memories III by Grégory Chatonsky and Dominique Sirois. Now in its third iteration, the installation project imagines an archeological-like exhumation of Internet servers that are still readable. Internet obsessions like the techno-fetishes for devices and cats appear in these servers, amongst other digital artifacts.

Project Eva, The Object of the Internet (2017) 

Bachand also included a painting in the show by Julien Boily, which she feels is a bit of a provocation since the Eastern Bloc venue itself is all about digital art. Titled Memento Vastum, the painting features a skull on a desk facing a blank white computer screen, with a recently extinguished candle to its left. As Bachand says, the painting tells of a lost memory—in this case, the loss of know-how, whether artistic or traditional knowledge immediately replaced by the new, often in the form of information or data.

Julie Tremble’s BMP 37093 is a short 3D animation that depicts the death of a star and its slow transformation. With the universe and internet’s deaths comes the birth of a diamond.

Julie Tremble, BPM 37093 (2014)

Bachand hopes The Dead Web - La Fin will get people to rethink their personal relation and our collective to the internet. Ideally, it will also get people to ask themselves what, ultimately, we want from the web.

“Many think that the Internet isolates people from each other, when in fact we are constantly and furiously in communication together,” Bachand says. “I’m currently reading Kenneth Goldsmith’s book Wasting Time on the Internet (2016), and I realize that I never thought about how it actually improved my everyday life on so many levels, often unnoticed.”

“And it seems it won’t stop going further,” she adds. “[I] can’t wait to see the future of the internet—what’s to come we can’t even imagine.”

Project Eva, The Object of the Internet (2017) 

The Dead Web - La Fin runs until February 15th at Eastern Bloc in Montreal.

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