Addie Wagenknecht, Cloud Farming, 2014 (detail view). Custom printed circuit boards, ethernet patch cables, 80/20 aluminum. Installation: 31 x 87 x 35 in / 79 x 221 x 89 cm. Photos courtesy: bitforms gallery, New York, via
At Addie Wagenknecht’s Shellshock exhibit, guests become immediately aware of how little privacy exists in the age of big data. As they walk into the sparse gallery, they see a piece titled Cloud Farming, a suspended structure of flashing triangular circuit boards that uses custom printed circuit boards and ethernet cables to essentially sniff out nearby wifi signals. Once detected, blinking green lights create a maniacally anxious experience for viewers, perpetuating the nagging sensation that they're being watched as they walk through the gallery.
“The series is really about how we are becoming byproducts of the network,” explains Wagenknecht of her first solo show in the United States. “I wanted to create a taxonomy of data, a sort of manifestation of 'the cloud' in tangible form.” Not far from Cloud Farming, another piece called XXX.XXXX functions in the same way. A ”portrait of networks,” with the circuit boards mounted on the wall, it aesthetically mimics the droves of servers that people most associate the Internet with. Ethernet cables drape the piece like threaded adornments creating a chaotic visualization that is at once symbolic and at its core, very literal.
“Indirectly, the piece was about phones and computers becoming almost anthropomorphic, extensions of our arms and self, like a ‘black box’ of cultural capital and social currency. I wanted the piece to not be specifically what has happened, but rather the truth of what is happening, encapsulating it in a way that society can parse,” she adds.
Also included in the exhibit are her original paintings created using commercially available drones. The paintings, almost violent in their mechanical haphazardness, use a special mixture of paints that change color in different lighting and temperature. “I use thermochromic and photochromic pigments, to challenge the notion of interactivity. The works as a result are always changing, dependent on the temperature and light in the room, like a form of analog interactivity,” says Wagenknecht, who’s been making drone paintings since 2007, before the political implications of the machines were common knowledge.
Across from XXX.XXXX, two gold painted CCTV cameras adorn the walls. Her work is as rooted in its physical experience as it is with the invisible forces at work throughout the space it occupies. With Shellshock, Wagenknecht places her audience in a reality, albeit a new and digital one that's easy to ignore. “Everyone has a phone and every corner has a CCTV on it- we are inundated with images and symbols and fear, yet all those devices and invisible systems makes people accountable,” she says. “Almost anyone can document anything and the network copies it, torrents become seeds and the data is no longer ours. There is as much beauty as there is fear in that.”
Click here to learn more about Addie Wagenknecht at Bitforms.