The Dead Web – La fin
featuring Dominique Sirois & Baron Lanteigne, Frédérique Laliberté, Julie Tremble, Julien Boily, Projet EVA (Etienne Grenier & Simon Laroche)
curated by Nathalie Bachand
From April 3rd to April 7th, 2019
« Will the Internet end soon? »
It all began in May 2015, when I read an article on lemonde.fr that spoke of the possibility of a collapse of the World Wide Web. Although this event is largely hypothetical, several articles have been written on the subject in response to a scientific symposium that the Royal Society organized around the Internet Capacity Crunch.
In a context where the network could collapse even before the end of its “adultescence” —in 2023, the Web as we know it will barely be more than 25 years old—we can try to picture the fall of the Web and the after-world that would ensue: Empty server carcasses and a sea of electronic junk? A digital oblivion on all screens? Machines imitating the Web? A handcrafted Internet?
How will the at once dematerialized and delocalized dynamics of power structures be impacted in both their evident economic and inevitably political manifestations if the network is disconnected?
But also, what can still be said or done in the meantime? How does one occupy or not– what is essentially borrowed time and space, a space-time henceforth to be shared between digital and physical realities.
In the wake of these reflections, I wanted to gather artistic proposals that echo these considerations.
[Nathalie Bachand, Curator]
In Extremis, by Dominique Sirois and Baron Lanteigne, is the result of a very recent collaboration between the two artists. Both a sculpture and video installation—comprising passages between the two—, the work raises the question of the liminal space between the virtual and the real, the materiality of the digital and obsolescence.
Through an arrangement of proliferating screens—some in working order, others not—textile cables and structures, it suggests a certain disorder in which there is discontinuous dialogue between connection and disconnection. Could the Internet survive it’s own death, in a virtuality that would escape us? This question, which evidently remains unresolved, here stimulates reflection about the way in which the Internet’s infrastructure extends beyond the screen. Between the hardware, the screen apparatus and the undetermined space of the digital, there is a gesture—that of turning this system on. Various zones are revealed: first, the screen-portal that receives and emits the data; then the touchscreen and its manual operation, which is extended into a great number of connectivity phalanges; and finally there is the other side of the screen—beyond the screen? The networks’ infrastructure, more specifically the underground fibre optic channels, which are akin to a nervous/bone system, then reveals the fragility of the World Wide Web—unless this fragility is nothing but a façade?
Infinitisme.com Forever A Prototype, by Frédérique Laliberté, is an eternally “progressive” Web project, an autonomous collage machine that generates semi-random virtual compositions by searching in a database of categorized and classified digital files: images, sounds, animated gifs, videos, text, etc. The result of each visit is a series of ephemeral constructions, based both on the rigidity of archival processes and on their casualness. A makeshift Internet, a sort of mimesis of itself, this website can only reuse and renew that which already exists, giving a function to hundreds of gigabytes of latent data. More specifically, the program activates a series of commands that select random files within their respective categories. It then places these organized elements in the virtual canvas of the Web page, within well-defined compartments, layers, and sequences. Taking the form of an installation, the project presents itself as a contextual environment: a simulation of a functional device. Incessantly evolving in a virtual space and time, this parallel universe is extirpated from its abstraction when visited by a Web user.
The creation of Infinitisme.com Forever A Prototype was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
BPM 37093, by Julie Tremble, is a short 3D animation that “tells the story”– the blurred line between fiction and reality, is intentional here—the death of a star and its slow material transformation: As the artist states, “BPM 37093 is a star, very similar to the sun, which is now dead. Scientists have discovered that through the process of dying, the star has almost completely turned into a diamond, as the sun will do in billions of years. The video is a fantastical representation of this scientific phenomenon, [and the] 3D modeling, a tool frequently put to use in documentary and fiction films to depict astronomical phenomena. The animation repurposes this presumably realistic technique, to illustrate how our understanding of certain natural phenomena, the perception of which is inaccessible to us, depends on fragmentary information, representations, and imagined associations.” This representation of the death of a star, symbolic of the (possible) death of the universe (and incidentally, that of the Internet) is also the birth of something else: in this case, a diamond. The highly accelerated temporality of a star’s extinction—1:14 for millions of years—adds depth to the whole exhibition project, which, in questioning the Web, also questions the notion of duration and instantaneity, as well as our representations of the world by way of a myriad of CGI images, which we should rightly be wary of.
The painting Memento Vastum by Julien Boily—an oil on panel—speaks of a lost memory. Vastum (“waste” in Latin) refers to the notion of loss, to what is left behind in favour of a certain idea of progress. The tension between tradition and progress fuels this idea of multifaceted loss in Boily’s work. Loss of pictorial know-how, of course, but also of traditional knowledge which is immediately replaced by new knowledge -often in the form of information or even data. It is a recursive dynamic that is constantly accelerating. With the advent of the new, what preceded it is likely to be discarded. This notion of the vestige here overlaps with those of planned obsolescence and the vanitas genre. While in the 17th century the mirror was a recurrent element in the composition of vanitas—these still-lives evoking humanity’s fleeting nature—nowadays, our electronic devices and digital tools could be said play a similar role. Among these objects that reflect our desires, our fears and our vanity back to us, is not the Internet like a two-way mirror? Considered among these objects that have the capacity to reflect our desires, fears and vanity back to us, is the Internet akin to a two-way mirror?
Memento Vastum is part of the Canopée Médias Collection.
The Object of the Internet is an installation by Projet EVA (Simon Laroche & Étienne Grenier), evoking the idea of a mausoleum conjuring the end of the Web. Through optical and kinetic processes integrated into a device in which the visitor inserts his/her head, the human face is broken down into a multitude of fragments. Visitors are projected into a dystopian future where, on social media, only the traces of our selfies, which are artificially animated, remain in the form of a reflection. The latter, is condemned to the status of a sterile solipsism and stirs in the intergalactic void of the end of the Internet.
The creation of L’Objet de l’Internet was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
The first iteration of the The Dead Web – La fin exhibition was presented in 2017 at Eastern Bloc (Montreal, Quebec, Canada).
This project has received support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts. Molior acknowledges the ongoing support of the Conseil des arts de Montréal and extends its thanks to the Québec Government Office in Paris for their precious collaboration.