Lundahl & Seitl, Unknown Cloud On Its Way To (2019)
ABOUT THE ART
Programmed to exist globally until 2057, the Cloud travels across national borders, large cities, remote villages, islands, mountains, and across the sea.
Unknown Cloud On Its Way To… is a participatory performance. Central to the work is the participants’ own being in time and their ability to create relations with the lifeworlds of others. Synchronized via Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and a downloadable APP to participants’ own smartphones, the Unknown Cloud creates an unusual situation of a global ritual that connects us to our own and other bodies, far and near.
Unknown Cloud On Its Way To… (2015-2057) is made by the Swedish artist duo Lundahl & Seitl. Application, iOS and Android developed by Nagoon.
The work is presented in the framework of Struer Tracks, Struer, Denmark and Media Art Histories Re:Sound 2019. The Unknown Cloud is forecasted to pass Struer on August 23, 19.45, at the lawn by the marina.
Lundahl & Seitl on Unknown Cloud as a ‘new’ art environment:
Background: Around 2014 we started to work on a new project. The motivation was provoked by political world leaders’ absolute neglect of climate change, conflicts, and the displacement of people. The realization that in the face of social challenge, politics had yet again become an audience sport of shifting attention away from the most important problems, to problems that could be easily told and marketed as stories, in order to gain votes or likes.
At the back of an infrastructure based on abstract fictional creations, money, contracts, corporations, borders, being treated as ‘more real’ than physical reality, the acceleration in social communication, plus advances in algorithmic prediction, plus human disinformation, plus AI and big data, we noticed a gap between: what humans can measure in terms of information – and what we can comprehend with our senses.
Add to this that Facebook simulated, and to some extend altered, deep existential and emotional needs, which sociologist Hartmund Rosa later identified as fundamental needs of being in Resonance with the world, for example: making us feel liked, and surrounded by friends or of sharing our experience with others. The platforms, as you know, made information to feedback and cluster around users’ interests and biases making a community’s instincts resistant to facts and any information challenging their own world view. That we depend on technologies and representations that are intentionally being designed to circumvent individual awareness and increase ignorance.
No longer in dialogue with the entity that manipulates us, we instead find ourselves in a staged conflict with each other in a simulation that hears more and more stories with less and less nuance and depth, leaving us to accept living in a reduced level of reality. As writer Helena Granström writes: to cover this loss, we change the basic categories we use to interpret the world, “…call tree plantations forests, and you will not have to see your own culture level the last forest to the ground; call nature the environment, so that you can forget that it has ever been anything but a buffer for the destructive effects of human progress. Correspondingly, we learned to understand digital presence as presence and the absence it causes as a presence in another, more real, context – learn to understand the loneliness we are never allowed to fully perceive as meaningless, and the community we tentatively can perceive as merely a more primitive form of the bodiless community of the digital sphere”.
This lack of self-regulation, an inability to process and engage with direct feedback from our environment, seems to induce ignorance and ill-health. So, although we are dependent of water, soil, and of breathing fresh air, our psychological relationship with nature is not very far from the exploitation of surveillance and the next level of neuro-capitalism feed on users’ sense experience at an ever-closer proximity.
We wanted to work with the power in digital technology to extend our touch of the world beyond the newsfeed of the flat screens in a digital artwork staging real world encounters that in a protected mode made us, the experiencers (not corporations), more aware of our behavioral patterns, decisions, and our response to sensory and cognitive influence.
Inspired by the flow of data online with phenomena like meme culture, trends, viral messages in combination with physical mobilization, like flashmobs, we started to identify the qualities of decline within the current paradigm of technogenic environments.
At the time, the idea of the data cloud still carried some mystery. Instead of debunking the myth, we imagined a Cloud that moved over multiple places on earth, simultaneously, and that had the ability to connect these places in time; much like a digital cloud – but that also carried qualities of a weather phenomenon moving over the globe across national borders, over seas and islands, limiting digital access only to these locations.
The cloud events are preceded by rumors on different media, articles with titles: An Unknown Cloud is on its way to Denmark speculating why the phenomenon has gravitated towards this location and in general why the Unknown Cloud exists?
If enough people gathered at a local node, where the Cloud was forecasted to pass – with the CARETAKER APP downloaded and open on their phones – then, when the time is right, the app synchronizes local nodes of people worldwide via Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). They would form a global flashmob, moving together. Instead of disconnecting us from our own and other bodies the cloud, and instead of creating simulations that overwrite physical reality, the technology is here bringing attention to events, processes, and emotions that the physical limitations of human perception prevent us from experiencing but that is an actual, yet unconscious part of our reality: celestial bodies far away, deep time, the life-worlds of far-away strangers, stars dead long before humankind existed, the experience of standing on a planet, and comprehending that the sky also continues downward – below the earth – and that it is not the sun that goes down but we who rotate away from it.
Could this embodied overview effect create a sense of awe, an awareness similar to what astronauts felt when seeing the earth from space?
So far, the Cloud has traveled to over 20 countries. In the past, we have run parallel Cloud events between Berlin Tempelhofer Feld and Karbi Anglong, Assam India. Between New York and Iran, and Bangalore and San Fransisco.
The connection between the different places is strengthened by site specific recordings in collaborations with people and groups from the locations, which also change the narrative according to local concerns and cultural specificities.
The Cloud is programmed to be on earth until the year 2057 as a conduit and mediator between technology, humans, and the environment. It will be continuously worked on and updated in relation to the coming challenges. Future generations of the cloud will have a capacity for modular participation, for new groups of people to create their own events and versions in resonance with our intentions for the project.
Image: Lundahl & Seitl, Unknown Cloud on its way to… (2019), Struer Tracks. Courtesy of the artists.