Networked Disruptions Online Exhibition

FLEFF

Networked Disruptions Curator's Essay

The River Runs Red (Isabelle Carbonell, 2019)

network, n.

1. Work (esp. manufactured work) in which threads, wires, etc., are crossed or interlaced in the fashion of a net; frequently applied to light fabric made of threads intersecting in this way.

[…]

2. b. A structure of this kind forming part of animal or plant tissue.

3. A chain or system of interconnected immaterial things.

4. a. Any netlike or complex system or collection of interrelated things, as topographical features, lines of transportation, or telecommunications routes (esp. telephone lines).

[…]

disruption, n.

1. The action of rending or bursting asunder; violent dissolution of continuity; forcible severance.

2. A disrupted condition; a disrupted part or place, a rent.

[…]

 

 

 

 

 

— Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

 

The theme for the online exhibition at FLEFF 2019, Networked Disruptions, suggests a tension between harmonious collaboration and violent discord.

We live in a world where we can communicate across vast networks in what seems like real time. We can travel to cities on the other side of the planet and recognize the same global brands we find at home. We are all on Facebook or WeeChat or some other free-to-use applications. Disruptions in service often seem rare.

We also live in a world where disruptions are common. The systems born of Western Enlightenment thinking never really worked. The elections were always rigged. The playing field was never intended to be level.

Disruptions to networks of governance are increasingly common in the so-called great democracies of our times. People in some of the most powerful parts of the world, notably the United States and the European Union, but also in India and Israel, are coming to terms with the effects of the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0.

Social media is increasingly understood as divisive. IT corporations that announced Web 2.0 are generally believed to have perfect algorithms to aggregate anxieties and desires into marketing revenue. Web 3.0 is invasive. Not only is Alexa listening for our commands, but Amazon employees are listening to our conversations recorded by the bot, transforming us into unpaid labor in product development.

This exhibition looks for ways to evade the invasive aspects of networks and locate productive disruptions.

Disruptions stop the flow of events, ideas, processes, and structures. They produce breaks, fissures, and stoppages where old flows are halted and new ones can emerge.  Disruptions can be productive, as they are in technological and political revolutions, or they can be destabilizing and counterproductive, as in severe weather patterns and market volatilities. 

Global warming’s disruptions result in unwanted environmental changes. They give rise to rising air and water temperatures, to rising water and toxicity levels, to rising fears and anxieties. Disrupting consumerist habits, such as our use of cheap fossil fuels to power single-person or single-family modes of transport and produce single-use, “disposable” plastics, is an urgent response that can be distributed across the world.

Networked disruptions consist of outages, censorship, violations of privacy, and identity thefts. Hackers and artists have often worked to unlock content and interrupt the algorithms that narrow the aggregated information in our search engine results or our social media feeds.

This exhibition features projects that explore disruptions in relation to both our natural and virtual environments. They address a range of issues that might at first seem unconnected to our shared environment and make manifest the linkages and relationships among them.

Projects include the danger of toxins from iron-ore processing in Brazil, the precarity of environmentalist data in the United States under the current administration, and the popular illusion that recycling and reusing can un-pollute our planet. These and others explore the array of human and nonhuman actors in our physical and virtual environments.

FLEFF: A DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENT