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Toxic Digits (2019) Exhibited at Piksel19, Bergen (NO)


Audio-visual Installation. Software: Processing, Pure Data & Twitter API.

Materials: Raspberry PI, TV screen and headphones.

In Duty Free Art (2017), Steyerl reflects on the poignancy of “noise” within networked digital technologies and the invisible predatory power that embodies, in the form of surveillance systems or “militia bots”. Similarly,  anthropologist Gabrys (2011) highlights the role of data wreckage in the perpetuation of digital systems and its environmental impact. Nonetheless, unlike consumer electronics that once obsolete become part of the museum archive, online debris prevails “undead” within computational systems.  How can art trace these invisible agencies of  toxicity – material and psycho-social?

Toxic Digits is a qualitative data visualization that mirrors the inherent proliferation of the digital by reacting to the amount of hashtags, retweets, url and mentions in tweets. The application “sediments” timelines from trollbot accounts - human controlled twitter accounts that spread fake news through repetitive mass sharing. Remarkably, humans have started simulating the predatory behavior of algorithms. Progressively tweets accumulate and their content becomes unreadable, generating stratified visual records or "technofossils" (Zalasiewcz et al, 2014), alike the techno-human strata which attests to the material reality of the Anthropocene - the current geological epoch where techno-human re-materializations surpass "natural processes".

Can a hybrid entity resultant from the conflation between human, algorithmic and organic activity become sentient to the link between the psycho-social contemporary conditions and the proliferating and polluting ecology of the digital network infrastructure?

Gabrys, J. (2011) , Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics .Ann Arbor :University of Michigan Press.

Steyerl, H. (2017), Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War. New York: Verso. p. 38.

Zalasiewicz, J., et al (2014) The technofossil record of humans.

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