the Museum of Pocket Art

Palpable Networks

Jenny Odell


Message Monoliths

"Art tends to give shape and weight to the most invisible processes. When entire sections of our existence spiral into abstraction as a result of economic globalization, when the basic functions of our daily lives are slowly transformed into products of consumptions … it seems highly logical that artists might seek to rematerialize these functions and processes, to give shape to what is disappearing before our eyes." –Nicolas Bourriaud

The images in this series are attempts to rematerialize that which becomes ever more elusive even as it envelops us completely: the communication networks that enable us to talk, to order something online and have it arrive on our doorstep, to be telepresent. If it is jarring to hear that data centers require huge amounts of water and energy to keep from overheating (for instance, Facebook recently placed a data center in the Arctic Circle), it is because communications technologies so intensely reflect our fantasy of disembodiment. But jpegs and iMessages are no less material than we are. And like the power grid, we may not realize this until the servers, wires, towers, generators, cables, switches, and screens fail us as materials. Until then, these small collections are meant to render palpable the otherwise diffuse components of our day-to-day networked existence.