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© 2020 Steve Rowell
Groundwork 2018, Cornwall UK
Telegraph Museum Porthcurno June 21, 2018 - April 2019
The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology
MCA Chicago November 9, 2013 - March 9, 2014
Steve Rowell’s two-screen slide projection focuses on the history of 19th and 20th century transatlantic communication technologies. The title Points of Presence refers to the technical term for a physical access point to the Internet. At the heart of Rowell’s investigative project is the very materiality of something as “virtual” as the World Wide Web. This photographic journey captures sites on opposing sides of the North Atlantic where submarine telegraph and analog telephone cables emerge from the ocean floor. The clicking of the slide projectors, another obsolete technology, contrasts with an ominous soundtrack of our connected world: an excerpted dictation of the “Stuxnet” code, the first successfully deployed cyberweapon.
- Wall text from the exhibition
The STUXNET virus was discovered sometime in 2010 after rendering a considerable portion of Iran's uranium enrichment equipment useless. The virus – which had infected computers in these facilities, gradually, covertly, spinning them out of control, causing physical and irreparable damage to them – has now 'gone wild' on the internet and in the black market. It is currently being transmitted via commercial fiber optic cables, running beneath the ocean, alongside the dead copper cables featured here.
The sound component was fed through a parabolic ceiling speaker, meaning that the visitor had to be positioned directly beneath this speaker to clearly discern the words in the otherwise ambient sounding dictation of the cyberweapon code (see description below). Listen to this compressed extract:
When creating (and viewing/critiquing) art work about the archaeology of the past and the present, we construct new ways of understanding where we’ve come from and where we’re heading. In doing so, we navigate, at this moment, the terrain of our collective past and potential future.
Some of my US research from this project went towards the making of the 2013 CLUI exhibition:
Networked Nation: The Landscape of the Internet in America.
Video documentation of installation at MCA: