LEDs, Air Flow, Claustrophobia: an Artist’s Take on Data Centers

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

September 19, 2014

2 Min Read
LEDs, Air Flow, Claustrophobia: an Artist’s Take on Data Centers
Still capture from the third part of Matt Parker’s three-piece audiovisual installation exploring sounds and images from inside data centers.

Matt Parker, the artist whose audio project using samples recorded inside a Birmingham City University in England we wrote about in May, is back with a much more ambitious data center art project.

Parker has produced a three-part site-specific audiovisual installation on display at the Birmingham Conservatoire. All three pieces are below, but they’re in stereo. The live installation at the conservatoire is designed for 6.1-channel playback.

Parker used material recorded at the same university data center he used for the first piece and at another one, he told Vice’s Motherboard. He did not disclose the name of the other facility citing security concerns.

Some of the source material for the video component was shot at the university data center as well, but Parker also used some footage he found online.

The installation is called The Cloud is More than Air and Water. The first part focuses on the tremendous amount of LED lights present in data centers. As Parker pointed out in description of the piece online, LEDs are used for notification as well as for making the environments more attractive.

“LED lamps are low-emission materials that are often used in excess for no major gain to the functionality of the otherwise noisy and empty world of the data center,” Parker wrote.

The second piece in the series explores air flow in the data center. The third part, called Turbulence in the Chamber, aims to depict claustrophobic atmosphere the artist sensed when spending time inside data centers.

Parker’s overall aim in creating the installation was to explore “the acoustic ecology and impact of cloud computing on the lives of those who use it, the places it is physically located in and the people who work to maintain it.”

To see and here more of Parker's work, visit his blog Earth Kept Warm.

He isn’t the only artist inspired by the mystery of the Cloud, as it appears to people who don’t work in IT. A filmmaker named Timo Arnal recently produced a three-screen video installation using material shot at Telefonica’s data center just outside of Madrid. Arnal’s installation, called Internet Machine, was on display at the Big Bang Data art exhibition in Barcelona.

Here are all three parts of Matt Parker's installation (hint: watch with sound on, preferably decent headphones):

DC1 – Lighting up the Information Superhighway from earthkeptwarm on Vimeo.

DC2 - Without the Flow of Air the Transmission Isn't There from earthkeptwarm on Vimeo.

DC3 - Turbulence in the Chamber from earthkeptwarm on Vimeo.

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