The Circuit Breaker is a networked participated installation that critiques the culture of constant connectivity. The installation aims to provoke reflection about the social and energetic impact of our constantly connected digital lives. While harmony between man and machine, body and the network are seen as the primary aspirations of our post-industrial digital society, it has the potential for long-term discord to both natural ecologies and wider implications to local communities. Constant connectivity is not only energy-intensive but could also result in growing dissonance in society at multiple scales: from the social to the political, from resource depletion to climate change. Infrastructures that support connectivity still remain perceived generally as intangible and ethereal just like the ‘Cloud’.
By placing online behaviour through community-participated criteria of diversity, as well as an environmental agenda, the installation seeks to draw attention to the materialities and infrastructures of connectivity. As a participated artwork in a gallery, the installation aims to engage local communities, elicit critical responses and reflection on the state of the infrastructure of the Internet that dominates our daily lives. Could artistic methods question the ubiquitousness of connectivity and address related materialities and environmental impacts? Could dis-connectivity remind us of our choices? Could it persuade us to think that every ‘click’ has an energetic footprint and every break in the circuit saves a piece of the earth?
Samir Bhowmik / main concept, artwork and physical installation / Supported by Krisjanis Rijnieks / concept animation, electronics and code
CIRCUIT BREAKER / May 22 – 26, 2019
MAA-Tila Gallery, Pääskylänrinne 10, 00500 Helsinki
Opening hours / Wed – Fri 14:00-18:00 / Sat – Sun 13:00-17:00
Artist Talk 21.5. at 17:00
Vernissage 21.5. at 18:00
THE BATTERY IS THE MESSAGE: MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY AS AN ENERGY ART PRACTICE
When media start to explode in your hands, it deserves a description. When it causes airplane evacuations, general panic and hysteria, it warrants an examination. When it quietly dies in your pocket before the end of an eight hour work day just like the other two billion smartphones, it deserves an explanation. It is reasonable to believe that a ‘Thermal Runaway’ event is far more spectacular than a quiet smartphone death. Leakages take place, fire and toxic chemicals are involved, possibly leading to personal bodily injury. It can be traumatic. Thermal Runaway is today one of the prime modes of battery failure. Chemical reactions within raise its internal temperature, and if not dissipated, the temperature keeps rising that will further accelerate the reactions causing even more heat to be produced, eventually resulting in an explosion. Especially a Lithum-ion cell above a certain temperature, its internal chemical reactions out of control, will explode.
NOTE: The thoughts in the following article came about during the Community Power Bank(CPB) workshops at Pixelache Helsinki in 2015–16.The project recycled Lithium 18650 batteries with community participation and re- purposed them to build power banks for handheld media devices. The workshops were conducted at the Museum of Photography and at the OSCE (Open Source Circular Economy) Days in Helsinki, Finland. All acknowledgements are due to the participants and colleagues in this project. For more information see: http://samirbhowmik.cc/2016/06/22/community-power-bank-recycling-lithium-ion-battery-workshops-2016/
In an age of increasing media devices, infrastructure and energy needs, how can we develop community-shared power systems? How could artistic production benefit from energy independence and also address environmental concerns? Our aim is to build a community power bank (electrical energy storage) by recycling fuel cells, building portable battery packs for community and artistic use. The initial workshops are an introduction to our community-participated energy project and includes a hands-on introduction to recycling Lithium-ion 18650 cells from consumer battery packs. Participants are guided to safely dismantle batteries, test, identify and recover functional cells. They learn how to design various cell arrangements to create variable voltage power batteries. Finally, they are assisted to build and maintain recycled USB power banks.
Two workshops have already been held in June 2016:
“Powering the Cooper Hewitt” project will investigate a sustainable framework for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It will explore a participatory relationship between design collections, color search, user- communities and energy use of the museum. It will examine the links between energy & social metrics of museum’s user communities, analyzes carbon footprints and behavior of accessing digital artifacts by community from the museum’s collections. Finally, it aims to implement a participatory museum installation wherein the museum’s saved energy fosters a collection of its community’s design objects and energy stories matched to the museum’s own cloud collections.
When I met Seb Chan, the Director of Digital & Emerging Media of the Smithsonian Cooper- Hewitt Labs, National Design Museum, New York, on the sidelines of MuseumNext Amsterdam in May 2013, we talked about how to make collections more visible to museum visitors and engage the community. How we could transform the digital repository into a tangible being, how to place the museum building on the internet and make it participatory. How to weave issues of energy and sustainability into the daily practices of a museum. After some research and consultation with artist colleagues, curator friends and computer programmers, I started thinking of how one would explore a participatory relationship between online digital collections, color search, user-communities and energy use of the museum. This is a research in process and the outcomes are open ended.
This proposal is for an art installation project to visualize the digital collections of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum New York in context of its energy use, user-community and color search. It is the final exposition of a year-long project: MEMI (Museum Energy Model Interface) that explores a participatory relationship between art collections, color search, user-communities and energy use of the museum. The MEMI project in itself explores a digital search and monitoring methodology that not only strives to be a tool to access collections, but also records and analyses ICT-based processes of the online Collections Wall of the National Design Museum. It explores the links between energy & social metrics of museum’s user communities, analyzes carbon footprints and behavior of accessing digital artifacts by community from the museum’s collections. The “Color is History” Art installation will try to gather and combine the museum’s art collections, its energy use data, its user-community participation analytics, color tagging of individual artifacts and their respective narratives. It will stream continuous displays of color, artifacts, narratives and energy on the Museum floor (see System Diagram). The art installation will be fed content through a public online interface based on a Django web application framework & programmed in Python language. This interface/web application will access the open API (application programming interface) of the Museum’s digital collections. The physical installation itself will constitute of programmed LED displays, Arduino microprocessors and on-site computers. The saved energy use of the museum combined with online participation by its users will be channelled through the local energy provider to power the installation.
A GPS based video animation installation that charts the tram movements of Helsinki in real time and generates color patterns using heat signatures in the surrounding air, a process similar to the aurora borealis seen in the north of Finland.