Internet machine is a multi-screen film about the invisible infrastructures of the Internet. The film reveals the hidden materiality of our data by exploring some of the machines through which ‘the cloud’ is transmitted and transformed. Internet machine documents one of the largest, most secure and ‘fault-tolerant’ data-centres in the world, run by Telefónica in Alcalá, Spain. The film explores these hidden architectures with a wide, slowly moving camera. The subtle changes in perspective encourage contemplative reflection on the spaces where Internet data and connectivity are being managed. The work goes beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud’; it investigates what the infrastructures of the Internet actually look like: the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them. What we find, after being led through layers of identification and security far higher than any airport, are deafeningly noisy rooms cocooning racks of servers and routers. Server rooms are kept cool through quiet, airy ‘plenary’ corridors that divide the overall space. In the labyrinthine corridors of the basement, these cables connect to the wider Internet through holes in rough concrete walls. The outside of the building is a facade of enormous stainless steel water tanks, containing tens of thousands of litres of cool water, sitting there in case of fire. And up on the roof, to the sound of birdsong, is a football-pitch sized array of shiny aluminium ‘chillers’ that filter and cool the air going into the building. In experiencing these machines at work, we start to understand that the Internet is not a weightless, immaterial, invisible cloud, and instead to appreciate it as a very distinct physical, architectural and material system.
Produced by Timo Arnall, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona - CCCB, and Fundación Telefónica. Filming at Telefonica Alcalá Data Center.