Photo by NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0) / Photo by NASA/Drew Noel
Photo by NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0) / Photo by NASA/Drew Noel

CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE is an artistic research and production residency which approaches the resources and reserves of materials, energies, signals and data behind it all. The project is a series of workshops and public events leading to an artwork for transmediale 2014 afterglow, a collaboration of artist-technologists Jamie Allen and David Gauthier. CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE unearths the undergiring of media technics, as a ‘media archeology of the present’ — understanding the post-digital as not just horizontal and temporal but material, stratal, and vertical — infra-digital and infra-technical.


CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE sees the afterglow of the digital as its material detritus and detrition. What is left behind in the wake of our media-technical compulsions? These are the unnoticed, assumed and taken-for-granted resources and reserves of matter, energy, signals and data that enframe the possibility of an art-and-technology practice. The project addresses technological afterglow not only in from a historical-temporal perspective, but rather in from an attentional, sensory and substructural one, tending towards revelation — of the depth, strata and intricacy of technologies and their underlying infrastructures. That which is left behind, unrevealed and withdrawn from “view” is emphasized, a matter for concern and care. The project aligns furtively with what might be termed a “media archeology of the present”; the post-digital as the infra-digital or infra-technical.


infra |ˈinfrə | adverb: below; further on. ORIGIN late 19th cent.: Latin, ‘below.


CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE is perhaps less what lies after (in time), and more what lies beneath or has always been behind (in space, or matter). Technological infrastructures, as complex systems of materials enabling much of the interactions and aesthetics which enter the sensory milieu, have been stripped of their apparent and affective repercussions, and so have effectively (and incorrectly) been wrought as unimportant, depoliticised and uninteresting: “You wouldn’t be interested.” And so CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE hopes for views of this subterranean landscape, in the language that Homeland Security uses to describe socio-technical assets that are “so vital that their‚ incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating effect on the defense or economic security” of nation states.


CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE is the potential for infrastructures that are critical of themselves, critical of their own tendencies to withdraw, critical of their own spread and overabundance, critical of its own assertions of reliability, perfection and exactitude. Digital infrastructures in particular, beneath and after their veiling as refined, lightning-fast, faultless and immaterial structures are finally as identifiable as all preceding infrastructures: just another big mess of stuff.


The project is set to explore and exploit these instabilities in producing a localised CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE for public experience in Berlin at transmediale 2014. The work will be a shadow of existing systems, one that rides on existing infrastructures, celebrates exploitation, opportunism and breakdown, creates new layers of physical resource, information and data and is unreliable, untrustworthy, overcoded and irregular. Revealing the fragility of infrastructures brings about new understandings, new regimes of in/visibility. In the afterglow of the post-digital, CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE mines the promise of exhausted, technical abundance.


Workshop 0: LEAKAGE

Workshop 1: SURVEYANCE

Workshop 2: CONVEYANCE




CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE is a residency project of transmediale, funded by the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.


Photo by NOAA's National Ocean Service (CC BY 2.0) / Photo by NASA/Drew Noel