Gradcam 
 
GradCAM at the Pavilion of Ireland at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia
Representation of the Irish Pavilion, central section in the Arsenale. Built using burnt server cabinets, fans, thermal cameras, screens, grow lights and rubber plants the pavilion performs the material impact of data infrastructure on everyday life. © ANNEX

Representation of the Irish Pavilion, central section in the Arsenale.
Built using burnt server cabinets, fans, thermal cameras, screens, grow lights and rubber plants the pavilion performs
the material impact of data infrastructure on everyday life. © ANNEX

The 2021 Irish Pavilion exhibition, Entanglement, at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, will explore the materiality of data, and the interwoven human, environmental and cultural impacts of communication technologies. The exhibition will highlight how data production and consumption territorialize the physical landscape, and examine Ireland’s place in the pan-national evolution of data infrastructure.

 

The 2021 Irish Pavilion exhibition, Entanglement, at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of LaBiennale di Venezia, will explore the materiality of data, and the interwoven human, environmental andcultural impacts of communication technologies. The exhibition will highlight how data production andconsumption territorialize the physical landscape, and examine Ireland’s place in the pan-national evolutionof data infrastructure.

Ireland at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council and the exhibition in2021 will be curated by Annex, a collective of architects, artists, and urbanists. Entanglement responds to thetheme selected by the curators of the Biennale Architettura 2021, How will we live together? The exhibitionaims to raise awareness about the materiality of the global internet and Cloud services, which is interwovenwith the Irish landscape – made manifest through the vast constellation of data centres, fibre optic cablenetworks, and energy grids that have come to populate its cities and suburbs over recent decades.

Ireland plays a significant historical role in the evolution of global communications and data infrastructure.In 1866, the world’s first commercially successful transatlantic telegraph cable landed on the West coast ofIreland. In 1901, the inventor of the radio Guglielmo Marconi transmitted some of the world’s first wirelessradio messages from Ireland across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland. Today, Dublin has overtakenLondon as the data centre hub of Europe, hosting 25% of all available European server space. And by theyear 2027, data centres are forecast to consume a third of Ireland’s total electricity demand.

Entanglement draws from both contemporary and historical data storage artefacts as building blocks to formthe structure of the pavilion. These artefacts are assembled in a campfire formation, referencing thisprimitive architectural space where early human civilisations formed alliances, built social networks andeventually developed complex societies. The pavilion asserts that from the burning of campfire logs to themanagement of waste heat generated by contemporary data infrastructure, the production and distributionof information is intrinsically connected to the production and distribution of heat.

By foregrounding these thermodynamic processes as a link between the architectures of the campfire andthe data centre, the pavilion speculates on the relationship between these forms and how diversecommunities converge around them in the past and into the future. Entanglement invites its audience toexperience this thermal logic themselves through real-time thermographic imaging technologies thatjuxtapose key sites associated with data infrastructure in Ireland with traces of human activity in theArsenale.

Drone thermographic image of agricultural land in Ireland, highlighting the heat generated from data infrastructure. © ANNEX

Drone thermographic image of agricultural land in Ireland, highlighting the heat generated from data infrastructure.
© ANNEX

These complex series of energy-intensive thermal transformations in the pavilion presents an immersive andperformative visitor experience from illustrating the extent to which people are producing, consuming anddisseminating data across the globe, to bringing transparency to the local and planetary scale of datainfrastructure networks; for example, how a Facebook ‘like’ in Malaysia can trigger the emission of heatfrom a server on the outskirts of Dublin.

From top left to right, Donal Lally (GradCAM), Alan Butler (artist) , Clare Lyster (Illinois University), Sven Anderson (GradCAM), David Capener (GradCAM) and Fiona McDermott (Trinity College)

From top left to right, Donal Lally (GradCAM), Alan Butler (artist) , Clare Lyster (Illinois University), Sven Anderson (GradCAM), David Capener (GradCAM) and Fiona McDermott (Trinity College)

Annex is an international multidisciplinary research and design collective, comprised of a core team ofarchitects, artists, and urbanists, whose work operates between and beyond the subject areas of computerscience, gaming platforms, technology and public space, data centres, sensor technology, and large technicalsystems. Members include Sven Anderson, Alan Butler, David Capener, Donal Lally, Clare Lyster and FionaMcDermott.

Ireland at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council and in 2021 thepavilion also has the support of: The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media;Royal Institute of Architects Ireland; TU Dublin School of Creative Arts; TU Dublin Graduate School ofCreative Arts and Media; Trinity College Dublin; CONNECT Research Centre for Future Networks andCommunications; University of Illinois at Chicago, Creative Activity Award; Valentia Slate, ARUP, Office ofPublic Works and Green on Red Gallery.

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