VANGUARD I (THE FIVE-BODY PROBLEM) (2018)

Collaboration with Nicolas Lapointe

plexiglas, aluminium, electronics

215 x 110 x 110 cm

As our repositories of knowledge become increasingly digital, this media-based sculpture questions the relationship between technology, information, and embodiment. Drawing on the visual vocabularies of science fiction, data centres, and video games, Anna Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe offer multiple windows onto a virtual landscape, questioning what lies behind, below, and beyond the digital frontier.

 

Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) looks back at the techno-utopianism of the 1950s as a way of examining our own contemporary relationship to technology. As one of the first satellites in the history of American space exploration, Vanguard I continues to orbit the planet as our oldest example of space debris. In this work, Vanguard I is revived, multiplied, and mutated into a fleet of satellite-virus hybrids. These cyborgian entities twitch and glitch across a virtual terrain, monitored by a Panopticon-like structure of screens. As they glide from screen to screen, their drone-like movements also offer a reversal of the gaze, questioning our relationship to surveillance technologies. The screens themselves face the interior of the tower, and as such, are visible only obliquely through the mediation of the structure.

 

Evoking at once Modernist architecture and data servers, Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) is a tiered, modular structure constructed from transparent Plexiglas and electronics, punctuated by a series of small screens. Fans and circuit boards are mounted to the exterior structure, as cascading wires form connections between the structure’s levels. Vanguard I (The Five-Body Problem) speaks to the unseen systems---the ghosts in the machine---that exist behind our virtual environments. The screens themselves offer an imperfect map of virtual space: one comprised mostly of gaps and absence. By conflating the architectures of physical and virtual spaces, however, the work invites us to consider the invisible structures governing our digital identities. At the same time, the work serves to highlight---and indeed, animate---the digital debris that we ourselves leave behind.