'Liquid mapping :: connected to...', Esther Pizarro

Artist: Esther Pizarro
Dates: December 17th 2016 to January 28th 2017
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Nowadays, we have the possibility to access a lot of information almost instantly, and we can also use a variety of real-time applications that connect us to the five continents. But, what is it that allows this infinite amount of data to circulate at such speed (o so fast)? Which is the physical structure that makes this almost immediate communication viable? Where do we find the channels that make interconnectivity at a planetary level possible?

99% of Internet traffic circulates through a network of cables, invisible to our eyes, that weaves the oceans’ seabed and allows the transmission of data in real time. Like an underwater network of arteries, this aquatic mapping, imperceptible to our eyes, functions as the greatest information highways of the 21st century. These arteries are constructed of fine glass wires capable of carrying on large amounts of information. There are tons of cables between the major centers of the world. Their implementation is relatively recent, since Internet’s arrival, and they are used as the best and most economical way to transport data traffic.

This underwater network brings together the characteristics of complex networks, based on the principles of the Complexity Theory and Complex Thinking: interconnectivity, dynamism, fluctuation, decentralization, non-linearity, etc… If we talk about networks and their visualization, the parameters of classical or geographical cartography are no longer useful. Instead, we have to search deeper and explore the principle of representation itself, based on the concept of network or network thinking. The network could be considered as a structural and organizational model that permeates almost all areas of knowledge, from genetics to electrical systems, from social communications to transportation routes, from the urban to the neural landscape. Networks are not only omnipresent structures in our globalized world, but they are also symbols of autonomy, flexibility, collaboration, diversity and multiplicity. We move and live in networks, thus it makes sense to start developing a network-like way of thinking and communicating.
The installation “Liquid mapping :: connected to …” visually represents the underwater, and therefore invisible, cartography of the cables network that enables global data traffic across the planet. Parting from the geographical limits of the Spanish territory, an investigation has been carried out with the purpose of filtering the data that has historically made it possible for our country to be connected with the rest of the world since the arrival of Internet; establishing a relational comparative between our geography and the rest of the globe, through a liquid and three-dimensional diagram. Based on the information obtained in the digital resource TeleGeography, a global database that updates the maps of submarine cables around the world and contrasting with other similar resources, we have proceeded to filter all the data and graphics related to the implementation of the submarine cable in the Spanish territory. The filters are applied depending on the year of implantation, the length of the constructed cable, the landing points and geographical coordinates and the name of the cables; in order to establish a comparison between the Spanish territory and the rest of the countries. Relativity as opposed to totality, in search of obtaining order is necessary to separate the chaos.

The exhibition space becomes a large installation of colored, electroluminescent wire tubes (according to their year of implantation) arranged horizontally and at different heights on the room’s floor, which draw a three-dimensional underwater layout of the twenty one submarine cables that connect our geography with the rest of the planet. All of the cables implanted in a same year have a similar color, allowing a quick identification, and are constructed with a transparent, glass tube through which a line of light circulates; a rhizome of colored threads with a dynamic flow of intensity and fluctuation.

The floor installation connects to the corner of the gallery through a channel that houses all of the colored cables in order to be distributed neatly through the gallery’s vertical plane and generate, throughout its path, a “timeline” of this connectivity map’s growth. Each cable will go to its corresponding year of implantation, and it will feed a light screen, almost like a computer monitor where, separated from the geographical ensemble, the cables constructed on that year are decontextualized, with the aim of visualizing them in their lineal description, along with their geographical coordinates, next to the data key that conceptualizes the installation. A total of ten screens, represent the years during which there has been activity in the construction of submarine cables in our country, and they construct a timeline that runs through three walls of the gallery, establishing a visual continuity and a temporal space within the exhibition set. Finally, a sound landscape of underwater cables will wrap the whole introducing the viewer to an almost aquatic and metallic scenery. Esther Pizarro

ESTHER PIZARRO (Madrid, 1967) holds a PhD from the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, and she is also professor at the European University of Madrid, Spain. The interest in the city and how the human beings move, perceive and identifie themselves in urban areas is the epicenter of her research. Mobility maps, cognitive cartographies, imagined topographies, architectural prosthesis that colonize everyday objects are some of the series in which the artist has worked in the past fifteen years. Her reflection on the cartographic models takes her works towards an understanding of the body as landscape and as topography. In her most recent works, landscape and plant elements form a new dialectic in the binomial city-nature. Her latest installations explore visualization of complexity in the contemporary city: mobility, connectivity between cities, polycentric urban systems, and data from urban profiles, are some of the topics covered.

She has been awarded with a scholarship by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in New York, the Academy of Spain in Rome and the College of Spain in Paris. Between 1996 and 1997, she resides at the United States with a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fulbright Commission and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain. She has exhibited individually and collectively outside and inside of our country: Matadero Madrid; Hospital de Sant Pau, Casa Asia, Barcelona; San Telmo Museum, San Sebastian; Real Casa de la Moneda, Segovia; Art Center Tom’s y Valiente (CEART) of Fuenlabrada; Barjola Museum Gijon; Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid; Spain Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture and Cultural Center of Spain in Lima, Peru and Ponce+Robles Gallery. In the recent years, she has made numerous art installations and interventions in public spaces, whether temporary or permanent, as at the Shanghai World Expo, the Expo Zaragoza, Pradolongo Park in Madrid, the Palace of Exhibitions and Congress in Merida or the West Lake Park in Hangzhou, China. Her work is represented in collections such as the Academy of Rome, IVAM Institut Valenciá d’Art Modern, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Collection Caja Madrid, among others.

This project was financed by the VEGAP Assistance and Cultural Fund in the XX call for Visual Creation Proposals 2016