Computer juice

Gail Priest

tsunamii.net, alpha3.5crush

tsunamii.net, alpha3.5crush

More artwork should have an odour. alpha3.5crush, the work of Singapore collective tsunamii.net has the smell of fried electronics—the scent of sizzling circuitries and flash-zap ozone. While not strong, it is what draws me closer to the ruin of equipment placed on a low plinth near the doorway of the gallery. Sniffing my way around a flattened Dell computer I am attracted to the mille feuille of materials, wavy lead-like sheets sandwiched between black metallic drive and beige plastic screen; a fine dusting of glass shyly glittering around the edges; wiry entrails just visible through the cracked casing. Above the object there are 2 accompanying projections. The first shows a browser window identifying itself as the webserver–IP address 195.195.81.5–and an accelerated countdown. As zero approaches the browser flicks to an error message–”This page cannot be found.”

The other screen displays what can eventually be detected as a glass chamber containing a computer—black hard drive, beige monitor displaying the browser window with countdown. The footage has also been accelerated. At zero, a massive piston below the drive rises up and compacts the computer. The footage continues, showing the reflection of the audience in the London Millbank Gallery (Sep 5-12, 2002) peering at the shattered machine.

Frequently sceptical of the documentation of an artwork being recycled into another artwork in itself, I am surprised at how satisfying I find both the video evidence and the artefact of the event that took place in the London. This is perhaps due to the conceptual completeness of the piece. It has a nihilistic beauty like a circle made from a snake eating its own tail. It's even more satisfying when I read in the catalogue (notes in the gallery are minimal) that the computer in the compression chamber not only ran the server but also the press which caused its demise. The machine was programmed to commit suicide. Interestingly this honourable death is witnessed in 2 ways: its spectacular squishing in front of the gallery audience and the deletion of its virtual identity—the web presence run by server 195.195.81.5.
tsunamii.net, alpha3.5crush

tsunamii.net, alpha3.5crush

There is a niggling discomfort in the knowledge that the 2 projections are not synchronous—the countdowns operate at different speeds so that the crunching happens independently of the deletion of the web presence. Similarly the focus on the reflection of the audience in the actual gallery event dissipates the power of the work. Perhaps these are deliberate attempts to undercut the sense of spectacle and linear narrativity.

The catalogue notes indicate that tsunamii.net requested that the London Institute, owner of the IP address, purchase and keep the website in this 'contentless' form, however this never came to pass. Had it been granted it would have made MAAP artistic director Kim Machan very happy. It would have been the ultimate virtual manifestation of Yves Klein's Le Vide (an empty gallery) that Machan had on exhibition in the Singapore Art Museum for a month prior to the current show. But is “This page not found” more akin to a “Gallery Closed” sign? Even without the artefact of the remaining URL (currently http://195.195.81.5 brings up a connection failure), alpha3.5crush is a vivid and rewarding realisation of both a past work and a re-visioned piece within itself, challenging notions of real and virtual presence and absence.

Tsunamii.net, alpha3.5crush, GRAVITY, Singapore Art Museum, curator Kim Machan, 27 Oct – 28 Nov; MAAP in Singapore—GRAVITY, Oct 11-Nov 30

RealTime issue #64 Dec-Jan 2004 pg.

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2004
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