Altering Infrastructure!

In 1985 Chris Burdon exhibited his work called Samson. The work shows a room where two horizontally connected wooden beams push against the opposite walls of the gallery space. The two beams extend whenever a new visitor enters the space, thus building up the pressure to the two walls via the wooden beams.

In this way a situation is created that could destroy the art space by breaking its walls. The work challenged the institutional power of the gallery—or of any institution or art space, for that matter—by literally threatening its immanent collapse, through Samson. "Can Art survive without these validating structures?", was its underlying question.

In a more contemporary setting, the work Alerting Infrastructure!connects the physical gallery space, where the work is presented, to its virtual representation on the Internet. The work contains a huge jackhammer hanging on a steel cable with its drill into the wall.

Whenever people visit the website the hits for the website are counted. It is these hits—an expression of success—that activate the huge jackhammer installed in the gallery space. The jackhammer starts pounding against the physical wall of the art space when it detects hits on the website. The more successful the website of this institution, the more damage will be done to the gallery space itself. Its online success will be its physical disaster, one could say.

The project brings into our mind some basic questions about the relationship between the physical space of organisations, institutions and the people who inhabit them, and its virtual counterparts online. Most online visitors to an organisation have no direct relation with those inhabiting, working, or living in these physical spaces.

Looking at the fundamental relationship between architectural space and its use, occupation, and subsequent decay over time, Alerting Infratsructure! is ultimately concerned with the potential role virtual participants and visitors can take in the processes within these spaces.

Alerting Infrastructure! uses a pneumatic jackhammer that is connected to a PC linked to the webserver of the organisation where the work is installed. Software reads the incoming hits from the website and sends the output to a microcontroller for a specified time period. With each hit the jackhammer is activated and thus slowly chips away the entire wall of the Gallery. On the website, a read out indicates to the online visitors the amount of damage they have caused: "Your visit has contributed to x% (an amount of percentage) of the destruction of the physical building. Thanks for visiting!"

Altering Infrastructure!


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