These days, all our devices are connected to The Cloud. They send data to and from the cloud, they “sync” with the cloud, and for all many people know they could very well be communicating directly with a cloud. Ask any random person on Cherry St what “The Cloud” is and you’ll likely be met with a blank stare. But the cloud is real. And huge. And vaguely reminiscent of just about any locale from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In reality, the cloud is nothing more than servers. Massive, massive farms of servers all over the world. This x-ray view of the internet is exactly what filmmaker Timo Arnall wants to expose in his large-format documentary film Internet Machine. The film takes viewers inside the twisting, impossibly neat-and-tidy labyrinths of “one of the largest, most secure and ‘fault-tolerant’ data centers in the world,” located in Alcalá, Spain.
The film is lacking many of the elements we’ve come to expect from modern documentaries. There’s no voiceover narration. No soundtrack. No interviews or cutaways. There are only extreme wide shots and slow zooms, panning over the sprawling spaces and hulking architecture. The only sound is the subtle and mildly unsettling ambience created by “the cloud’s” body parts. The idea, says Arnall, is to “be drawn into the space by these subtle movements, but still get time to move our eyes over the space, to study it and reflect on it. Data centers are complex spaces, and they require rather formal framing in order to allow the audience to take in the complexity.”
In order to better take in this complexity, viewers won’t be taking this visual journey in a regular movie theater. The film is part of an art exhibition in Barcelona called Big Bang Data, and is presented in almost perfect 1:1 scale on a set of three huge screens that envelop the viewer(s). Arnall’s idea is to transport anyone watching directly inside the cloud, and dispel the idea that “the cloud” is some magical, inaccessible place. “We’re surrounded by the fluffy rhetoric of technology and of the Internet, and there’s far too little investigation and reflection on what these systems are and how our physical world is also changing,” he says. “We must think of bits as material things.”
Learn more about Internet Machine here.