at the venice architecture biennale 2021, the irish pavilion is bringing the physicality of data infrastructure to the forefront with the exhibit ‘entanglement’, addressing the environmental, cultural, and human impact of data. the pavilion aims to reframe the way we understand data production while exploring its impact on everyday life. it also aims to raise awareness about the materiality of the global internet and the cloud, which have infiltrated the irish landscape through a vast constellation of data centers, fiber optic cable networks, and energy grids.
images by alan butler
‘entanglement’ curated by ANNEX explores the materiality of data and the interwoven human, environmental and cultural impacts of communication technologies. it highlights how data production and consumption territorialize the physical landscape and examines ireland’s place in the pan-national evolution of data infrastructure and responds to the theme selected by the curator of the biennale architettura 2021 hashim sarkis: how will we live together?
the installation uses the prism of heat to explore the material relationship between data infrastructure and architecture. the pavilion asserts that the production and distribution of information is intrinsically connected to the production and distribution of heat. the installation draws from contemporary and historical data storage artifacts to establish the building blocks of the pavilion’s structure. these artifacts are assembled in a campfire formation, referencing the forum where early human civilizations formed alliances, built social networks and eventually developed complex societies.
‘entanglement’ invites its audience to experience a multisensory exhibition. sixteen screens display real-time thermographic imaging technologies and 24 fans generate cool air as a contrasting reminder of the heat produced by data centers – all fixed to a frame of charred materials. in the background 30-minute soundscapes of valentia island, one of ireland’s most westerly points, play in a loop through a series of speakers. visitors are invited to sit on one of 15 bespoke seats made from server frames and slate sourced from valentia island.
the pavilion’s complex series of energy-intensive thermal transformations presents an immersive and performative visitor experience. from visualizing how people are producing, consuming, and disseminating data across the globe to bringing transparency to the local and planetary scale of data infrastructure networks, for example how a facebook ‘like’ in malaysia can trigger the emission of heat from a server on the outskirts of dublin.