review


Liam Young, 17 03 13


For the March 2013 issue of the Architectural Review Liam Young has written a review of ScanLab’s ‘Frozen Relics’ exhibition in London. On display is a laser scan of Arne’s Floe, an iceberg that once existed at 17:01:07hrs on the 16 September at 79 22.558 N, 003 04.611 W on the Arctic Ocean. It has since been torn apart by undersea currents and dissolved by a warming climate but in a time when everything is digitized nothing really has to disappear. An excerpt follows but you can see the full article behind a paywall here.

Frozen Relics is an exhibition full of artifacts like this that no longer exist. They are drifting across a data landscape in which we can still see every minute crack, every ragged edge, every blemish and fissure. They are high resolution laser scans generated on site in the Fram Strait northwest of Svalbard by ScanLAB, Greenpeace and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. The memories of these seasonal islands have been frozen in a ghostly coordinate cloud of XYZ and RGB values.

We are presented with the possibilities of an extraordinarily accurate digital doppelganger, a 1:1 avatar of our world, A curated collection of replica landscapes wrought from the tool paths of herds of CNC machines, 3d printed layer by layer, a carved duplicate at extreme resolution, a theme park of synthetic copies, and like plastic tits on an ageing celebrity, timeless, as everything around them continues to decay.

Our digital lives are accumulating in endless fields of super cooled server farms, containing tweets, check ins, instagrams, porn banks, pokes and now a menagerie of floating ice bergs. In sprawling warehouses browser searches sit beside glaciers, emails beside Mayan temples. Server Farms are something between filing cabinets and cathedrals. If they are the new repositories of all knowledge and ephemera then how is the data stored, how do we access it, and is anything ever forgotten. Can some data be designed to decay, could pixels erode with time, like a portrait of Dorian Gray, slowly ageing with our sins?

What we choose to remember, what we chose to keep, defines who we are. The permanence of a point cloud iceberg, drifting endlessly in a digital sea, is an eternal reminder of how much we have to loose.