Pandemonium (do androids dream of?) by Ami Clarke
The work was developed during the Beyond Matter residency at art and media organisation: ZKM, Karlsruhe Germany, with material also developed during a ‘risk’ related residency at Radar, Loughborough that addresses many of the key themes, that you can read here.
You can see a glimpse of the VR via a 360 degree capture made available in 3D on the Pandemonium YouTube channel. Please download the app to your phone with the sound on to view the 360 degree capture. (This is not the same as being in the VR that is an immersive VR and sound environment - ie the experience is not like a video at all.
BEYOND MATTER residency 2021 - ZKM Center for Media and Art Karlsruhe
Risk residency Radar, Loughborough University 2020
‘Pandemonium (do androids dream of?)’ nests like a bad weather gift shop snow globe in The Underlying and situates the viewer in the heart of a strangely familiar deserted city (London), inviting the participant to explore an eerily decimated financial district (City of London Corporation, around Bank) reclaimed by a virtual wilding, way too lively by far – a pandemonium - where the kinds of animal spirits often associated with the markets get re-calibrated to address the climate crisis.
Animal behaviours* have always been used to describe the ‘inexpressible’ drive, the life source, of the market. But, whilst the animal spirits of the economist Keynes ‘Low Animal Spirits’ drive the market through bullish opportunistic behaviours, the critters in Pandemonium roam the deserted financial district, and speak of ‘zoonotic spillover’ – viral jumps between animal and human - that exemplify the interdependencies revealed by the pandemic. That evade categorisation by almost becoming their own species, live as kin with their humanoid siblings, point to a nature that is naturally queer, and to a synchronised desire to do things differently – that takes account of contingency to develop fluid data practices that are consensual and oscillate between being in/visible, as necessary.
* Writing in the Economist in November 2021, Mike Bird - Asia business and finance editor, writes: “hyenas, vultures, lions and wildebeest featured in January 2021 in an imaginative description by Thomas Friedman, an American commentator, of the feeding frenzy over a handful of American stocks. Referring to GameStop, a consumer-electronics retailer at the centre of the frenzy, Mr Friedman said the stock would eventually go back to four to five dollars". Depictions that perpetuate the myth of the market through a process of naturalisation as “the circle of life”.
The work consists of a VR environment with an accompanying twitter bot @trackntracer, deployed as a ‘research assistant’ - taking the temperature of public debate, rt’ing mentions of track and trace since Nov 20 - and online dashboard (see above) that draws out important issues to do with: privacy, agency, and trust, revealed by the app. During the pandemic these issues that crystallize around the new oil that is data – whether 'biomedical' or 'behavioural analysis' – became spoken about in the public realm with a little more understanding of how these datasets go on to inform the quite different realities the future holds for different people. You can read my essay written during my 'risk' related residency at Radar Loughborough 2020, that addresses many key issues brought to light by the app here.
The track and trace apps quite naturally exceed all previous anxieties regarding surveillance, reaching across bio-medical practice to behavioural analysis, and, at the same time, held the promise of a pragmatic approach, which, seemingly, when used in combination with measures such as mask wearing, social distancing protocols and an effective vaccination programme, promised a return to being able to co-mingle, once again.
The often un-acknowledged role of data - the new oil - central to the dual requirements of the app, where concerns re trust, privacy and agency are poorly addressed by current practices and legislation - resulted in a void quickly filled by conspiracy theories. As a result, the twitter bot @trackntracer shows a volatile feed where concerns crystallize around biomedical data, privacy, personal freedoms, and a wild variety of conspiritualities, as conspiracy theories meet the wellness industry. Many of which relate to data management and analysis that raise security and privacy concerns, with worries about mission creep made possible by the financial underpinnings of the app. See my writing on this during the residency on Risk, Radar, Loughborough University 2021. The online dashboard informs the VR work and draws on the contradictions within data practice today. It references the Epidemic Preparedness Index produced by virus hunters working with the re-insurance company Metabiota that naturally include: socio-economic issues with levels of trust in government, as well as pollution of the mediasphere, in their appraisal of ‘preparedness’. The dashboard shows sentiment and emotion analysis of the twitter feed, with air pollution local to ZKM.
(please view on the youtube app downloaded onto your phone for the 3D experience to work)
PandemoniumVR (360 video) by Ami Clarke
360 degree capture from inside the VR - player pov
(please note that the VR environment is an immersive 3-dimensional space - the experience is not like a video at all)