“The Cloud” Fosters University Collaboration in New Exhibition on the Infrastructure of IT

Furnishing the Cloud
On view, March 19 – March 22, 2015
Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
66 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003

"Furnishing the Cloud"

“Furnishing the Cloud”

“Furnishing the Cloud,” curated by Kimberly Ackert, Orit Halpern, Shannon Mattern, and Brian McGrath, is currently on view at the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries until March 22. A joint effort between students in Halpern’s Making Sense: Methods in the Study of Media, Attention, and Infrastructure and Ackert’s Furniture, Detail and Space courses, the exhibition attempts to conceptualize and give form to the space that makes up The Cloud.  Drawing from the available research on information technology and the architecture of “knowledge and power,” the show links virtual spaces with a specific, built environment. It conceives of The Cloud as something more than a shapeless and immeasurable entity that exists only beyond or above us.

The heart of the show is a room containing pieces of furniture constructed from cardboard, tape, and wood panels. With a desk, a chair, and a bench on display, the room incorporates elements from both indoor and outdoor spaces to encompass the vast amount of information that constitutes The Cloud. What definition and physicality is brought to the Cloud, however, is undermined by the choice of materials. The cardboard and tape emphasize the ephemerality and malleability of digital information, suggesting it can easily be molded, bended, and reconstructed at our will.

“Furnishing the Cloud” also features a large plaque decorated with QR codes. Labeled under each code is a concept, e.g. “cadence,” “affect,” and “momentum.” When scanned, these codes direct the viewer to an article or webpage on the exhibit’s website that considers the concept through a specific space, event, or artwork. A television is mounted on the plaque, playing short video clips exploring different places and infrastructures, providing another dimension to the exhibit. The piece gives structure and tangibility to both the abstractions that it features and The Cloud itself, while simultaneously enlarging the structure by connecting it to the immensity of the Internet. It creates a level of interactivity with viewers by making them active agents in their own experience of the exhibit, thus representing the interwoven elements that constitute IT knowledge.

QR codes span across a wall in "Furnishing the Cloud."

QR codes span across a wall in “Furnishing the Cloud.”

The final piece of the show is comprised by a large mirrored wall facing towards the building’s south side. This work reintegrates viewers into the room, reminding them that The Cloud is not simply a “subject-less” space: it is produced and molded by humans and our systems of knowledge. The seeming ubiquity of The Cloud is thus questioned. Technology does not only exist outside of us and our understanding, but is also created through us. At the same time, the mirror expands the space of The Cloud to what is behind and around the subject, including the streets beyond the building’s walls, implying that while it may be man’s own creation, The Cloud extends beyond the individual and the human.

“Furnishing the Cloud” accomplishes much in the space it is given, and appropriately represents the paradoxical qualities of the Cloud itself. It is at once contained and open, defined and nebulous, man-made and transcendent.

–Ana Miljak

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