atopia: levigation and apophenia

2004
Matthew Ostrowski

Ostrowski writes:
"atopia: the nonexistence of place
levigation: to grind into a smooth powder or paste
apophenia: the unmotivated perception of connections in random or meaningless data

This project is an installation for downloaded data. It is comprised of a webcrawler operating in real time, which selects from a list of starting URLs and progresses through every possible link connected to those pages, which are theoretically infinite. All of that data is downloaded onto a host computer, which in turn displays the information both visually and in the form of sound.

The aural element returns the data to the bitstream in the form of sound, interpreting all file types as if they were audio samples. This flattening is a stark reminder that however we may interpret the information we get, it is ultimately only strings of ones and zeroes. As the files are being heard, they are displayed, disassociated from the links and instructions which create the impression of unity, assembling and disassembling themselves in a constantly shifting collage.

The aim of the work is to decenter our experience of the web. It is easily mistaken for a place, inhabited by corporations, bloggers, fetishists, and anyone else who believes they have something to say, show, or sell, but in fact has no objective reality as locale or terminus. Our habits of speech and ways of conceptualizing the day-to-day world lead us to believe that there is a destination at the end of a link, but there is no actual place -- there is only a flow of data, an act of accumulation and disposal, an endlessly processing nowhere."