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Nowhere

Installation - 2005
Nowhere Documentation, 2005

Nowhere is a landscape in the making. The internet and site-specific machine installation consists of a custom-built three-dimensional CNC milling machine mounted at eye level on an aluminum framework. Further components are a monitor or projection screen and a PC running a custom-made software. The software retrieves a constant data stream of real-time search queries from the German search engine www.metager.de. The incoming search requests are interpreted as erosional forces on a three-dimensional topography. The constantly updating topography is milled directly by the CNC milling machine into a block of PU foam (75 x 75 x 10 cm). With their virtual search movements, users of the search engine inscribe rivers, gorges, and valleys into a physical object. Requests that shoot through the internet for only a fraction of a second, generating a response on the screens of searchers, serve the machine to carve a growing sculpture in the exhibition space. The continuous stream of search queries determines the shape of the sculpture and the rhythm of the machine. The open source search engine MetaGer is operated by SUMA EV – Verein für freien Wissenszugang (e.V.) and the data center at Leibniz University in Hanover. MetaGer offered real-time access to their data throughout the period of the exhibition, including search terms and searchers’ anonymized IP addresses. All incoming data is stored temporarily in a database. Using a traceroute program, the software determines which nodes and providers the request has passed through to reach the search engine’s server. Simultaneously, the traceroute provides information on the latency of the individual network nodes. Based on this information, the software computes an erosion path that represents this very search request. The nodes are placed in proportion to their distance from the search engine and relative to neighboring nodes, based on the topology of the internet on the PU-foam. The actual search terms are set as the source rivers at the beginning of each path. The frequency and sequence of letters in the words entered characterize the depth and shape of the source rivers. The depth of the landscape reflects how frequently the various network nodes were used. The width of the erosion is proportional to the depth. Repeatedly used network nodes, such as the gateways of internet providers, give rise to deep and wide trenches. The closer a node is to the search engine, the deeper and wider the moat. The maximum depth is reached at the search engine at the center of the relief. Each new keyword retrieved from MetaGer is dematerialized and then rematerialized in the block: the more requests arrive at MetaGer, the faster the landscape will develop. The daily usage becomes visible; for instance, the machine operates faster during the day than at night This process is repeated over the entire exhibition period. With the end of the exhibition, the production of the relief is finished. The exhibition period determines the stage of development the finished sculpture finds itself in.

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Nowhere - Art Cologne, 2005
Nowhere #1, Cologne, 2005
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Nowhere installation at ArtCologne, Cologne, 2005
Nowhere - Art Cologne, 2005
Nowhere Data Landscape #1, 2005
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Nowhere Software V2.0, Screenshot, 2005
Nowhere Nr.1 Time-Lapse Kunsthochschule für Medien, Köln 2005
Materials:
Block of PU foam (75 x 75 x 10 cm), PC, aluminum profiles, stepper motors, milling head and motor, custom electronics, custom software, monitor

Credits:
In cooperation with MetaGer and MetaGer2 (Wolfgang Sander-Beuermann, Computer Center at the Leibniz University, Hanover, and SUMA EV – Verein für freien Wissenszugang [e.V.]).
Produced with the support of the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne.

Exhibitions/Performances:

32. Bremer Förderpreis für Bildende Kunst 2008
2009-02-22 - 2008-03-08
Städtische Galerie im Buntentor, Bremen DE

From Reality and Back
2007-02-01
Mejan Labs / Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm SE

Nowhere Nr. 4 (solo)
2007-01-01
Melkweg Media Space, Amsterdam NL

autopsía - Sonderausstellung der KHM
2006-10-01
Art Cologne 2006, Cologne DE

Altitude 06
2006-07-01
Academy of Media Arts, Cologne DE

Intermezzo
2006-04-01
Academy of Media Arts, Cologne DE

(c) Ralf Baecker 2004 - 2023