Timo Arnall

As my project seeks to unveil unseen environmental networks (of technology and data) I am researching the work of Timo Arnall, which looks at ‘revealing the materials of technologies’. One work, called ‘Immaterials’ explores GPS technology.

“GPS is widely used yet it’s invisible and few of us really have any idea of how it works or how it inhabits our everyday environments. We wanted to explore the cultural and material realities of GPS technology, and to develop new understandings about it through design.”

By creating lamps whose brightness changes according to the strength of signal received from satellites, Timo and other artists were able to determine and map how these signals actually behave across geographical space.

I find it very interesting how ghostly and alien (in the sense that they are a surprising foreign object in a normal setting) these lamps are as objects. The idea of illumination illustrating the presence of a signal, essentially of the same ‘ephemeral’ invisible data which I am looking into. They also remind me a lot of some of my own pieces using bleach and ink to represent data as the ‘bright spots in the night’.

Timo’s work also relates strongly to my own interest in the relationships between technology hardware and ephemeral data.

Internet machine is a multi-screen film about the invisible infrastructures of the internet. The film reveals the hidden materiality of our data by exploring some of the machines through which ‘the cloud’ is transmitted and transformed.”

https://player.vimeo.com/video/95044197“>Internet Machine

Timo says ‘In this film I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud’, to investigate what the infrastructures of the internet actually look like.’ Which is very interesting in light of my own work’s exploration of the ‘mythology of data technology’. Rather than dispelling the myth through investigation, however, I am interested in criticising the obsessive behaviours surrounding data technology by framing them in a Religious context, with the data source (internet hub, telephone pole, etc) as a religious idol.


The Immaterials project is concerned with the increasing invisibility of interfaces and infrastructures. The systems we interact with everyday such as WiFi and 3G networks have a profound impact on how we experience the world. As Adam Greenfield says:

the complex technologies the networked city relies upon to produce its effects remain distressingly opaque, even to those exposed to them on a daily basis. […] it’s hard to be appropriately critical and to make sound choices in a world where we don’t understand the objects around us.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/12187317“>Wireless in the World

The visual techniques used in this video totally changes the way we think of data technology by imposing it as a form within the same physical space which we occupy. I want to make Art which tells the story of the data revolution and the death of the literal and apparent world in a way which affects the viewer so that when they leave the exhibition their thinking is adapted and they are conscious of the data all around them in a way that they previously weren’t. Essentially to achieve the same effect at Timo Arnall does with this video piece, but through the mind of the viewer rather than explicitly in visual media.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/20412632“>Light Painting Wifi

This may be my favourite of Arnall’s pieces, for the way in which it creates a visual analogy through light painting to represent the invisible ‘landscape’ of wifi in urban spaces. I like the way in which the light landscape can visually and physically exist simultaneously with the material landscape of the surroundings, as it demonstrates the duality of the spaces we inhabit, making people consider as they move around not only the physical conditions such as the lay of the ground, the barriers around them and the layout of buildings, but also the data terrain and how this influences their movements in a different way.

I would be interested to map the movements of the populus in relation to this visual mapping of wifi, in order to see what correlation there is between where people gather, and the immediate availability of wifi and data technologies. It’s the effect on people had by this invisible data terrain that I’m most intrigued by.


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