Portikus: God is Great and Dislocated Data Palm


For an exhibition by Neal White with John Latham (UK).
Portikus Gallery, Frankfurt, 2014.

Infomoma was a live element that accompanied an exhibtion by Neal White and the UK artist John Latham at Portikus. The digital project streamed to users laptops and devices scenes from the data networks that surround Frankfurt and beyond. It was developed by Neal White with Office of Experiments and Field Broadcast.

The work is based on a search for the least known amount of time, based on an idea by John Latham. ‘Infomoma’ concatenates or joins together the word ‘information’ + MOMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York), in a verbal style often used by Latham. In his original proposal, he was interested in how to ‘Make a device which does less than any known amount’ for the ‘Information’ exhibition at MOMA in New York in 1970.

Infomoma was developed with Jose Sagebra of Portikus and Städelschule (Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule) and focused on Latham’s interest in the infinitesimally small / quantum nature of time. The work links this idea with the collapse of time that financial ‘quant trading’ requires (using extremely high speed networks). These networks collapse space by using high speed infrastructures, speeding up and collapsing time and space at speeds internet users could only dream of. Frankfurt as a financial trading centre in Europe hosted many quant traders and was criss crossed by unbelievably super fast data networks to support very high speed trading algorithms.

Documentation was streamed live from infrastructure sites in the Frankfurt region and in the UK, and included the Basildon (Essex) site of the New York Stock Exchange, as well as satellite upload link stations and an array of high tech, high speed infrastructure sites around the European Bank in Frankfurt. The work also touched upon the Dagger Complex, a US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) command on behalf of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and is officially known as Subunit 1 operated by USMC G Company (wikipedia).

Link to Portikus Website

Neal White’s metal palm tree, a ready-made data tower, is cut up according to the structural givens of the building and placed partly in the garden of Portikus as well as inside the exhibition space. It suggests both spatial and regulatory limits through an interest in the non-linear and in destruction as a productive ’force majeure.’ Rather than producing objects and proclaiming ways of how they should operate in the world, White’s practice focuses instead on mediating how things, or no-things, exist as events in space.

Working with the organisation Field Broadcast, Infomoma was delivered as an app.

A card in the John Latham archive containing the artist proposal.

Dislocated Data Palm, was suspended above the surface of the floor and was placed in relation to the gallery dimensions and the work ‘God is Great’  (#4 2005) by the late British artist John Latham (1921-2006). The pieces appeared one after the other, before disappearing due to unplanned events.

The palm is not real, it is a camouflaged mobile phone cell tower, part of a post-industrial landscape of data infrastructures. It was also a direct reference to a palm in the background of the Adoration of the Lamb. It was selected from a series of drawings made onto pages from the copies of the redundant art historical book ‘Civilization’ by British historian Kenneth Clark that featured a section on the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. A version of the drawing appeared as the exhibition poster.

In the developing the work, Infomoma, a link is created between John Lathams concerns with time, and conceptual and pictorial representations of belief systems. In the digital collapse of time, a space or event occurs somewhere between the physical location and reality of the sculpture and the distributed live stream. A no-thing and non-event in dialogue.

John Latham – Neal White

The late British artist John Latham became interested in the book “Otts Sneeze’ by Neal White and Lawrence Norfolk (Bookworks) following a meeting of the two artists in 2002. The book explored a one second event, a sneeze, and Latham connected this book with his own work. The exhibition was curated by Sophie von Olfers who as an assistant to Latham met Neal White during his visits to the late artist. Latham’s canonical ‘Skoobs’ performances were also restaged by Sophie von Olfers, curator at Portikus and Neal White, working with the John Latham Foundation.

Office of Experiments
Office of Experiments; All aspect of this project were led by Neal White. The Infomoma app was developed with Field Broadcast; Rob Smith, artist and Rebecca Birch, artist. Other aspects of the research were developed with Sophie von Olfers and Jose Segebre at Portikus.