Fields of Athenry

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Specification

Audiovisual Installation
16x Apple iPod Touch 4th Generation (obsolete)
1x Apple iPhone 4 (obsolete)
1x Apple AirPort Extreme A1408 (obsolete)
4x Large Format Newsroll Prints
16x Consumer fan videos (source: YouTube)
16x Videos & Sound Recordings (source: Derrydonnell Forest, Athenry)

* Click the links for Apple product launch videos with Steve Jobs

Fields of Athenry

Sound highlights the complexity, intimacy and emotional texture of the relations between the self and environment. Juxtaposing found footage of football fans chanting the popular Irish song “The Fields of Athenry”, with a series of sonic investigations undertaken at the site of Apple’s new data centre in Athenry, Fields of Athenry is an audiovisual installation piece investigating how the medium of YouTube is a way of connecting what Athenry is, to what it might become, as the small rural town prepares to allow one of the largest data centre complexes in the world to be built nearby.

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Place

The digital is fundamentally rooted/routed through physical, material space: sequences of voltages exchanged between transistors; large infrastructural assemblages that span the earth’s crust, born out of rare earth minerals and other geophysical substrates. Fields of Athenry investigates the consumer usage of digital systems, through a significant, digitally shared, collective experience (a thrashing of the Irish national football team by Spain at EURO2012, where Irish fans sang the popular political song The Fields of Athenry) and the publicly contested site of Derrydonnell Forest in Athenry, where Apple are commencing construction on one of the largest IT Data Centre complexes in the world.

Techno cultural sound scholar Frances Dyson argues that “despite the fact that most of the world’s sense-making occurs through various technological devices and sounds within physical spaces, the relationship between the output device and the room in which it is heard in the making of sense is rarely questioned. In other words, the actual ‘sound’ of media is ignored, as are the conditions of hearing it.” (Dyson, 2016: 2) Fields of Athenry investigates the physicality of media infrastructures; the material sites and objects involved in the local, national, and/or global distribution of audiovisual signals and data.

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Ecology

Sound highlights the complexity, intimacy and emotional texture of the relations between the self and environment. The noise of the urban, technological complex has become displaced within the suburban and remote locations of industry. The noise of these assemblages can be read as a metaphor for the blackboxing and obfuscation of the self, imbricated in what Jussi Parikka calls ‘medianatures’.

Juxtaposing found audiovisual footage from EURO2012 with a series of sonic investigations undertaken in Athenry, Fields of Athenry investigates how the delivery vehicle of YouTube acts as a metaphor for the collective data hub Athenry will become.

Using mobile devices to playback synchronised fan footage and loudspeakers to playback the environmental sounds within Athenry, the installation is set in a darkened environment reflecting the insulated, dark ecologies of the subterranean, high security ‘media infrastructure’ network.

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Project proposal further information

Athenry Data Centre Field Journal

During a recent field trip to Athenry and the surrounding area in County Galway, I recorded sound, video and photography of the contested site and its related infrastructural nodes (local 220kV power substation, local 72 turbine wind farm). Over three days I kept a detailed field journal which demonstrates some of the processes and thoughts that unfolded. It also acts as a reflection on some of the core issues faced with the build of a super-sized data centre complex in a rural forest in Ireland and how it might affect both the nonorganic, nonhuman and human occupants of this space, as well as beyond the space, reaching out to its vital infrastructural nodes.

The field journal can be viewed, read and listened to at the following places:

http://www.earthkeptwarm.com/athenry-01/
http://www.earthkeptwarm.com/athenry-02/
http://www.earthkeptwarm.com/athenry-03/

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UEFA EURO2012 Group stage, Thursday, 14 June, 21:20, PGE Arena Gdańsk

During the Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland and Ukraine, Ireland were on the receiving end of a comprehensive 4-0 thrashing by the World and European champions Spain which would see them knocked out of the tournament. Supporters decked out in green, orange and white took over the stadium as the game drew to a close, breaking out in a heartrending rendition of “The Fields of Athenry,” an Irish folk song about the struggle of a man to feed his family. It’s hard to believe that any rendition of the song could top the performance at Euro 2012, where fans facing a debilitating recession at home came to Poland with the hope of getting a temporary respite from problems that have made them, like the then world champions, debtors to richer neighbouring countries. Supporters reached for their phones and recorded the moment from around the stadium. Commentators and pundits from across the world paused in contemplation, allowing the collective power of the moment to ring through to their TV viewers. Fans uploaded their footage to the internet, to be stored in a giant data centre somewhere unknown… somewhere like Athenry itself.

Notes

Fields of Athenry was initially commissioned for Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts Conference 2016 in conjunction with Brighton Digital Festival 2016, with support from University of Brighton and Arts Council England.