Digital Addiction and Hyperconnectivity

Furtherfield’s “Are We All Addicts Now?” explores networked life

Finsbury Park-based gallery space and arts organisation Furtherfield is currently home to exhibition and research space Are We All Addicts Now? until 12 November 2017.

‘Stressing the physicality of digital life’¹, Are We All Addicts Now? uncovers the glooming appeal of online spaces and criticises the digital world for subconsciously influencing our lives through neuro-marketing and highly-addictive visual and auditory stimuli. Artworks on display are the result of extensive research on this subject by artist Katriona Beales and co-curator & contributor Fiona MacDonald. Their work is a direct reflection of their experience with technology and a research for the physicality of actions and networks within the both the digital and “natural” world.


As visitors walk into the gallery a video installation ‘displays a drum of hypnotically spinning images whose rotation is triggered by people’s movement’¹. While perhaps the least controversial, Entering The Machine Zone is be an highly addictive artwork. Its flat screen flashing hyper-saturated colours, the sound mimicking old instant messaging notifications, and its interactive component, all combine in an aesthetically and conceptually strong work.

Katriona Beales, Entering The Machine Zone (2017). Photo by Pau Ros.

A beaded curtain gives visitors access to a darkened room where a velvet sunken bed becomes meditation space for all senses. Here, through the curves of a glass sculpture an embedded screen displays moths in constant movement. By wearing headphones people can listen to what Beales describes as her most intimate work so far. She illustrates the audio part of Networked Bed to art magazine Studio International:

“There’s a whispered audio based on a recording I made at 3am one night as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline, reading a few words of each tweet. It’s like a concrete poem. It’s a snapshot of who I follow and their thoughts, anxieties and politics. Because it’s unlikely anyone follows exactly the same configuration of people as me, it’s also strangely intimate — a kind of algorithmic self-portrait.”

In the meanwhile, the other dark side of the gallery is lit by a table-fitted screen displaying a video made up of a series of digital-age-related short loops. Shifting the attention to the ceiling, visitors can appreciate scattering visualisations of eye-tracking data “harvested live” by a computer set alongside. From here people can access a selection of html artworks and pdf files. Eyes movement are tracked from this station and then processed to display the resulting points of focus on the computer screen to the projection on the ceiling.

Working Together (2017) is a mini animation showing the numbers of people who have liked, retweeted and commented a Donald Trump tweet over a timespan of 15 minutes. It is designed to make visitors reflect on the now accredited role of social media in gaining and retaining relevance.

On platforms such as Twitter, the higher the number of ‘nodes of connectedness”² that originate from a tweet, the stronger the “network power” of an entity. No matter how much support or disagreement a tweet can receive, every interaction with this contributes to building up the popularity of the person who tweeted it.

Katriona Beales, Working Together (2017)

An alternative approach to envisioning forms of “networked life” is taken by Fiona MacDonald with her sound work Mycorrhizal Meditation (available here). Curator, writer and artist as Feral Practice, she investigates the “beyond-human network” of fungi and plant tissue that lie under the soil.

The mycorrhizal network “acts both as a woodland’s food store and communication centre”³ foreshadowing now seemingly modern communication networks. The work was created combining the artist’s voice with contact and ambient microphone recordings of wooden soundscapes. It is meant to be listened to in Finsbury Park, but can accessed from anywhere.

People become addicted to substances or activities, but it’s impossible to become addicted to a medium. You can be no more addicted to the internet than you can to language or radio waves. (@vaughanbell, MindHacks, 2007)


1. Furtherfield. (2017). Are We All Addicts Now? — Furtherfield. [online] Available at: http://www.furtherfield.org/events/are-we-all-addicts-now/.

2. Broome, H. (2017). Katriona Beales: ‘It’s not the internet that is malevolent, but the way behavioural psychology is employed to coerce compulsive use’. [online] Studio International. Available at: http://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/katriona-beales-interview-are-we-all-addicts-now .

3 Furtherfield. (2017). Mycorrhizal Meditation — Furtherfield. [online] Available at: http://www.furtherfield.org/mm/.

Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, multimedia artist, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.

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Ryoji Ikeda’s immersive installation Test Pattern [N°12] at The Store Studios

The Store X The Vinyl Factory-commissioned installation by Japanese A/V artist and composer Ryoji Ikeda opens in London today.

Bell Street based Lisson Gallery, in partnership with independent arts group The Vinyl Factory, presents a major off-site multi-sensory exhibition Everything At Once at The Store Studios, 180 The Strand. The show features new and historical works by contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor, Susan Hiller and Rodney Graham. Presented alongside are three site-specific commissions by Ryoji Ikeda, Arthur Jafa and Jeremy Shaw.

Test Pattern [N°12] is perhaps the most immersive and captivating of the three. Latest iteration of Ryoji Ikeda’s ongoing project started in 2006, “test pattern is a system that converts any type of data (text, sounds, photos, and movies) into barcode patterns and binary patterns of 0s and 1s. Through its application, the project aims to examine the relationship between critical points of device performance and the threshold of human perception.” (the artist’s website)


The experience of walking barefoot into a pitch black room with flashing lights while blasted with razor-sharp beats is mind-melting. Flickering black and white, barcode-like, visuals convulse in darkness on a floor screen, in time with a soundtrack of pure-tone electronics and heavily minimalist rhythms. Moving at some hundreds of frames per second, such perfectly synchronous and ultra-fast imagery, create a fully immersive experience for every visitor.

Ikeda’s previous iteration of his project, test pattern [nº11], was exhibited earlier this year at Elevation 1049, The Vinyl Factory co-curated high-altitude festival taking place in the Swiss Alps.

test pattern [N°12] is open at the Store Studios, 180 The Strand, London, from 5th Oct — 10th December and is free to visit.

Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, weekend photographer, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.

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Material of the Modern World

Doll’s chair with moulded plywood seat and back. Gardner & Company, 1875, New York.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has recently unveiled a new exhibition exploring the history and countless uses of Plywood. Structuring a route which follows the history of the material, from the actual tree trunk to its modern applications, the gallery has managed to intrigue even a casual visitor like myself.

Plywood is a material beloved by designers worldwide due to its strength, flexibility and relatively inexpensive production costs — characteristics which make plywood particularly suitable for mass production. Firstly appeared about 150 years ago, it has since been an essential component in the production of cars, aeroplanes, furniture, buildings, and digital manufacture.

Formula Two racing car with plywood body, Frank Costin, 1967.

Throughout the history, plywood was shaped and adapted to meet the needs of people, and especially professionals, worldwide. Book covers, cases, prefabricated houses, and even railway carriages were entirely, or partially, built out of plywood.

Prototype of a plywood tubular rail system in operation at the American Institute Fair, New York, in 1867.

The cult for plywood has recently made its mark into digital design. The Edie Set in one of the latest design prototypes built entirely from plywood and distributed through Opendesk: “Designers share designs for products that can be downloaded and made locally using the latest digital tools. We call this model Open Making”(Opendesk).

Modern technologies have made possible the introduction of plywood into three-dimensional solids and architects are currently researching new ways to manufacture wood to replace existing, less sustainable materials.

Winnipeg Ice-Skating Shelters, Patkau Architects, 2011. (left) | Moulded plywood chair, designed by Grete Jalk, 1963. (right)

Francesco Imola is a London-based musician, weekend photographer, and current Sound Design student at the University of Greenwich.

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tw. https://twitter.com/francescoimola