What if the Internet is like a garden, full of moss, lichens, and mushrooms? What would it be like if humans could visit this lush, natural environment and listen to the tales of the software-plants, and rest against the hardware-earth, and exchange vital forms of care with various data-creatures?
Since 2018, Taeyoon Choi has collaborated with fellow artists, engineers, and writers through the series, Distributed Web of Care. Taking the conditions of today’s Internet as their starting point, these works seek to question and imagine beyond the status quo, proposing alternate futures. The project garden.local is a part of the Distributed Web of Care series. The second installment of garden.local premieres with the exhibition Distributed Web of Care: garden.local at Art Center White Block from November 20 to 28, 2021 in Paju, South Korea.
Internet protocols and infrastructure make up the fabric of all online communication. Certain aspects of the Internet we are most familiar with — especially commercial platforms like Facebook and Google — have problematic practices with regard to privacy, security, and data sovereignty. At the same time, we must ask ourselves: is the Internet, in fact, a singular space? What can we do to allow for different approaches and modes of thought to enter it?
Practically speaking, in some urban areas that experience disparities in web access, “Community Technology” activists have set up mesh networks to provide widespread alternative access, demonstrating their commitment to decentralizing the Internet and building more equitable conditions for and connections between all people. Generally, we tend to think of computers and the Internet as separate things, but in fact the internet is just the largest computer ever built. So if this Internet, then, can be transformed into a garden, computers themselves will become spaces of software-plants, hardware-dirt, and data-creatures.
The lichens and mushrooms that dot these gardens, in particular, have much to teach us about building truly alternative networks. In bearing witness to the symbiotic collaboration that takes place between algae and fungi, we are brought face to face with a way of life that resonates for organic and inorganic beings alike. Endlessly enmeshed with and dependent on one another, these entities are defined by the care they exchange — a clear model of the interdependent, distributed, equitable web of care that garden.local seeks to explore and establish.
garden.local is a project that combines drawing installations, wifi networks, and a mobile app based on those same drawings and networks. At the same time, garden.local is committed to accessibility for all, and working to construct a system that is barrier-conscious. In the current exhibition, audience members may use their own smartphones or those provided by the gallery to enter the virtual garden. Once inside, everyone is able to experience the transformation of Art Center White Block, witnessing and cultivating the growing mosses, lichens, and mushrooms within.
Text by Taeyoon Choi, Chaejung Shin
Translated by Maya West
Organized by Taeyoon Choi Studio
Supported by Arts Council Korea
Cooperated with Art Center White Block
Artist: Taeyoon Choi
Curatorial Advisor: Sung-eun Kang
Creative Producer: Jaemin Shin
Lead Technologist: Cezar Mocan
Hardware engineer: Donghoon Yi
Software engineer So Sun Park
Graphic Designer: Beomjun Kim
Onsite Assistant: Hyunseo Kim
Archive Assistant: Minhae Bak
Screen Print: SAA / Sanha Lee, Sunghun Jung
Text and Ekphrasis: Chaejung Shin
Translation and Editing: Maya West
Video: Sooyun Ga
Photo: Cheolki Hong
Wall graphic installation: Pine Tree
Installation: Dasom Art