What exactly is "the cloud"? It's a blatantly abstract way of referring to the incredibly complex system of connections and servers that store and move data on the internet, but the average person going online doesn't need to worry about any of that: as the simplicity of the phrase suggests, the cloud is supposed to make things simple.
"I wanted to look beyond the childish myth of ‘the cloud.’"Designer and visual artist Timo Arnall doesn't care for that abstraction, which he calls a "childish myth." Instead, Arnall wants to give people a better understanding of what the infrastructure of the internet looks like, and he's created a visually stunning short film that documents the type of data center that the cloud is actually composed of. "It felt important to be able to see and hear the energy that goes into powering these machines, and the associated systems for securing, cooling and maintaining them," Arnall writes on his blog.
The film, Internet Machine, goes inside Spanish telecom Telefónica for a look at what Arnall says is one of the largest and most secure data centers in the world. What it finds is row after row of machines, "deafening" noise, gusts of hot and cold air trying to keep a steady temperature, and brightly lit, minimalist rooms — some that even look like they've come straight out of a sci-fi film.
Internet Machine is currently being shown as part of the Big Bang Data exhibition at the Barcelona Contemporary Culture Center in Spain, where it runs across three screens, two of which are angled outward to surround the viewer. It will be running there until October 26th. A trailer for it is online (above), and it's more than enough to show how Arnall has turned what would seemingly be pieces of a dull data center into elements of a singular stunning and complex machine, much as Baraka and films of its ilk have done with everyday mechanisms in the past.