Since 2010 a server has archived the images from the homepages of Britain’s major newspapers, every five minutes. These archived images are reassembled into large compositions in a simple linear fashion, pixels in order of time.
Strata is how the data centre sees historic events. Meaning is reduced to image, content is reduced pixels over time.
Here follows an essay about this project by James Kelly from 2013.
Choose Your Symptom
Trust Your Eyes
These images remind us of geological stratigraphic columns. Their granular iterations, tiny snapshots of moments in time expressed in pixels seem like layered deposits of sediment. These are the residue of events, the superabundant epiphenomenal qualia of digital traffic. They are white noise, intricate and incorrigibly plural. And yet in them we detect patterns, shifts and trends; the various moods of liminality and inertia, epochs and catastrophes.
We draw nearer. The image remind us now of random dot autostereograms. They seem to hold hidden three-dimensional scenes beyond the two dimensional images. We sense suddenly deeper patterns; immaculate structures behind the outwards trends, sublime secrets we might unlock if only we knew how to look. But they are conspiracies in which we have no part. They have no meanings we can unpick.We have been deceived.
Trust the Machines
The connotation of apparently codeless messages (the analogical/continuous images provided by the series of news covers) are not generated by any subjects capable of interpretation. Or rather the code they have generated is the epiphenomenon of a process that can be read only by the machine, or by other machines. By distinguishing particular events of human significance, we may feel compelled to imprint upon the image human meanings; for we understand the symbolic order cannot be distinguished from the order of existence.
We can read nothing in them, yet a meaning may reside here to which we are debarred. The machines operate without the constraint of any concept of temporality. Lacking this, the existential and ontological constitution of the totality of dasein as we might compass it, floats clear. The machines’ unblinking orbit sub specie aeternitas is exposed by coded messages we can never break. Perhaps this perspective is analogous to the eye of God, unmediated by the order of signs we create in temporalizing our ecstatic temporality. Perhaps to the machines we are as flies – or even less – their shadows.
Trust in Power
We think about aspects of culture and politics in frames. These useful borders must help us understand how political arguments shift, enclosing the permissible extent of dispute about the middle ground. They explain why it is certain views are considered, if not true, than reasonable yet others that may be both coherent and logical, fall outside the parameters of discourse, too peculiar to be glimpsed or accepted by any great audience. But the pictures cease to matter; images that seem in perpetual flux are made the locus of attention only by the prison of their frames.
Trust in Freedom
The history of battlefields, are our battlefields. They are forever open to reinterpretation and reframing. The internet, its archives and the white noise of memes and viral news – affects this process in new ways. Power seems more diffuse but maybe it is simply more fluid, flows more quickly, pools in untapped gulches or travels hidden ley lines to secret reservoirs.
Two months ago the UK Conservative party deleted the archive of its members’ speeches. Contemplating their own pronouncements not as documents for historians but as an arsenal of potential political embarrassment – any future acts might be open to charges of hypocrisy or even deceit. The present and future could not be seen to contradict any past promise.
And yet how best to do this? They could remove or edit individual statements in a pragmatic, piecemeal, ongoing fashion – or they could delete the entire archive.
Why is it we recoil from the first suggestion? Why does the active manipulation of facts seem more cynical than their outright denial?
Is it not because we know that all signs online are mutable? In our interactions with media and archives over the internet, we cannot discern the real from fake; the original from the altered statement. All words of all ages become continuously present. They do not age like old newsprint: the fresh pixel is as bright as the prelapsian. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction remaining a possibility only in a world of speculation. We sense a hidden hand in what read, while an unseen overseer watches we right.
And by making this false material – unshackling it from the cloud – we realise how truly it is fake to begin with.
‘How strange it is. We have deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise
What if death is nothing but sound?
You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful.
from White Noise, Don DeLillo