The fascination with immateriality defines our day-to-day interaction with digital technology. Due to the growing popularity of augmented-reality headsets and the rising urge to live an idealistic social media existence, it appears that our attachment to the natural world is becoming increasingly compromised. On the surface, the digital is about information exchanges and technological advances, but what lies beneath the shiny interface of digital culture? machines will watch us die explores digital decay as a process that encompasses different timescales and materialities. Information travels on components made of rare earth minerals and ores. By linking materials belonging to deep time – the million-year timescale of Earth’s ecological cycles – to the immediacy perceptible to humans, the artworks visualize different responses to digital decay.
In the exhibition, a feeling of nostalgia for the technological past is combined with a sense of anxiety for an unknown future. The artists share a set of concerns that relates digital decay to themes of consumerism, obsolescence, loss and failure. Throughout the show, the boundaries between the material and the immaterial are constantly questioned to reveal the impermanence of all things digital, and show how digital decay is shaping future archaeological scenarios for the digital culture of our time.
This exhibition is curated by Patrizia Costantin as part of a PhD in Curatorial Practice at Manchester School of Art.