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Transsolar + Tetsuo Kondo. Cloudscapes 2015 Foto: Harald Völkl / © ZKM | Karlsruhe

Delicate Cloudscapes and Humming Data Streams: A First Visit to the GLOBALE at the ZKM Karlsruhe

A cloud in the museum and droning data streams that provide an awe-inspiring demonstration of the potency of digitalization – and of Bruno Latour’s demand for a reset of modernism – have one thing in common: they render visible, palpable, and discussable the effects digitalization has had upon us in the context of globalization. Opening in mid-June in Karlsruhe was the GLOBALE, which will run for 300 days, and is designed to pose precisely questions of this kind.

For #32, Arnika Fürgut viewed two exhibition projects on her first tour through the presentation

If you Google “cloud,” you will have to skip over numerous hits for “cloud computing,” Apple’s “icloud,” and the “cloud” resources of other software providers, before arriving at the actual term. With image searches, things are different; appearing now are photographs and graphic images of natural clouds.

But what do they actually have in common, these clouds – consisting of personal data – with those generated among other things by pollutants emitted into our atmosphere by the same servers that process such data?
How ephemeral, ungraspable, elementary, multipart, and nonetheless crucial are the “data” in our clouds?
How much influence do they have on our climates – the natural one, the digital one? And what role do we play here – that of the wanderer across a sea of fog? Or that of a pollution-emitting industry?

In order to pose such questions, the architectural practice Transsolar and the artist Tetsuo Kondo have re-created a cloud at the ZKM – one consisting not of personalized user data, but instead of hydrogen and oxygen.

Transsolar + Tetsuo Kondo. Cloudscapes 2015,poto: Harald Völkl / © ZKM | Karlsruhe

While the actual, the “real” cloud in the atrium of the old munitions factory visualizes light, fluidized, nearly transparent streams of data, the humming, massive droning of Ryoji Ikeda’s “micro/macro,” produced in collaboration with the CERN particle research laboratory, confront us with such immediacy it is almost intimidating.

Before the enormous projection surface, blinded by the whooshing data streams and steady cheeping noises, you feel as though you are standing on an oversized scanner, have yourself become the smallest unit of data. In a rear room, we are dazzled by a monumental canvas, which processes and displays similar quantities of data at such accelerated velocity that are confronted with our own slowed-down pace, our all too human insufficiency.

Ryoji Ikeda, micro | macro 2015, photo: Fidelis Fuchs / © ZKM | Karlsruhe
Ryoji Ikeda, micro | macro 2015, photo: Fidelis Fuchs / © ZKM | Karlsruhe

Our eyes are too slow, our ears too sensitive, our hands too imprecise, our combinatorial possibilities and computing processes to circumscribed, our data processing too fragmentary, error-prone, and sluggish. Here, the entire power of the computer, of the calculator, of the digital, becomes palpable – and Ikeda must have had something like this in mind. Peter Weibel writes:

“Ikeda’s new works are based on the principles of particle physics and cosmology, and visualize (...) the various scales and magnitudes of the universe.” The human brain is capable of calculating the universe only with great difficulty, while computers can be entrusted with this task unreservedly.

Ikeda refers to himself as one of the first “data artists,” and his work serves as a kind of prologue to open the GLOBALE exhibition “Infosphere” (beginning September 4, 2015). By this term, Weibel understands a digital sphere, “(...) that has become just as important to the lives of the 7 billion people who inhabit Earth as is the atmosphere.”

We can look forward to highly provocative doings.

Text: Arnika Fürgut

The GLOBALE in Karlsruhe runs from June 19, 2015 to April 17, 2016. In addition to large-scale exhibition projects at the ZKM, among them “Exo-Evolution,” for which Tomás Saraceno has contributed an accessible three-dimensional network sculpture, the “Infosphere,” and “Global Control and Censorship,” there are also numerous performances, concerts, conferences, lectures, and research presentations.


Two years ago, Ryoj Ikeda created a sensation with his large-scale installation “Test Pattern 100 m,” featured a part of the Ruhrtriennale. This audiovisual work, which measures more than 100 meters in length, was experienced by visitors with their entire bodies, and at the same time became a popular photo motif.


The engineering practice Transsolar, with offices in Stuttgart, Munich, New York, and Paris, is dedicated to ecological building projects, and pursues the ambitious goal of “influencing the climates of cities in such a way that their global footprints remain as small as possible.”