Over ten days Ephemeral Data was created, worked upon and on the final day, obliterated.
In this visual investigation, the performers work with coloured sand in the construction of a mandala depicting a giant Google map of the city of Utrecht.
Additional markers of internet hotspots are depicted throughout, as well as a location point.
Housed within a large white tent with many windows, entrance is via a side door.
After being advised that Ephemeral Data is not to be documented, a sticker was placed upon my phone’s cameras and I enter the space.
Over the course of the festival, visitors witness the slow and meditative building of the mandala.
The performers work silently, seperate from one another.
With calm faces, I cannot tell how they feel but there is a total engrossment and occupation with their activity.
Each sit with a metal pipe and a wooden stick they use to gently coax increments of sand onto the glass squares that form the base of the work.
Set within the Neude in Utrecht, a bustling square with the open air cafe seating, bikes hurtle by and people peer through the windows encasing Ephemeral Data.
With life outside visibly chaotic, the space within contrasts as contemplative, consistent and largely silent.
As the mandala grows, I begin to think about personal attachment and how we negotiate the temporary elements of our lives.
With the internet a dominant force in most of our existences, we rely upon it for work, entertainment and communication, as well as for projection of self-image.
But nothing on the net is definite or even permanent, how many times have you attempted to visit a favourite music video on Youtube and find it has been removed?
Or a familiar webpage has been entirely reformatted?
We have little to no control over the ever-changing nature of the online world and yet we are so heavily invested in it as an entity, a necessity for life.
Social media platforms and their popularities shift and change over time and demographic and often exist as attempted curations of what we view as our non-embarrassing traits.
In the past when you liked a musician, you had to go to a shop and purchase an album, in the years to come the object would exist within the home.
You may come across the album now and again and think, ‘wow, that was an era, a time in my life. I forgot that I even liked that band.’
In the internet age our fleeting likes and dislikes are searched and experienced online, leaving behind no tangible evidence of our tastes and dreams of a time and eventually wiped away with the clearing of our web histories.
Everything has become intangible, less permanent than ever before.
And with this being the case, how can we look back and remember the large quantities of the eras we now live online?
Ephemeral Data reflects this lack of permanence, with the mandala constructed from the very material used in fibre optics (which must exist for the internet to), the performers invest time and energy in something they know will very soon cease to objectively exist.
There is a natural fear present to need to document everything, what if I forget some key element?
I must be able to look at a photo, to retrace that step.
But documentation of this performance is not allowed.
Everything experienced here must be remembered in our imperfect memories.
I get anxious thinking about it.
The moment of obliteration arrives.
It must be witnessed in person to have ever existed, no other record will document this process.
The performers are neutral, seemingly unaffected by their involvement in creation or destruction.
I wonder why they are like this?
I had not touched a grain of sand and yet as the more detailed squares of Ephemeral Data are poured off their glass base into a growing heap, I feel my heart mourn in a slow and sad way.
All that exists now is a grey pile of sand with glimmers of colour hinted on the exterior.
The sand shows no signs of what it had once been, the process, imagery and feelings that were created.
A physical version reenactment of our current engagement online, Ephemeral Data leaves no recognisable trace behind it.
By Diana Story