By Nic Halverson
Mar. 15, 2011 — Buildings, parking garages and store fronts all map our perception of a city’s blue print and visually define a metropolitan identity. Crisscrossing a city’s I-beams, bricks and mortar, however, is a lattice of Wi-Fi networks that, while crucial to our day-to-day life, are invisible to the naked eye. That is, until now
Entitled “Immaterials: Light Painting Wi-Fi,” Timo collaborated with Jorn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen to construct a 13-foot-high light rod fixed with 80 lights that detect Wi-Fi signals and light up according to the strength of the signal. ( See a gallery of images here.)
The artists used the common light painting technique of long-exposure times to capture the images, while strolling the streets of Oslo, light rod in hand. The artists’ slow gait allowed the camera to capture the light rod as it measured the wireless signals, thus bringing the networks to life in a fence-like series of glowing bars. As signals fluctuate, the bars rise and fall.
During the project, the group learned that the size and shape of pre-existing landmarks, such as buildings, influence how Wi-Fi signals traverse the urban landscape. Also detected were the vast Wi-Fi umbrellas often emanating from the networks of coffee shops and university buildings, virtually extending the boundaries of these structures without physically affecting the landscape.
Enmeshing the way private and public property co-exist in the virtual sphere, this intriguing project challenges our awareness of urban topography and reminds us that we are constantly surrounded by cyber scaffolding, and its anything but immaterial.
All photos courtesy Timo Arnall