of colorful fiber-optic cables, vents through which buildings breathe,
after-hours workers in the financial industry—through photography and the
moving image, artist Emma Charles
light on the unseen infrastructure that powers modern life.
Based in London, Charles has
documented the often unnoticed—but absolutely essential—engines of industry
that hide in plain sight in the modern city, like the London Internet Exchange
and New York’s Verizon building. She pays particular attention to the conduits
of communication: the cables, wires, and switches that make up the internet. In
her work, the tangible material that makes up the virtual world is made
In Charles’ 2013 film Fragments On Machines, the
artist seems to revel in the organized banality of the mechanisms that
facilitate the high-frequency trading—the superhuman, computer algorithm-based
engine of contemporary finance—of New York City’s financial district.
Ironically, her work reveals, many of these hubs of cutting-edge technology are
housed in elegant Art Deco skyscrapers, their exteriors revealing nothing about
the cities of servers, mainframe computers, and cooling systems that “live”
inside these buildings once populated by human activity.
By illuminating the growing physical
footprint of the technology that governs so much of our lives, Charles reveals
an overlooked side effect of mankind’s ever-increasing reliance on and
entanglement with technology. In this world without humans, the sterile
lighting of a room full of supercomputers takes on a slightly sinister glow.