The brutality of particles

BERG London fetishise industry like no-one else I know. From the lab coats to the project codenames they attach the significance of broadcast towers to whimsy and product design, all laced with the kind of operational security that would make J. Edgar Hoover proud.

Which laid the groundwork for a lovely combination of split-screen viewing in the early hours of Friday morning. I went into the office early to prepare material for Interesting (more on that over on the We Are Words + Pictures blog) and set BERG’s talk ‘Immaterials‘ going on my laptop while my ‘second screen’ was tuned to broadcast footage from the Hurtigruten passage.

Norwegian channel NRK have been broadcasting the 134 hour passage of the Hurtigruten around the coastline this weekend (which Chris Heathcote writes about nicely here), and it’s a journey I’ll be joining part of in July. The sight of the cliffs, ports and passengers made for a perfect foil to the photons and plastic injection of BERG’s talk.

NRK’s broadcast is a reminder that we’ve been operating over tremendous distances and scales for hundreds of years, chasing the midnight sun across oceans and coastlines that should have broken us.

And while BERG’s Matt Jones and Jack Schulze cultivate a sense that they might not always be operating in the same timespace as the rest of us their articulation of BERG’s work to date hinges on physicality, on the constant brutality of particles, even when the objects they work with (RFIDs, Wi-Fi, touch screens, ultraviolet light and the abstract concept of happiness among others) appear to leave no trace.

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