Guo Cheng is awarded the Honorary Mentions of Prix Ars Electronica 2020 and Nomination of STARTS Prize

Magician Space is delighted to announce that Guo Cheng’s work The Net Wanderer is nominated awarded the Honorary Mentions of Prix Ars Electronica 2020 and Nomination of STARTS Prize.

The Prix Ars Electronica was launched in 1987. It is the world’s most time-honored media arts competition. STARTS Prize – Grand prize of the European Commission honoring Innovation in Technology, Industry and Society stimulated by the Arts.

The Net Wanderer is a research project that explores the connection between the critical network gateways in China and the infrastructure running these gateways. Guo Cheng uses computer network diagnostic tools that track specific geographic locations. In this way, the artist creates a map of firewall proxies that block Chinese users from roaming the Internet freely.

The main tasks of the Chinese firewall are to slow down cross border Internet traffic and to block some foreign websites. The project investigates how borders have been constructed to protect cyber-sovereignty, and how it can be observed. By mapping the giant wall and physically visiting some of those geolocations, Guo Cheng seeks to expose the entanglement of technology, culture and ideology behind China’s Internet infrastructure.

The utopian idea of the Internet was that of a universal space for all, unbound by borders. In reality, networks are intertwined with real-world territoriality, as Guo Cheng shows by taking on the role of a tourist visiting the elusive sites hosting the network infrastructures of the Great Firewall of China (GFW). The installation lets users become virtual firewall tourists, entering websites of choice that if blocked by the GFW, take them to a game that allows them to submit their usernames. A custom-made wall-mounted machine then engraves the names and scores along with the IP address of a GFW node, while footage shows Guo Cheng using geolocation data to track the physical location of the firewall’s network gateway.

The work was originally commissioned within the Digital Earth fellowship program.


Image: Guo Cheng, The Net Wanderer, 2019, Custom CNC structure, Custom server support, Custom Browser, custom circuit, dimensions variable. Transmediale 2020. Photo by Luca Girardini.