The Spaces That Connect Us
Joanna Demarco & Ann Dingli
26th July - 14th August 2019
Last month, thousands of satellites were launched into space as part of long-term plans to create a satellite Internet fleet that could provide connectivity to antenna receivers all over the Earth’s surface. Moving in constant motion around the globe, the fleet could conceivably provide global Internet coverage at all times – theoretically offering Wi-Fi to the entirety of planet Earth. In the Western world in 2019, few spaces remain without constant Wi-Fi access or 3G, one of them being Green Bank – a town in America with a population of approximately 200 people, nestled in the Appalachian Mountain Range in the Pocahontas County of West Virginia.
Green Bank is home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope and lies in the heart of America’s National Quiet Zone, a large area of land in which radio transmissions are heavily restricted by law to facilitate the scientific research carried out by the radio telescope and its associated observatory. Inhabitants of Green Bank are expected to live as radio-silently as possible, avoiding operating devices that use transmissions which could cause an interference with the radio telescope’s space exploratory work. Mobile phones, wireless headphones, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, remote controls, or anything that uses signals capable of interrupting the work of the Green Bank telescope is meticulously regulated. Internet connectivity is also limited.
The context of Green Bank is unique – scientists from around the globe travel to its remote location to partake in the enduring quest to connect to the universe beyond our planet; others have moved to the town to escape the bombardment of technology and fast-paced lifestyles. Conversely, Green Bank’s youth population is consistently thinning out; with limited connectivity making the launch of business difficult, young people leave to pursue greener career pastures. Yet Green Bank’s distinct sense of community is persistent and strong, extending to the entire county of Pocahontas – it is an attribute that may be considered rare in contemporary times.
The Spaces That Connect Us is a photographic and text-based case study of life in Green Bank and its neighbouring towns, carried out between 2018 and 2019. It explores the diverse polarities between connection and disconnection, aloneness and togetherness.
By observing the lives and experiences of individuals and groups who live in a space without constant Internet connection, the creators of the exhibition hope to create a platform that engenders conversation and reflection on humanity’s ubiquitous use of communication technologies. It also begins to question what price we pay for constant connection, and what is at stake for communities such as that of Pocahontas County when it becomes their reality too.
The Spaces That Connect Us will be showing at Valletta Contemporary, Valletta between the 26th of July and 9th August 2019. The exhibition is supported by the U.S Embassy. This project was supported by Arts Council Malta - Research Support Grant.
Joanna Demarco is a Maltese photographer who is interested in exploring social issues within her home country. Besides that, she is drawn to investigating the effects of new technologies on individuals and society at large. After having graduated in BA Communications (Hons) from the University of Malta in 2012, she went on to pursue an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication in 2014. Since then, she has published work in a variety of publications and for a number of organisations including Die Zeit, AFP, The Times of Malta, Trouw, The Malta Independent, Political Critique, Open Society Foundations, Transgender Europe and UNHCR, amongst others. In 2019 Joanna was selected as one of Artpil’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers worldwide. In the same year she also became a member of the international platform Women Photograph. Her work has been exhibited in a number of exhibitions across Europe, including London, Oslo, Berlin and Vienna.
Ann Dingli is an art and design writer living in London. She holds an M.A. in Art History from the University of Malta and an M.A. in Design Criticism from the University of the Arts, London, for which her research focused on regional Modernist architecture and the interrogation of writing modes used to describe place, respectively. Her thesis, How do we write place?, was featured in the TransEuropa Festival 2013 – an international festival promoting political and cultural exchange across Europe. Ann has edited two books on art and design (V001, Malta, 2018; Please, don’t be a dick, London, 2014) and has contributed via writing or editing to diverse print and online publications including Artpaper, The Times of Malta, The Architect, Materialist Magazine and Market Café Mag. She is most interested in the advocation of young designers and architects; using text as a tool to bring art and design to a wider audience; and the developing use of online platforms in the art and design world. Aside from her freelance writing and editing, Ann has worked as a content consultant and communications professional for artists and architects in Malta and London, including RIBA Stirling Prize winners, dRMM Architects, and AIA Institute Honour Award for Architecture winners, Adjaye Associates.