Extractable Matters on Film #6 | Emma Charles: White Mountain

Emma Charles: White Mountain, 2016


16mm transferred to 2K video; 16:9; sound, colour
Running time: 20:56 mins

White Mountain is a 16mm docu-fiction film focusing on the Pionen data centre.
Starting by surveying the rough topography of the surrounding Södermalm landscape, the film gradually pushes beneath the surface, illuminating the ordinarily concealed network infrastructure.
This former Cold War era civil defence bunker was redesigned by architect Albert Frances-Lanord in 2008 into a data centre, housing servers for clients which once included WikiLeaks and PirateBay. Located 30 meters under the granite rocks of Vita Bergen Park in Stockholm, the subterranean data centre has been designed with direct references to science fiction films such as ‘Silent Running’.
Part Bond villain lair, part retro-futuristic spaceship, fish and lush greenery coexist alongside the flashing lights of the data storage systems. Playing on the science fiction aesthetic and with poetic narration written by Jussi Parikka, White Mountain uncovers the link between digital devices, geological materials and deep time or geologic time.
A multi-layering of temporalities reveals itself here: there is of course the presence of data, which travels at the speed of light through fibre optic cables. The use of celluloid makes apparent the very real and material nature of the Internet, the passage of time, but also nods to a particular cinematic history of which the architecture is inspired; and of course there is the geological time of the rock and strata in which the bunker is encased.
Gathering vibrational and electromagnetic sound from the rock face above the data center as well as deep inside the server room itself, a soundscape has been created both revealing and processing the reverberations of the hidden environment.
Emma Charles is a London-based artist and filmmaker. Working with experimental approaches to moving image and sound, her research based practice navigates the field of non-fiction while engaging with recurring themes of technology, capitalism and landscape. Playing with the blurred lines between documentary and fiction, her work often reveals the artificiality of both the filmic environment and our lived experience.
She has exhibited at Serpentine Galleries and ICA London; HKW, Berlin and Jeu de Paume, Paris. She has also screened her films at Sheffield DocFest, Visions du Réel, Architecture Film Festival London, Abandon Normal Devices and Impakt Festival. Emma was nominated for the New Talent Award for her film ‘White Mountain’ at Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2017. She is the recipient of a 2015 and 2017 Arts Council England award, British Council UK-China Connections Through Culture grant and The Elephant Trust fund. Charles’ films are held in two museum collections at Guangdong Museum of Art in China and The ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Germany. Emma holds an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art.