Metahaven, City Rising, 2014.  Video still
Metahaven, City Rising, 2014. Video still

THE SPACE COMMISSION - The Sprawl


OCTOBER 2014


LIGHTHOUSE WILL WORK WITH ACCLAIMED DUTCH DESIGN STUDIO METAHAVEN ON INNOVATIVE EPISODIC INTERNET DOCUMENTARY “THE SPRAWL”


Lighthouse is thrilled to be collaborating with Metahaven on a new commission for The Space. Set up by the BBC and Arts Council England, The Space is a free online public space and not-for-profit service for artists and audiences that commissions new talent through open calls and partnerships.

Metahaven, Black Transparency, 2013 Video still
Metahaven, Black Transparency, 2013 Video still

In The Sprawl Metahaven will challenge the Internet as a weapon of mass disruption. A cinematic adventure that spans documentary, art film production, and music video, it conceives of and visualises the idea of worldwide social media as an emergent architecture for political activism and propaganda.

In recent years, Internet-based activism and digital insurgency have lived through unprecedented highs and lows. WikiLeaks, Anonymous, LulzSec, the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street were all movements with strong digital counterparts, making intensive use of social media to spread their message. These same techniques and tactics, of meme-making, are now used by sets of insurgent movements, terrorist groups, and self-declared states. The ‘social media overlay’ that cloud technology adds to the geopolitical theatre is now more than ever a source of fear, confusion, and also enjoyment. The ever-present smartphone is no more the ‘civic’ recorder of unspoken injustice as it was in the wide-eyed accounts of digital evangelists; it is the Full HD witness to tank battles, crucifixions, and military weddings.

The Sprawl is an episodic internet documentary that endeavours to imagine future concepts of the meme. It focuses on the way internet-based strategy by states, insurgent groups, and terrorist actors nowadays supplements ‘real’ and ‘physical’ conflicts and interacts with them. Episodes will be tailored to and distributed through different media platforms from YouTube to Vimeo, Tumblr to Instagram before being reassembled into a movie that can be viewed in a linear fashion on The Space website. “Together with Lighthouse we aim to explore how fantasy and propaganda have now gained prominence over transparency and accountability,” Metahaven explain. "The relationship between social media and geopolitics is not just about liberal democracy anymore but about the fashion of spectral totalitarianism.”

Lighthouse and Metahaven will develop and produce the commission from November 2014 onwards and The Sprawl will be launched in June 2015.

About Metahaven

Metahaven is a studio for design and research, based in the Netherlands. Their work reflects political and social issues in graphic design objects and media. The group’s 2010 publication Uncorporate Identity investigated what the International Herald Tribune called the “purpose and value of design in a neurotic and treacherous era of geopolitical instability”.

Metahaven’s projects include Black Transparency, a multi-year investigation into the relationship between transparency and secrecy. As part of this project, Metahaven designed a set of merchandise for WikiLeaks that were sold by the organisation to circumvent a financial blockade disallowing the organisation to receive donations via other means. They were recently awarded The 2013 Cobra Art Prize.

Metahaven is affiliated with the Centre for Design and Geopolitics at University of California, San Diego. Its founders, Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk, teach at ArtEZ Academy of Arts in Arnhem, at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and at Yale University in New Haven. In 2014 Metahaven filmed, directed and designed City Rising, a short film about “the internet” and the global spread of affective, precarious labour, captured in the notion of love.

The Sprawl which will launch on The Space website, is part of a series of collaborations between Lighthouse and Metahaven. In 2014 Lighthouse was co-producer on music video HOME by Holly Herndon directed by Metahaven. Daniel van der Velden, co-founder of Metahaven also featured as a speaker at Improving Reality 2014. Metahaven are also part of our current exhibition A screaming comes across the sky at LABoral until March 2015.

View our winners video for The Sprawl.

An Open Call commission for The Space.

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