World Brain

Stéphane Degoutin et Gwenola Wagon

Film, installation et site

2015

World Brain is at the same time a cinematographic essay, an online map and a video installation. It proposes an excursion through the folklore and the beliefs related to the Internet. It explores the hidden stories of data centers, animal magnetism, goes back to the original myths of the Web, looks at the inner life of rats, experiments with natural communication networks, of a group of researchers trying to survive thanks to Wikipedia, connecting kittens with stones...

A shark bites an underwater Internet cable, attracted by the electricity it contains
A data center in Taiwan
A data center in France
Nomadic researchers at work
Nomadic researchers at work
Olivier Peyricot
Catherine Hargreaves, Philippe Durand, Nicolas Verschaeve, Olivier Peyricot
Philippe Durand and Catherine Hargreaves are trying to make fire by reading the Wikipedia page "Fire".
Catherine Hargreaves
Alexis Chazard, Selma Fortin, Catherine Hargreaves
Olivier Bosson
Selma Fortin hugs a tree
Engraving representing Franz-Anton Mesmer (detail)
Route of the first transatlantic telegraph cable
Pierre Cassou-Noguès
Image from Peter Russell's movie, The Global Brain.
Philippe Durand et Catherine Hargreaves

Folklore

The world we live in often resembles a Borgesian story. Indeed, if one wanted to write a sequel to Borges’ Fictions, he could do it simply by putting together press articles. The World Brain is made out mostly of found materials : videos downloaded on Youtube, images, scientific or pseudo scientific reports, news feeds… World Brain is an assemblage of materials found online on YouTube or extracted from information feeds and actual experiments. The project can be viewed in a linear or fragmented way, episode after episode.

The utopia of an universal connection leads humanity into a pharaonic project : the construction of a world space specifically designed for the comfort of data, made of hundreds of thousands of data centers interconnected by submarine or underground cables. World Brain takes the viewer into this Promethean machine. Many believe that a global brain will emerge of it, which we would only be the neurons.

World Brain propose une plongée à l’intérieur des lieux physiques par lesquels transite le réseau Internet : câbles sous-marins, data centers, satellites. Le spectateur voit le monde comme s’il était une information, traversant la planète de manière quasi instantanée, recopiée à l’infini, ou au contraire stockée dans des lieux maintenus secrets. Le film suit les ramifications du réseau mondial, en montrant l’infrastructure matérielle des réseaux des data centers et des câbles sous-marins.

World Brain takes the viewer through a journey inside the physical places by which the Internet transits: submarine cables, data centers, satellites. The film adopts the point of view of the data. The audience view the world as if they were information, crossing the planet in an instant, copied in an infinite number of instances or, at the contrary, stored in secret places.

The project describes the planetary network surrounding us and offers theoretical tools to interpret it. It considers the perverse effects of the universal connection, and the risk for the individuals to become numb, under the reign of collective intelligence. The film also shows the peregrinations of a network of nomadic researchers who meet far from traditional research networks in the different forests of the world. They imagine prototype scenarios of experimental lifestyles, taking into account the interconnectedness of human beings. Their goal is to build an alternative project for the survival of mankind.

Images from the film
Martin Howse
Lou Delamare
Selma Fortin, Philippe Durand
Selma Fortin
Alexis Chazard, Selma Fortin
Romane Boussard, Olivier Bosson
Selma Fortin
Laboratory mice are very much present in the film - which, in many ways, can be seen as an animal documentary.
Antoine Defour
Olivier Bosson
Alexis Chazard, Catherine Hargreaves
Martin Howse
Image from the movie
Maze for laboratory mice

Connected mankind

World Brain offers a short story of the idea of the communication between brains. The idea emerges long before the Internet : galvanism, animal magnetism, mesmerism, universal fluid, ether, fifth element, spirit telegraph… It starts to become real with Chappe's semaphor, Morse's telegraph, the telephone, cybernetics and the invention of the Internet.

The idea of a global brain used to be an intellectual speculation. It has suddenly become an everyday reality. All human beings, interconnected from the inside, form a superorganism. Mankind builds a global brain, synapse after synapse. Many writers have imagined a collective consciousness that would emerge from the universal connection of minds. They usually see the human race being unified, in a holistic and often mystical perspective, sometimes linked to the concept of biosphere or to the Gaia hypothesis. The utopia becomes real. The limits of the individuals begin to blur. Data travel through the whole planet. They run through a network of fiber optic cables, whether subterranean or submarine. They are stored in a network of data centers.

Optical fiber implanted in a mouse's brain modified by optogenetics

The installation makes it possible to walk through the books that were used to build the project, and surrounded by the chapters of the film.

World Brain installation at CAC La Traverse, Alfortville
World Brain installation at Hospice d'Havré, Tourcoing
World Brain installation at CAC La Traverse, Alfortville
World Brain installation at ZKM, Karlsruhe

World Brain Project / Whole Earth Catalog

Published from 1968 to 1972, the Whole Earth Catalog, edited by Stewart Brand brought together books, articles and tools for understanding the world. The project's primary audience were the members of the utopian hippie communes of the time. The catalog proposed thinking tools and solutions for alternative lifestyles. It hijacked the structure of the mail-order catalogue to promise its readers "access to tools and ideas".

Like the Whole Earth Catalog, the interface of World Brain makes available online the resources that helped build th project. At the same time interactive map, film and book, it gives access to a series of short films, texts, different media and links to other sites, hundreds of references, images. The quantity of links is too large to see or read everything : it shows an overflow, where one gets lost in the hyper-information, whereas the film, on the contrary, is an attempt to draw a logical line in this heap of data.

Cover of the first edition of the *Whole Earth Catalog*.
Pages taken from various editions of the *Whole Earth Catalog*.
World Brain Online Map
Detail of the World Brain Online Map

Zkm Interview

Interview about the project World Brain at the exhibition Global Infosphere at the ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2015.

Interview for the Globale Infosphere exhibition at the ZKM

Press

Andreas Rauth, Dream Of Reason… Interview with Stéphane Degoutin & Gwenola Wagon about their transmedia project World Brain, Jitter Magazine

Transmediale-Film "World Brain" sucht Gedächtnis der Welt (auf Deutsch), Die Zeit, 2015

Carolina Söderholm, Kritik med hjärna, Sydsvenskan, 7 décembre 2015

Infosphere : ces données qui nous entourent, Arte Creative

Elsa Ferreira, World Brain, le vertigineux fantasme d’un cerveau mondial, Makery, 5 mai 2015

Nadja Schlueter, Man braucht nur Luft und Date., Jetzt, 6 février 2015

Science et vie, avril 2015

Dominik Schönleben, Nackt im Wald nur mit dem Wissen aus Wikipedia überleben? Ein Film fragt, ob das wirklich geht, Wired

Stéphanie Lemoine, Une voie vers l'imagination, L'Œil, février 2015

Transmediale 2015 oder wohin konvergieren die phantasmen unserer zeit&nbsp ;?, Next Level

Max Hoppenstedt, Mensch-Maschinen aller Länder, vereinigt euch (auf der transmediale in Berlin), Motherboard, Vice, January 23, 2015

Julia Kausch, Haie essen das Internet Das war die Transmediale 2015Das Filter, February, 5th 2015

Kathrin Hondl, SWR2, Kultur Info, Ein Film über Netzmythen und die physische Realität des Internets "World Brain", SWR2

Unika bilder från insidan av Internet, Sveriges Radio

La fossa del nichilista Berlino, artisti contro la sorveglianza digitaleGenerazione X

Le nouveau cerveau du MondeTracks

Emma Guerchon, World Brain : l'expérience d'une humanité connectée, Arte Creative, 29 Janvier 2015

Nicolas Nova, World Brain: a a stroll through data centers, February 18, 2015

Ewen Chardronnet, Transmediale, the great worldwide game, Makery, 2 February 2015

A Berlin, des artistes contre la surveillance numérique, Le Monde

Marie Lechner, Data centers, art around the bunker, Libération, 17 Janvier 2014

Diffusion

Exhibition Forêt thérapie, CAC La Traverse, Alfortville (France), may 3 – june 23, 2018

Exhibition All I Know Is What's On The Internet, The Photographer's Gallery, Londres, october 28, 2018 – february 24, 2019

Exhibition La belle vie numérique, EDF Foundation, Paris, november 17, 2017 – march18, 2018

Exhibition Non Compliant Futures, Eastern Bloc, Montréal, Québec, september 27 - october 1, 2017

Exhibition Infosphere, Centro National de las Artes, Mexico City, may 26 – september 3, 2017

Exhibition Are We Human ? Istanbul Biennial, october 22 – november 20, 2016

Exhibition Caméra(auto)contrôle Centre de la photographie, Genève, june 1 – july 31, 2016

Exhibition Nervous Systems. Quantified Life and the Social Question, HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany, march 11 – may 9, 2016

Exhibition Futurs non conformes #1 Mythologies, Jeu de Paume virtuel, april - october 2016

Screening of the film on Arte TV channel, december 15, 2015

World Brainn Survival Tools, screening of the film World Brain, performance by Julien Imbert, lectures by Pierre Cassou-Noguès and Emmanuel Ferrand, Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, december 8, 2015

Exhibition and lecture, Medea Showroom, Niagara, Malmö University, Sweden, december 3-10, 2015

Screening and lecture, L'invention du réel, Sauver les phénomènes, Plateau de Millevaches, France, november 28, 2015

Exhibition Project Daejeon 2014 : The BrainW, Daejeon Museum of Art, South Korea, november 22, 2014 - february 22, 2015

Exhibition and screeninng, Every Step You Take - Art and Society in the Digital Age, Dortmund, Germany, november 13, 2015

Innstallation, screening and lecture, Impakt festival, Utrecht, Netherlands, october 31 – november 1, 2015

Screening and lecture, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Montréal, october 7-18, 2015

Exhibition Ego Update, NRW Forum, Düsseldorf, september 18, 2015 - january 17, 2016

Exhibition Globale / Infosphere, Zkm, Karlsruhe, september 4, 2015 - january 31, 2016

Screening, HEK Haus der elektronischen Künste, Bâle, june 4, 2015

Installation, Hospice d'Havré, Tourcoing (Fr), may 29 – july 19, 2015

Screening, , Gaîté Lyrique, Paris, april 26, 2015

Exhibition Digital // Analog: Indifferenz, Motorenhalle, Dresde, april 22 – july 22, 2015

Exhibition Surveillance .02, East Wing gallery, Dubai, march 12 – may 7, 2015

Screening, festival Tropisme, La Panacée, Montpellier, march 7, 2015

Online screening, Arte Creative, january 2015

World première, Transmediale, HKW, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, january 29, 2015

Lecture, Signals:24/7, International Film Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands, january 21 - february 1, 2015

Annexes

“Paul Otlet et la transcendance cosmique des chatons”

Credits

Film color, 16/9, 72'

Production : Irrévérence Films.

Directors: Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon

Scenario: Stéphane Degoutin et Gwenola Wagon

Editing: Stéphane Degoutin et Gwenola Wagon

Director of photography: Marianne Tardieu

Sound recording : Sébastien Cabour, Damien Tronchot

Audio mixing : Christian Cartier

Models : Martin Gautron

Set design: Olivier Peyricot and Julien Imbert

Costume design: Stéphane Degoutin and Maria Delamare

Graphic design: Joffrey Dieumegard and Rebecca Hargreaves

Web design: Olivier Riquet and Guillaume Libersat

Voice-over: Stéphane Piveteau

Main actors: Philippe Durand, Catherine Hargreaves, Selma Fortin and Julien Imbert

With Pierre Cassou-Noguès, Michael Chorost, Kevin Warwick, Olivier Bosson, Alexis Chazard, Martin Howse.

Co-Production and diffusion:

Arte Créative, Picatovo, CNC support and Fresnoy.