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 network infrastructure that is ordinarily concealed.
Pionen is a former Cold War-era civil defense bunker that was redesigned as a data centre by architect Albert Frances-Lanord in 2008. It houses servers for clients who once included WikiLeaks and Pirate Bay. Located 30 meters under the granite rocks of Vita Bergen Park in Stockholm, the subterranean data centre was 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 a poetic narration written by Jussi Parikka, White Mountain uncovers the link between digital devices, geological materials, and deep 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 fiber optic cables. The use of celluloid makes apparent the very real and material nature of the Internet and the passage of time, but also nods to the cinematic history that inspired the architecture. 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 centre 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 an 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.