The Empty Net

June, 2012

The name of the installation, The Empty Net, refers to the lack of fishes in the fisherman’s net, but also to how control of contents on the Web will eventually “empty” it from what makes it now still our main source of free information.

Recent pictures & Information found online (2 sept, 2012):

“The apus of the Pastaza River Basin, Tigre, Corrientes and Marañón River (Loreto) came to the capital to demand for the first open consult in their region (so citizens can decide), affected by forty years of oil pollution. Pluspetrol operating in Block 1AB expires in 2015 and the state will ask for a new contest. They do not want to keep repeating history.”

Conceptual description:

(Digital activism/Citizen participation and empowerment)

In my recent visit to the Community of San Francisco, in Ucayali, people told me that their once main protein source, fish, was scarcely eaten:  “only when the river or lagoons are flooded we fish” they said, “when the water is low fish do poison us; there is high concentrations of mercury and other substances in the water… At least with the rainfall the water increases and dilutes the poison”.

The disappearance of the main source of protein for indigenous people, fish, and wildlife (including the once abundant aquatic turtles), annihilated by overfishing, commercial hunting, deforestation and mainly pollution of their rivers and lakes, resulted in the current malnutrition suffered by children in these rural areas (80% *of them have pernicious anemia).

Water pollution can be of many forms, depending on the origin of the waste:  sediment, organic matter, biochemicals, heavy metals and other toxic elements that cause various degrees of impact on the physical and chemical

characteristics of water, flora, wildlife and humans.
However, not only illegal mining (gold) in general or cocaine processing do this damage:  oil activities in particular “affect nascent waters, which come to the surface with oil; as these waters contain various salts, sulfur compounds and heavy metals, when poured into rivers or lagoons, cause water pollution and changes in Amazonian aquatic ecosystems “. All these factors play a key role in the decline of aquatic wildlife.

My goal with this interactive installation is to virtually place the visitor into the fisherman’s boat; to be a witness of the beauty of its voyage, so it can listen to the rainforest’s sounds, expecting him or her to eventually notice that the fisherman’s net is, indeed, empty… As him or her get closer to the video source (TV screen), the video accelerates – just as contamination rates increase when the western world gets closer to the rainforest through globaliz

ation. When these are close enough, the video will be interrupted, and a message, or a map, with precise information related to this process of contamination, will appear, as the sound changes (see videos in link).

The name of the installation, The Empty Net, refers to the lack of fishes in the fisherman’s net, but also to how control of contents on the Web will eventually “empty” it from what makes it now still our main source of free information.
Subjects of control cannot be denied: being the ones writing the algorithms for manipulating information, or the ones choosing what can be published or not, us, as citizens, have the responsibility of searching and comparing different sources, to test their authenticity, so to free from this control attempts. This is why the presence of people is key to the functionality of the piece; not only to activate the apparition of the texts, but, by the fact that I am implicitly serving as an information filter, since I have been the one choosing and editing (for aesthetic impact) the texts tha

t appear. The software also allows the visitor to choose the subject to track.

Technical description:

Concept / Programming:
Paola Torres Núñez del Prado

-Visual recording from the boat of a fisherman in the Yarinacocha lagoon, in the vicinity of the Shipi

bo-Conibo community of San Francisco, Ucayali (Peru); extracts of information found on the Internet concerning the exploitation of the Peruvian Rainforest by oil companies. Audio recording taken from San Francisco’s surrounding area (Selva) at dusk (birds and insects).

-Software developed in C + + with OpenFrameworks.

-A large TV/monitor shall be situated within viewing distance from the person entering the installation (preferably within a corridor or a space in which people are constantly passing by). There should be enough distance (at least 5m) from where people come in to the exit, so the process of the video speeding up and the sound changing can be perceived.
The person is tracked by the use of a webcam situated at the upper part of the tv screen (preferably th

e zone needs to be partially lit, not in complete darkness, nor fully illuminated). When they are close enough to the screen, the software detects the person, and replaces the video of the fisherman with a random text referring to a particular case of contamination within the Peruvian rainforest, or, instead, it shows the portion of a map that has a) the different batches of land given to various oil and gas companies or b) red dots which point out where the exploration and exploitation oil wells are situated.
The software interface is shown to the public; indeed, they can even choose the tracking su

bject with the click of the mouse. This becomes a metaphor for citizen empowerment, and choice, but also, it serves for the proper functioning of the piece, since it depends on this person: if it decides to click somewhere else, and not on the moving subject beneath the webcam, the whole system might not work properly.
The sound will be reproduced through a set of speakers appropriately placed at each side of th

e installation.

Technical Rider

Technical Rider


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