We live in an era of communicative hyper-efficiency. With a few keystrokes, we can tweet an image to thousands of people across the world who, with a button press, can do the same.
Attachment, by ECAL student David Colombini, is in many ways less advanced than a carrier pigeon. It’s an automated machine based in Renens, Switzerland, that you can control through the web. It prints Twitter-length messages on a piece of paper, along with a six-letter code. The machine fills a weather balloon, then launches the attached message into the stratosphere. Then, wherever it lands, someone may find it, read the message, and type the code in online to see an accompanying photo or video as well.
What makes Attachment so meaty for academic criticism is its overt juxtaposition between high tech and low tech, along with highly honed and completely scattershot communication. On one hand, Attachment is every promise of modern convenience–from your chair, you can send a piece of balloon mail that will be produced in tiny assembly line production to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. On the other hand, the balloon is whimsical to the point of absurdity, using a method of transport that will ensure your message can’t have a specific destinatio. On top of all that, in what appears to be a highly attentional bit of irony, it’s not a self-contained message. If the receiver wants to see the attached photo or video, they need to go back online to do so.
In this sense, Attachment is a symbol for our current state of connectivity. Releasing a balloon into the air and hoping a stranger finds it isn’t all that different from sending a tweet via a global network checking if a random follower gives it a star or RT. But whether balloon mail is a celebration or a criticism of our current state of communication, that’s up for question.
If you want to take part, Attachment will be online soon.
[h/t: Creative Applications]