I’m in Rome now for the month of June, living across from a prison near the banks of the Tiber, listening to seagulls, on a fairly awful and inexplicably expensive wireless internet connection, fearing that I might only be able to post every few days (unless TIM suddenly super-boosts its mobile signals).
In fact, my early morning attempts to find domestic hotspots – putting my computer near the windows, or moving books and papers just a few more feet away – reminds me of stories I’ve read about high-end audio equipment aficionados, people who purchase arcane bits of scientifically dismissible, wildly overpriced stereo attachments in the hopes that they can affect, clarify, or otherwise improve their home-listening experience.
Pieces of piezoelectric crystal, or unsustainably harvested rain forest wood milled into odd shapes – combined with bizarre new alloys imported from metallurgical research labs in southern Germany – all wired up to $7,250 cables, are placed around your home stereo, like a deviant altar. Where consumer goods meet Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law.
But is there an equivalent for wireless internet connections?
You put a small piece of copper near your USB port, hoping for magical cross-interference, or, in a fit of antihistamine-influenced mania, you rewire your whole house, splicing electrically unnecessary strands of tellurium through the switchboards inside the walls.
Or why not take the Ghostbusters route and construct a whole building as an urban antenna, an architectural attractor for that strange wireless haunting that allows you to Google things in foreign cities from a desktop that isn’t yours.
In other words, are there micro-practices of wireless superstition that people engage in so that they can achieve, or believe they achieve, stronger wireless internet signals?
You implant rods inside all of Rome’s statuary, and inside the ruined walls of the city’s periphery, in order to boost your home internet access. A conspiratorial geometry of antennas that no one else recognizes, pulsing with airborne data.
Rome, reconceived as a counter-Vatican of wireless downloads. Catholicism of the megabyte.
It’s what might happen if Telecom Italia opened an urban design wing after reading too much Aleister Crowley.
In any case, while the internet is still functioning here, I also wanted to thank everybody who came out to see Thrilling Wonder Stories last week at the Architectural Association. My own talk was something of a jumble, to be honest – sorry about that, especially for those of you who were meeting me for the first time – but the rest of the day really impressed.
For those of you who missed it, participant Jim Rossignol has a great write-up of the event on his blog; Rossignol’s account of Francois Roche is well worth a read. Here’s an excerpt:
Then the most extraordinary storm of science-madness came from Francois Roche (of architects R&Sie) whose thick accent masked incredible phrases: “strategies of sickness,” “protocolising the witch in the forest,” “the necrosis of the building,” “the penis of the wall”… He talked about feeding death and traditional fairy tales into design, and about creating a machine that would build an un-navigable glass maze in the courtyard between buildings, into which people would wander, and then die, unable to escape without GPS. “They die to become part of the building,” he said, grinning, and propping expensive sunglasses on his styled bonce. He talked about a building which would be constructed from vast, moulded versions of bullet holes on wet clay, covered in rotting vegetation collected from the Korean de-militarized zone by a purpose-built “witch” robot, referencing Tarkovsky’s Stalker on the way.
With any luck, the whole of Thrilling Wonder Stories will soon be made into an AA publication by the end of this summer.
So expect more posts soon – and if anyone has tips for obscure archaeological sites in Rome that need to be visited, let me know.