“Skärgården (The Archipelago)” by CHAD eby
Chad Eby creates work, by turns stark and whimsical, that explores humanity’s fraught relationship with made objects and technological processes. Eby is a Lexington Kentucky-based multidisciplinary artist, designer, and educator working with light, sound, and code to engage with the grain of digital technologies.
As part of the faculty of the University of Kentucky’s School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) since 2019, Eby previously served at the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Kungliga Tekniska högskolan (the Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, and Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Chad’s work has been shown at the Tekniska Museet (the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology) in Stockholm, Sweden, Generative Art XXII in Rome, Italy, New Media Fest in Valencia, Spain, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, TAG at the University of Western Florida, the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper, the Studio 300 Biennale at Transylvania University, and various local venues across the United States. He has attended competitive residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Elsewhere, and was selected for the inaugural Space Art Summer School hosted by the Russian Museum of Cosmonautics.
The work includes a dozen autonomous nodes in a distributed, self-organizing and self-repairing wireless network that communicate, more or less successfully, an ever-changing program of illumination and audio textures inspired by (and drawn directly from) archival and contemporary field recordings from the Stockholm Archipelago.
Skärgården draws on the contested history of incursions into the archipelago, the Nordic development of telecommunications and electronic warfare, and the trustworthiness of information, misinformation, and disinformation as it propagates through the nodes of a network.
Off the coast of Sweden, from Öja to Arholma, the 30,000 islands of the Stockholm Archipelago form a complex maze of water and stone. Though the austere beauty of the islands has enchanted figures as diverse as August Strindberg and Aleister Crowley, navigation through the archipelago has been fraught since Viking times, and the natural defense it provides the Baltic approach to Stockholm remains of strategic importance even now.
From those earliest times, stone and wooden seamarks have been erected throughout the archipelago to warn sailors of hazards and aid navigation. Bonfires and, later, oil and electric lights provided guidance in the dark. But traps were also laid; cannon and minefields placed in strategic locations and, eventually, hidden networks of listening posts grew in the garden of skerries as Sweden led the world in the development of radio and telecommunication systems.
During the cold war, while Stockholmers relaxed in their summer cottages, the Swedish military played cat and mouse with mysterious submarine invaders throughout the islands. Debate has raged for years over the origin of the incursions: Soviet, British, American, or if, after the confirmed stranding (and contested release) of a Whiskey class Soviet sub in October of 1981, any of the later incidents even involved actual submarines at all. It seems impossible to untangle fact from misunderstanding, disinformation, wishful thinking, or paranoia; some of the accounts of incidents read like fever dreams, but many of the military recordings of supposed submarines were, in 1995, said to actually be the sound of mink playing in the sea. In 2003, other recordings suspected by the military to document clandestine submarine activity were declared by scientists (who won that year’s Ig Nobel prize in Biology) to be the sounds of wildly flatulent herring.
Remnants of the cold war still cling to the archipelago. The secret subterranean warrens and camouflaged artillery (embedded in and made to look like boulders) at Landsort on Öja were only revealed to the public in 2013, and publicized submarine incursions have occurred as late as the autumn of 2014.
Stay current on Eby’s projects: https://chadeby.studio/about/