For the Jerwood Makers Open, the London-based studio has created a tower that uses themes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to explore the dangers of the digital age
Fleafolly’s latest work – The Modern Prometheus, on display at the Jerwood Space in London – uses themes and characters from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a metaphor for the digital age.
The installation is the London-based practice’s contribution to the 2014 Jerwood Makers Open. The studio was awarded £7,500 to create the piece, which explores how the internet has transformed from a tool for good to an uncontrollable monster of our own making. It is constructed in wood and brass, using traditional etching as well as digital techniques such as laser-cutting.
“We wanted to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the digital world and that developed into this technological Tower of Babel,” Hillier says. “The title came from Frankenstein – because of the idea that the internet is a patchwork of good and bad pieces.” The installation was also designed to mirror the Gothic aesthetic of the novel. “It was supposed to be grotesque and ugly.”
Fleafolly’s other influence was a rumour about Facebook building a server farm in the Arctic. “We liked the poetic idea of having all this information stored in a cold place, where they cool the information itself and which slowly grows over time. The first scene in Frankenstein is also based in the Arctic.”
The tower comprises a central core and a lace-like exterior, which Fleafolly used to juxtapose the analog and digital worlds. “The external layer is where the people who serve the server farms live. They understand how dangerous this information can be and how it’s constantly being spied on by entities such as GCHQ, so they don’t use digital information – they write letters and read books instead.” This, again, echoes Frankenstein, which is written in the form of letters.
Hillier and Bronner met while studying at the Barlett – where they now teach – and established Fleafolly in 2013. They tend to work on one project at a time and, now that the Jerwood installation is complete, are hoping to work on some more traditional architectural schemes. “As a practice, we haven’t done architecture in the simplest terms, but we are looking at taking on a couple of housing projects in the near future.”
The Modern Prometheus can be seen at the Jerwood Space in Southwark until 31 August