In Modena the first Italian solo exhibition of Evan Roth, who reflects on the relationship between the Internet and society

FMAV - Fondazione Modena Arti Visive presents for the first time in Italy the solo exhibition of American artist Evan Roth. At the center of his artistic research are the distortions present both technically and socio-politically in the world of digital networks.

From November 24, 2023 to February 11, 2024 FMAV - Fondazione Modena Arti Visive presents for the first time in Italy a solo exhibition by American artist Evan Roth, curated by Chiara Dall’Olio. Distorted Worlds, this is the title of the exhibition, presents works made between 2013 and 2023 that aim to reflect on the relationship between the Internet and society. Indeed, at the center of his artistic research are the distortions present at both technical and socio-political levels in the world of digital networks.

The exhibition opens with the previously unseen work “...”[dot dotdot] created for the occasion. A triangular prism suspended and inverted, formed by a tangle of Ethernet cables converging toward the tip within which is placed a router to which visitors can connect. The image of the pyramid refers back to Kopimi’s logo, but also to the radio antenna erected at Poldhu, Cornwall, by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901 as a transmission station for the wireless telegraph, from which the first transoceanic radio signal was sent: three dots in the Morse alphabet, representing the letter S. This is intended to emphasize the similarity between the Internet and radio, the first free and effective global communication tool, used for public and private communications and independent message broadcasting, for example, during World War II. Both radio and the internet use the electromagnetic wave spectrum to transmit data, but while with regard to the former, anyone can create their own transmitter and own it, on the internet we are all users, even where we own a site or social profile, of an infrastructure owned by a few multinational corporations. Radio uses infrastructure that is clearly visible on the ground, antennas; the internet, on the other hand, has concealed physical structures and even on a perceptual level everything seems immaterial, think of the cloud.

“The work,” explains Chiara Dall’Olio, “made in 2023, is a summation of the concepts dear to Evan Roth, which are also the basis of his other works presented, namely trying to understand how the communications system works in order to activate a critical consciousness towards it and perceive its distortions.”

The installation “...” is accompanied by the series of acrylic paintings Strands, created in 2020 and still in progress, which superimposes the system of cartography on the network, both of which are considered reliable but the result of misunderstandings caused by power structures. The paintings were made using custom software designed by the artist for image manipulation that uses 121 cartographic projections invented by scientists of all eras (from 150 A.D. to 2018) that can be superimposed on other maps, such as that of the undersea network of telecommunications cables or the 1902 telegraph’s transoceanic cable network, and on real or invented flags. The images, thus deformed, give rise to the drawings that Roth transforms into vinyl masks and then paints them on the canvas with the colors used to encode data cables. The software created by Evan Roth together with Cezar Mocan is available for free online at, and a video tutorial on display explains how it works. The sense of historicized distortion of realities that the work highlights is also present and layered in the digital systems we use on a daily basis. Linking the sculpture of “...” to Strands ’ paintings is a huge print covering the entire floor also made with worldinfigures software.

Also using the same system and with similar goals, the still-in-progress video series Skyscapes was created in 2020, produced from photographs manipulated through the software’s “animation” function. Roth inserted real images of the sky of Modena taken in April 2023 and transformed them following all the possibilities given by cartographic distortions, ideally continuing to follow another of the impossible mathematical operations, the squaring of the circle, that is, the construction of a square that has the exact same area as a circle.

The exhibition continues with the video-installation Landscapes (2016 - 2020), one of the artist’s most famous works, which marks a major shift in his artistic practice from works created online, to a work that questions what the network is, how this tool that connects the entire globe is physically constituted, how it has changed since the early 2000s, also becoming a means of control and power. With this in mind, Roth became interested in the materiality of the network, in the cables that run under the ocean and physically connect the earth’s plates to each other. These bundles of cables emerge from the waters of the sea at various strategic points on all continents. Roth traveled to some of these locations-Sweden, Britain, France, Portugal, Australia, Argentina, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States-and filmed their infrared wilderness, that is, using the same frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum that is used in undersea fiber optic cables for internet data transmission. Only by watching the entire flow of images carefully does one realize that they are moving images and not photographs. It is this level of careful contemplation that Roth wants to activate. Just as the material infrastructure of the web is nearly invisible, so too are the infrastructures of power and control within the web invisible. “I see in the tree,” the artist explains, “an example of a natural network diagram. The branches draw the viewers’ eyes away from the clouds [clouds] and into the ground where the data flows. This project was never intended to be a journalistic work. That is why I also allow myself to think more pictorially when I am on site. Research guides me to the place, but once I am there, I try to allow myself a lot of freedom in creating something that captures the essence of an internal dialogue rather than simply trying to document things that are there because of the Internet.”

Closing the exhibition is the Bent Networks series of sculptures, begun in 2020, installations of Ethernet cables connected together in original forms on mineral bases (marble, quartz), making visible the connection of cables running on the walls and floor throughout the exhibition. The router inside “...” is connected, with the whole fabric of cables surrounding it, to all the works in the exhibition: to the transmitter of Skyscapes, to the monitors of Landscapes, and to the Bent Networks creating a physical as well as functional network in the microcosm that are the exhibition halls of FMAV Fondazione Modena Arti Visive. These sculptures, born during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, are a monument to connection through a slow art practice such as sculpture that is opposed to speed, characteristic of technology and all things web-based.

Hours: Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Free admission.

In Modena the first Italian solo exhibition of Evan Roth, who reflects on the relationship between the Internet and society
In Modena the first Italian solo exhibition of Evan Roth, who reflects on the relationship between the Internet and society

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