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The computer in the palm of your hand is the entry point to an accidental planetary structure linking e-waste sites in Guangdong, computer villages in Lagos, fiber-optic submarine cables in the Atlantic and the mystical history of the internet. This exhibition brings together the work of artists who explore the rapidly changing digital world today. Join us for the festive book launch & exhibition opening of Vertical Atlas on Thursday October 27th.

Planet Earth is wrapped in a gigantic mesh of fiber-optic cables and electromagnetic waves. Its surface is drilled for resources that are extracted to generate energy for the mining of cryptocurrencies and the accumulation of data clouds.

The computer in the palm of your hand is the entry point to an accidental planetary structure linking computer villages in Lagos, to fiber-optic submarine cables in the Atlantic to e-waste sites in Guangdong, to corporate-owned satellites in orbit, to a swelling quantity of IP addresses and teraflops of data.

This exhibition explores the materiality and immateriality of the digital reality we live in. Earth is dug, excavated, and ripped apart to extract the fundamental materials that keep the computational machine running — oil, coltan, rubber, lithium form the material basis on which digital reality is built. At the same time, digital technologies enable new modes of circulation and extraction of information and data. Algorithmic regimes regulate the movement of goods and people around the world in relatively smooth fluxes enabled by increasingly sophisticated surveillance systems.

How do we make sense of digital transformation and its many social, political, cultural, and environmental implications on people around the world? How do digital technologies shape the way we map and understand space? How have diverse worldviews, shaped by social and spiritual concerns, affected the way technologies have been developed and implemented across the globe? 

Vertical Atlas started four years ago with a series of public talks, research labs and Digital Earth Fellowships. It has now become a book bringing together the insights of a diverse group of internationally renowned artists, scientists and technologists. It makes explicit the many exploratory paths and collective knowledge of people and communities working on redefining how technological worlds are seen and visualized.

Exhibited artists

  • Kévin Bray
  • Geocinema (Asia Bazdyrieva and Solveig Qu Suess)
  • Isaac Kariuki
  • Francois Knoetze
  • Emo De Medeiros
  • Andrej Škufca
  • Suzanne Treister
  • Qiu Zhijie

Initiated and curated by Renée Roukens and Arthur Steiner.

About Vertical Atlas

A joint research initiative by Hivos and Het Nieuwe Instituut, Vertical Atlas is a unique compendium of maps, artworks and essays that help to navigate the worldwide digital transformation and its complex effects at different locations around the world. The Vertical Atlas book is published by ArtEZ Press.

  • Editors: Leonardo Dellanoce, Amal Khalaf, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Nanjala Nyabola, Renée Roukens, Arthur Steiner and Mi You
  • Editorial Assistant: Hannah Adlide
  • Contributors: Sophia Al Maria, Heba Y. Amin, Lotte Arndt, Benjamin H. Bratton, Kévin Bray, James Bridle, Ingrid Burrington, Adriana Bustos, Ben Cerveny, Guo Cheng, Chimurenga, Cristina Cochior, Sounak Das, Data Justice Lab (Philippa Metcalfe, Fieke Jansen), Pablo DeSoto, Alexis Destoop, Marjolijn Dijkman, DISNOVATION.ORG, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Cao Fei, Shuang Lu Frost, Maya Indira Ganesh, Pélagie Gbaguidi, GCC Group, Geocinema (Asia Bazdyrieva, Solveig Qu Suess), John Gerrard, Oulimata Gueye, Camille Henrot, Femke Herregraven, Yuk Hui, Sanneke Huisman, Victoria Ivanova, Vladan Joler, Isaac Kariuki, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Francois Knoetze, Srinivas Kodali, Bogna Konior, Lukáš Likavčan, Abu Bakarr Mansaray, Svitlana Matviyenko, Emo de Medeiros, Metahaven, Dorine Mokha, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Musasa, Katja Novitskova, Nanjala Nyabola, Trevor Paglen, Alice Piva, Chen ‘Stanley’ Qiufan, Nii Quaynor, Elia Rediger, Tabita Rezaire, Lucas Rolim, Bassem Saad, Nanjira Sambuli, Georges Senga, Nzilani Simu, Andrej Škufca, Ksenia Tatarchenko, Suzanne Treister, Unknown Fields, Jordi Vallverdú, Richard Vijgen, Sarah Waiswa, Zhan Wang, Kedolwa Waziri, Mi You, Qiu Zhijie, Dan Zhu
  • Design: Catalogtree
  • Published by: ArtEZ Press

Pre-order the book via the ArtEZ Press webshop here

Access the free digital publication here (available from 27th October 2022)

Supported by Sida, Creative Industries Fund NL, New Silk Roads



Gallery 3

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


About Hivos

Hivos is an international development organization guided by humanist values. Together with citizens and their organizations, we aim to contribute towards just, inclusive and life sustaining societies where people have equal access to opportunities, rights and resources. 

In an increasingly digital world, Hivos works to ensure human rights and agency are expanded and protected. We want to make societies, organizations and institutions more open and inclusive so they both enable and safeguard meaningful civic participation, in particular by underrepresented rightsholders. 

Through Resources of Open Minds (R.O.O.M.) we support artists and creative hubs around the world in diversifying dialogue and using the power of art to spark debates and bring about structural social change. 

Vertical Atlas was made possible thanks to the generous support of:

Kévin Bray
Het Nieuwe Instituut and Digital Earth
Benjamin Bratton, Arthur Steiner, Leonardo Dellanoce, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer