INTERVIEW: The 404th Wall | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hosted by Newcastle’s NewBridge Project and spearheaded by Alexia Mellor, Dominic Smith and Anthony Schrag, The 404th Wall started as a satellite project of the International Symposium of Electronic Art in Dubai last year. Since then, the trio, alongside other inter-dimensional explorers, have been examining new media practices and wondering whether what is supposed to bring us together actually tears us further apart. This recently led to the discovery of a new, mysterious notebook from beyond the 404th Wall, found by archaeologists in the future. So naturally, the group are launching the mysterious book at the NewBridge Project and we’re all invited to help unlock its secrets as the group open the Extra Dimensional portal one last time.

The event, on Wednesday 27th May, will feature a newly commissioned piece of interactive digital artwork by Lucy Pawlak, a closer look at the findings of the 404th Wall and, of course, nibbles in the DIYwania tent.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of just what Space-Time rifts have been opened up by 404th Wall in the past few months, I attempted to track down Alexia, Anthony and Dominic to ask them just what was going on down at the NewBridge Project. Unfortunately, they’ve been temporarily sucked into an inter-dimensional portal and probably won’t return until the event. Instead, I’ve been lucky enough to talk to the Extra Dimensional Future Archaeologists who found the publication in the year 2019. So, in this first-ever interview between NARC. and time travellers, we had a chat about the future, what they know about the 404th Wall and why snacks are dangerous to the space-time continuum.

Tell us a bit about The 404th Wall; what are the aims behind the project?

The 404th Wall project took place between two teams of explorers; one group based in Dubai, the other based in Newcastle. “Lead Explorers” Marco and Paul travelled to Dubai for a ten-day mission in October 2014 and attempted to relay their mission’s findings to The Laboratory based at the NewBridge Project. Here, the Lead-Extra Dimensional Explorer (EDE) Dominic Smith co-ordinated a team to interpret and respond to the data.

This experiment explored our increased reliance on technology to communicate. The 404th Wall is that space where emails are lost, tone is misread or the computer just won’t turn on, hindering how we understand place, and each other. The project attempted to break through these miscommunications to reveal the way that technology has affected communication.

All translations need a codec – a decoder and encoder of signals and symbols – and The 404th Wall relied on the writings of Italo Calvino to act as a framework for how they navigated the communicative divide.

How did the new book come about?

The book was discovered in 2019 and brought back in time. It is a record of the experiments conducted in Dubai and The Laboratory. The book seems to document the goings on of the project in 2014, and replicates the format of communication between both sides of The 404th Wall.

Games_2_ CREDIT D SMITH

“The project attempted to break through these miscommunications to reveal the way that technology has affected communication”

You’ve said that by opening the pages of the book, you’ll be able to become an Extra Dimensional Explorer; are you aiming for readers to be transported to another world?

We archaeologists are not sure. We believe the notebook suggests that 404th portals exist throughout our world via Wi-Fi hot spots. These hot spots allow users to effectively transport themselves, yet remain in their original physical locations. The empty pages at the end of the notebook suggest that readers are welcome – and in fact encouraged – to explore the principles of the original 404th Wall project: that of investigating place, the emblems and symbols we create in and about sites, and how we communicate our understandings and personal experience of location (physical and virtual) to one another.

The notebook itself is unfinished; why did you leave the book this way? Was it a conscious decision?

The presented notebook is in the original form: we can only assume the original authors were unable to complete their mission due to some terrible calamity.

What have you got planned for the launch event itself? Are there any surprises or ways to get involved?

Due to our inability to transport ourselves back in time for fear of invoking the Mobius Paradox, we will be unable to attend. However, research into the periodicals of the time suggest that Marco, Paula and Lead EDE Dominic Smith will be in attendance. We are also able to say that the DIYwania tent that Marco and Paula used in their mission will make an appearance.

While the references are vague, it also seems that the final EDE, lost beyond the 404th Wall, will be sending her last mission report that visitors will be asked to interpret. Obviously, we cannot give too much information as it will irrevocably warp Space-Time, but we do know there will be snacks.

What’s next for The 404th Wall?

In your future – our present – things are difficult. We need your help. Technology is omnipresent, and filters every aspect of communication, from our speech, thoughts and emotions.  No one understands one another. The 404th Wall is constantly negotiated and navigated. Now, we have drawn together the last remaining resources of our failing planet and are attempting to finally build a stable bridge to cross the divide. We beseech you – our past ancestors – to help us, and become, one last time, Extra Dimensional Explorers that will help save humanity. Please send CVs with contact information to @the404thwall.

Collapsing The 404th Divide takes place at the NewBridge Project, Newcastle, on Wednesday 27th May.

Image Credits: Dominic Smith and Colin Davison

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