Science fiction has become a well-established tool to address problems and dystopias that are actually more connected to the present than to the past. Reflecting on his experiences of being an artist, running an independent art space, and participating in the Soft Power Palace Festival, Simon Feydieu wrote a short story that narrates a maybe not so distant future of the relationship between art, economics, and politics. The story is combined with Soft Power Palace Festival-impressions by photographer Harald Völkl.

»Serene water
That storm is coming
A few drops.
Following their concentric circles fading away
Flat surface mirroring
The water does not seem liquid anymore.
A ground with subliminal reflections.«An advertising poem by Soda Fountaine

The great city administrators of Melville had made up their mind. In order to improve the 2-Eyes network, an amplifying grid will stand over the city, regardless of demography, urbanism, architecture, or patrimony. The recently privatized Lightning Field company was contracted, not without suspicion or controversy, to produce and install the one thousand nine hundred eighty-four antennas: at fifty meters’ distance from each other on octagonal axes. Their height was calculated in regard to the measures of Melville’s highest building, the Soda Fontaine Tower, recently printed by A-print agency.

The installed network turned out to run ideally and pleased the citizens who pictured this political project as ambitious, democratic, and egalitarian. However, the Lightning Field was despised by the self-sufficient technology-skeptic social group districts. Most of the occupants were using the rooftops, patios, and balconies to grow vegetables, fruits, and GMO psychotropic plants.

The troubling decline of crop fertility was not an issue compared to the jubilation following the installment of the 2-Eyes antennas that had been promised by the great administrators for ages. Who cares about a few stunted onions? Who cares about the alarmism of a minor privileged community when facing the promise of prosperity and sustainability thanks to the 2-Eyes-work and the full enjoyment of the 2-Eyes-entertainment? The Doubting Thomas fought for food and energy self-sufficiency, harvesting urban properties, which had an obscenely high real estate value compared to the common farming ones of Melville. Their previous deference and interest in farmers and their ancient knowledge of the soil had rapidly ceased due to their superiority complex; their arrogance nourished by the new trendy doctrines of ecological and production-driven optimization.

This upper class was too inclined to demonstrate its superiority in methodology, taste, and way of life, to get rid of the traditionalist country laborer culture, allegedly retarded in lifestyle and environmental concerns. History has proven that high society has always seen to it that it will maintain its minority, creating a symmetrical way of life to the poor masses. Opulence facing famine. Nutrition facing junk food. Restraint and resilience facing compulsion and insatiability. This alternating balance between decadence and the moral doctrine of the model figure pushed some progressive neighborhoods into a cult of puritanism and an ideology of the Simple Life against the consumerism of the highly profiled 2-Eyes addicts.

Despite bad data about this subject, the rise of electrosensitivity among the population was indisputable, specifically among the people living on top floor close to the 2-Eyes antennas. All countermeasures to alter the transmissions of the Lightning Field in the public space were illegal and met with immediate penalties. Any signal weakness or irregularity was efficiently reported by users and effectively triangulated by the 2-Eyes-police.

The Faraday’s company offered a large set of Albers wallpapers, hangings, and protective films, aesthetic combinations of aluminum 3D prints and 2D patterns, assuring impermeability to electromagnetism. Faraday’s advised and covered the opulent-looking apartments of the techno-skeptical citizens. Beyond the anonymous mocking on 2-Eyes, based on its unfortunate headline »my apartment is a temple« (»my apartment is a cage,« »My Aluminum Albers at gold price,« »Black Faraday’s,« »Faraday’s golden cage,« …), Faraday’s was becoming more and more prosperous. Even if it didn’t hold the monopoly, the company had an eminent reputation, well appreciated by the wealthy people of Melville, whose desire to show off a discreet luxury was similar to the grandiloquence to talk about its provenance. Spending a bunch of money on expensive and sophisticated equipment was the one condition to justify their behavior of preventive deprivation. It was the case for electromagnetism as well as diets and alcohol-free cocktails, chemical filters for allergenic substances, laser baldness, homeopathic fake wisdom teeth, prepubescent vasectomy, debt cancellation lottery, no-contact responsibility discharge card … the tyranny of »less is more (expensive)« : a new »shortcut« economy offering pioneering technological services of deprivation, reduction of information, choice and access. It was the unspoken rule of the upper class. The 2-Eyes technology was recognized as useful and necessary for the technology-skeptic elite but not welcome in the private home and social sphere of the elite community.

The story of Faraday’s was often remarked on as exemplary. Its founder started as a manager of Soft Power Palace, a premier water bar where the best dancing in the East quarter occurred. The entrance airlock cat.7 was spacious; it included a dressing room, rarely used by the customers since the success of urban naturalism and the regulation of street temperature with data centers and cold factory (Melville finally managed to control its temperature, underneath the Lightning Field at least).

The manager had the great idea to transform the dressing room into a 2-Eyes cloakroom. The club became famous as a techno-skeptical dating place, even if the dates were anticipated on 2-Eyes platforms. Soft Power Palace offered the illusion of an authentic rendezvous with no disturbance from competitive offers. Consumers’ association of Melville kept fighting against their policy to get pushier during the physical meetings. The Soft Power Palace was also the perfect spot for a relaxed affair.

The expression »Soft Power Couple« went viral and consequently a massive influx of money and rapid fame provided the manager with the ability to invest into patents and rights of exploitations of Albers textile. Albers textile soon became the Faraday’s company.First, his address book was basically clubs, restaurants and bars, for obvious reasons: he knew the business perfectly well and felt comfortable satisfying the locations’ needs without being double-crossed by the managers or owners. Then he introduced a wide new set of products to the office and factory market looking for security and guaranties of confidentiality regarding their data. It was as if having bought the exclusivity of exploitation of his own product gave him the legitimacy to guarantee the security of everybody else.

The underground car parks in Melville were turned into low-cost apartments when the real-estate market switched from square meters to cubic meters. Once the Lightning Field was operational, the parks were requisitioned by the great administrators and turned into data centers to upgrade ever-increasing data traffic, finding new applications like heating and cooling systems for air conditioning and tap water.

A small group of Anti-technology blocs and housing projects received exemption, building counter-electromagnetism domes. Among the residents were many Administrators and lobby groups. The data centers were not allowed in the basements. The 2-Eyes free zone was guaranteed by daily random E.M.P., except in specific shielded booths on the sidewalks. Those were the areas you would find the most avant-garde ideas regarding communitarianism, hygiene, education, and lifestyle. Of course, it led to a rapid gentrification in the area.

It was not unusual to see Faraday’s company cars parking into the basements, under the anxious and impatient eyes of their residents. The cars were easily recognizable by the Albers black pattern on the coachwork, which was a clever bending of the Anti Advertising Law since augmented reality had taken over absolutely all the advertisement, signage and information market. The Albers armor was also obviously unnecessary: the car manufacturers had enhanced the Faraday shield of all products since the PomPom terrorist attack (a group of terrorists had activated an E.M.P. in a traffic jam, before methodically shooting the trapped passengers.

Faraday’s had first made a business of Safe Affair, then had moved into the market of data security and business confidentiality. It was now slowly producing gray-market products for the Anti Technology blocs which transgressed the community rules. It was not a question of locally clearing an area from any 2-Eyes technology but, instead, to guarantee its clandestine safe wired access.

In a new shift of the situation, Faraday’s associated with A-Print Agency for the master of work and won the call for projects for the PomPom Attack Monument on Jochen Gerz square. It consisted in a monumental micro-perforated sculpture without pedestal, with airlock classified level 12 centered on each side. »Soft Power Palace« would be the world’s largest Faraday’s cage! It would be symbolically one meter higher than the lightning field and its volume would exceed the limit of a 3D-printed mono-block by one cubic meter. The framework would progressively be covered with greenery. But the truly singularity of the project was not its structure but its foundation: symmetrical and reversed to the visible pyramid, it would be buried with topsoil. Visitors would have the opportunity to dig in and get to their own garden. The ongoing digging would progressively reveal an agora with bleachers. The idea of collective digging seduced the jury: the hourglass effect taking the opposite path of the mortuary rituals regarding burying and gardening. The Soft Power Palace Monument would celebrate a virgin and incomplete void, a deep peace.

Drink Soft Power Palace !

A deep, generous and peaceful water !

© Soda Fontaine