“Where is the Cloud located on Earth?” Reflecting on the disembodied lexicon of virtual space, Kaija Siirala’s Hamina, Finland situates listeners at an unexpected nexus between digital and physical gathering places: the Hamina sauna. A relic of a retrofitted paper mill, this sauna is an employee perk at the Hamina Google data center in Southern Finland. Uniquely, seawater is channeled here to cool Google’s vast, active server bodies. Simultaneously, human bodies in the neighbouring sauna heat up after a day of work. The piece considers the often-obscured physical consequences of virtual activity by mapping it onto a visceral sauna experience.
A watery world emerges through a whispered choir of google search histories, including Siirala’s own Hamina sauna research. Sauna is a central component of Finnish culture and is a lifelong practice Siirala inherited from her family. Her field recordings from these times together — sounds of breath, camaraderie, eruptions of laughter — underscore the piece.
When water is tossed onto the rocks atop the stove, the löyly — steam in Finnish — mounts the heat to an intolerable crescendo forcing participants out of the sauna and into the same cold sea cooling the Google servers. Löyly shares the same etymological root as the Finnish word for “spirit”.
“I started thinking about the language that is used when talking about the digital space, the internet. And I started noticing that a lot of this language centers around these disembodied spaces. The cloud somehow implying that the digital space is somewhere out there in the ether, is in the air and doesn't have any physical on earth consequences. So I started to think about what that meant. And I started looking at, you know, where does the cloud exist on Earth? Where where is this data stored?”
Thank you to the google whisper chorus (Aaron, Alessandra, Alex, Curtis, Erin, Finn, Julia, Kalli, Marie Sarah, and Zoe; Micah Smith for sauna recording booth session, Kari Siirala for Finnish lexicon and Julien Charbonneau for his hospitality at the Lac.