Anna Ehrenstein
with Jonathan Omer Mizrahi

„The Balkanization of the Cloud“, 15.09. – 22.10.2022


As digital sovereignty becomes an increasingly pressing issue, the cloud, often perceived as immaterial, everywhere and nowhere, post-nationstate, quickly rematerializes as localized infrastructure, as well as the site of political influence of state-actors. Market actors and nationstates are in a game of circumventing and asserting jurisdiction, of evading and enforcing regulation, vying for control and soft-power over the computing environment and the cloud. 

The Balkanization of the Cloud refers to the fragmentation of the cloud into national sovereignties, regulating its data-flows and infrastructure. Various media outlets have used Balkanization here as a derogative catch-all for the encroachment of supposed nationalism into the dream, or, ideological delusion, of a liberal, globalized cloud. The Balkans become not just the glitch to the EUropean idea, but also to the idea of a global internet regulated only by market economics and free of the geopolitics of nationstates. While the fragmentation of the Balkans into a multiplicity of nationstates and sovereignties is framed as the result of local ethnic conflicts, this notion obscures geopolitical underpinnings and imperialist influence and interests in this process. Ehrenstein satirically appropriates the notion of Balkanization for the exhibition to explore how the interests of nationstates and nationalism seep into our web not only through national jurisdiction over data-flows, but the instrumentalization of contemporary cultural production on the web by state-actors. 

The Nationstate as Instagram Influencer stitches together three different accounts of state- sponsored nationalism on the internet. A first section sees Ehrenstein and her grandparents repeating affirmations of supposed „EU values“, disseminated by EU agencies and initiatives, for example by paying young Albanians to talk about them on Instagram as something to aspire to. A second section presents a persiflage lip sync of  Jair Bolsonaro’s anti- LGBTQI+ and anti-PT-ism propaganda spread via purchased WhatsApp chain messages. And a third section deals with the pink- and vegan-washing of the Israeli state through a travel vlog from the perspective of Jonatan Omer Mizrahi, as he travels to an ecological Israeli winery and artist residency in the occupied Westbank on Palestinian Land. Influencers are invited to share state sponsored and orchestrated holidays, promoting gay-friendlieness and ecological interests to distract from the brutal systematic oppression of Palestinians. All three parts are scripted by each author individually and amplify the ridiculous, sometimes amateurish and immediately outdated-feeling forms these psyops take, portraying the nation-state as manipulative and crafty.

Text: Felix Ansmann




A second video, The Hypnotization of the Cloud, attempts to

exorcise nationalistic ideology from the viewer through virtualreality

hypnosis. In preparation for the work, Ehrenstein trained

as a hypnotherapist at the „Institut für Entspannungstechniken

und Kommunikation“ (Institute for relaxation methods and

communication communication), showing the acquired

diploma alongside the video. In the 360-degree video, the

viewer, directly addressed by Ehrenstein, acts as a stand-in or

proxy for neural networks, which the artist attempts to

hypnotize in order to unlearn nationalistic ideas. The work

plays on the concept of neuroplasticity, which, as for example

Catherine Malabou shows us, applies both to human brains as

well as to state of the art computing. The fact that the viewer

has to lay down on a lounge chair and put on a VR headset

equally evokes imagery of neuroscience and of brainwashing.