Were you around in the late 90s/early 00s? You might remember how almost every magazine and newspaper used to come with free CDs and DVDs. Covermount CDs they were called, and they featured games, music, old movies or basically anything that might nudge circulation northwards or demonstrate how, yes, we at Country Living are also on board with this new digital malarkey.
At the same time, every supermarket checkout displayed shiny CD-Roms aimed at encouraging you to hook up to the internet. For a while, the 120mm disc in its various forms must have supplanted the credit card to become the most ubiquitous man-made object on the planet.
That’s after you discount all the others, of course.
Anyway, I found myself collecting these objects for no other reason than I’m a bloke, and collecting useless items therefore comes naturally. By the mid-noughties I’d amassed several hundred. Then I had an idea of what to do with them.
I’d noticed that although CDs were opaque, if you held them horizontally they actually allowed light to pass through. So I wondered how this would look with sunlight passing through hundreds of them. I decided to construct a towering, er, tower; a soaring column of translucent digital storage devices stretching upwards and upwards, higher and higher, until God himself could reach out, grab a disc and dial up the internet using Compuserve’s Fax Modem.
I got hold of hundreds more CDs via a cheeky request to the company that made those covermount CDs & DVDs for the publishing industry. I bought a stainless steel pole the diameter of which was a fraction smaller than the hole in a CD. I dug a hole in the garden and buried the bottom 300mm of the pole in concrete. Then it was simply a matter of threading the CDs over the pole until I reached the top.
You want a few facts, I can tell. So the number of CDs shown here is around 2,000. Their height is 2.5 metres and the weight excluding the pole is about 35 kilos. I noticed after a few months that the pole had become visible at the top, so I had to get the ladders out and add a few more CDs.
I had to repeat this action many times over the years. When I came to dismantle the tower some 15 years later, I discovered that the weight of the CDs had forced the ones at the bottom to sink over 100mm (that’s around 78 CDs) into the ground.
I did have some nice shots of the sun shining through the tower, but the external hard drive that hosted all my photos suddenly stopped working. I know, I know. I should have stored them on a DVD.
Anyway, during the course of those 18 years, my unique CD installation wasn’t:
- Talked about on social media
- Selected for a major arts award
- Shown at the Saatchi Gallery
- Viewed over 4 million times on Instagram
- The subject of a Ted Talk about the fusion of art and technology
- Popular with any of our potential house buyers
So in the light of this last one, I’ve reluctantly dismantled the tower. All the CDs went into landfill but the pole itself is proving to be harder to remove. I can’t lift the concrete out of the ground, and I don’t have anything like an angle grinder to cut through the metal. (The metal-cutting blade that came with my electric saw was next to useless.)
So the pole stays put, for now at least.