How to Invent an Island (and Hoodwink Google Earth)

Thursday November 23, 2017 Written by suzi

This short film is how Mond Qu managed to convince the internet that his fictional island of Aditnálta was a real place, and that its history of illegal mining was all true. The story goes something like this: Aditnálta is an anonymous island off the east coast of Mexico. You can still see it on Google Earth. People flocked to mine the island because it contains the world’s richest supply of otinif, a rare earth mineral used in the manufacture of super-fast digital processors (and to save you a Google search, otinif isn’t real, either). You can’t see heaps of buildings on Aditnálta from an aerial view because the mines, and vast shanty-like worker towns, are underground. Smith Journal caught up with Mond to find out what drove him to create this fictional island.

Mond, you created a pretty intriguing origin story for this island. How did you come up with it?

One of the main challenges was just making sure the story was consistent and the visual language with everything worked. I drew on references in history since sometimes reality truly is stranger than fiction. I looked at the illegal Congo mines and the large mineral holes that were being dug up around the world to support our metropolitan city lifestyles.

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I understand the whole thing took you about 10 weeks to build. How did it come about?

It was part of my thesis project; I was exploring alternative modes of architecture. Aditnálta attempts to free up designers and architects to create virtual experiences. On one hand, it explores our reliance on technology and on the other, it shows us how fragile these technological systems are, which we take for granted. We’re now able to understand this run-down, illegal mining town without it having to be physically manifested. We’re able to visit a place that’s at our fingertips, and connect with it.

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And the island you built, with its accompanying film, had quite a few people convinced…

Yes, Aditnálta lives on Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and Webcam travel. I just played around with tagging images online, adding videos and stories to the online community and it slowly started to stitch its way through the internet. 

The project got so far that even a National Geographic photographer contacted me about it, wanting to be the first person to “reveal” the dark and secret worlds that are created by our hunger for faster technology.

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What did you learn from the project, and from the astonishing response you got from it? 

That we currently live in a digital world where everyone can find love, visit locations and immerse themselves in experiences online. This is only going to be more prolific as we move into the future, and in retrospect, the project gave me insight into these emerging concepts.

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Explore Aditnálta yourself here, and visit United Make to experience more of Mond’s projects. 

Photography: Mond Qu