Art is influenced by everything around it — including technology — and major exhibits of artists reacting or interacting with tech are becoming common. On 2011, The Museum of Modern Art had a successful show called Talk to Me: Design and Communication Between People and Objects (MoMA currently has 14 classic videogames in its permanent Applied Design collection, including Pac-Man, Tetris, Myst and Sim City 2000.) In 2014, London’s Barbican Center hosted a how called Digital Revolution that highlighted the rise of tech-assisted creativity. Those shows are in the past, but if you happen to be in London between now and March 20th, 2016, you can catch a wonderful new exhibit called Big Bang Data at Somerset House; a video promo gives you an idea of what to expect, as does the show’s official press release.
The core of Big Bang Data consists of artists and designers using data — and data visualization — to illustrate just how much public and private information drives the world these days. There’s historical content, like sections of underwater data cables and a display of data-storage devices including ancient floppies, USB drives and the ever-looming cloud. A film on government surveillance outlines the NSA’s known practices. Another documentary on a loop explores the history of the Internet Archive project. A wall projection (shown above) rates the happiness factor in London’s boroughs based on real-time social media posts. Another mapping project shows the physical Networks of London, and another examines how data can be used for good to “catapult healthcare into the future.”
Julian Oliver’s 2012 work, Transparency Grenade, is also on view. As described by the gallery card, “Equipped with a tiny computer, microphone and powerful wireless antenna, the Transparency Grenade captures network traffic and audio at the site and securely and anonymously streams it to a dedicated server where it is mined for information. User names, hostnames, IP addresses, unencrypted email fragments, web pages, images and voice extracted from this data and then presented on an online, public map, shown at the location of the detonation.” The gallery provides an open Wi-Fi access point named watchednetwork so visitors can see just what the Grenade can grab.
Even if you can’t make it across the pond to see it, the exhibit’s website is well worth checking out. Life is art, as they say, and that goes for our digital lives as well.