Whilst in Singapore last weekend, my digital and real world lives and interests combined with a trip to the inspiring ArtScience Museum. That such an institution exists is testament to the progressive, futuristic cultural dynamic that is prevalent in Singapore, where creativity and technology blend in so many aspects of design and infrastructure. On exhibit were three incredible exhibitions aligning my interests in art and technology – Future World: Where Art Meets ScienceJourney to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder and Big Bang Data. It is on this last exhibition that I will focus this post.

Big Bang Data comprehensively covers a range of concepts fusing art, science, statistics, technology and history. The overwhelming nature of exponential progress is a focus throughout the exhibition, starting with the enormity of connection through cloud storage networks, undersea and overland cabling right through to Erik Kessels‘ visual representation of 24 hours on Flickr, where a large room has been filled with prints of the photos uploaded to Flickr over 24 hours in 2011. The visual presentation of this information provides a tangible representation of what can seem an abstract concept. What does a million photos look like in the real world? Well here it is:

bbd-flickr

Further to these bookends, the exhibition features investigations via artwork and installation in the history of data development, the intersection of private and public worlds through online vlogs, the fine line between the benefits of data use for convenience and danger of its use for identity theft and Big Brotheresque monitoring of our every move. Whist many people strive to protect their digital identity through care with their online information, elements of the exhibition explore the real world risks of being a member of a data society; with the Counterest exhibit (below) demonstrating the data representation possible through video surveillance – including gender, ethnicity and facial recognition.

bbd-surveillance   bbd-face-cage

Another by Zach Blas (above) features the construction of face masks designed to prevent identification through digital facial recognition. Heather Dewey-Hagborg‘s piece (below) demonstrates the emerging capacity to construct a facial identity from collected DNA evidence.

bbd-dna-face   bbd-dna

Amongst the awe and fear inducing elements of the curation, there is also the recognition of the important components of humanity that cannot be replicated by a digital data-oriented process. In the “What Data Can’t Tell” chapter is Johnathan Harris‘ artwork, “Data Will Help Us”.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-4-24-18-pmIt is a humanising reminder that amidst the power of data, humans have purpose and significance – our decision making skills along with our choices about how we use and respond to data to envision a better future are human processes where empathy, love and fallibility are features of the human condition and not (yet?) replicable with data.

As an artist, educator and student, navigating my own digital existence and striving to be digitally literate citizen of my data-oriented world, I found Big Bang Data to be one of the most fascinating exhibitions I have ever encountered.

 

 

References

ArtScience Museum [website]. (2016). Retreived from http://www.marinabaysands.com/museum.html