ARTISTS:

Autogena Projects (Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway)

Autogena Projects (Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway)

Formulating New Aesthetics for a Data-Saturated World

All data lives within a frame of reference. Data is meaningless outside the system, which encodes it. When we’ve worked with data it’s always been in the service of thinking about these underlying structures and systems rather than the data itself. Here we present three projects: Untitled (superorganism), Black Shoals and Most Blue Skies – each of which, in their way, chronicle our changing ideas about the relationships between capitalism, nature and technology, and the ways in which we might respond to them.

Black Shoals [1999, 2015] is ostensibly a visualisation of the global financial system, in which the flows of global capital are represented by a planetarium in which every star represents a company traded on the world’s stock markets. Amongst the stars live a colony of artificial life creatures who feed on the movements of capital. The project was, in part, a reaction to the naturalisation of the system of global capitalism in which the market is increasingly perceived as a mysterious force of nature rather than an artefact of culture. Since the seventies the language of complexity theory has built a bridge between biological ecologies and financial systems that has served to reinforce the legitimacy and the “naturalness” of the market. The emergence of complex behaviour from dynamic systems has become the dominant touchstone of “nature”. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is now recognised as a feedback property of a self-organising ecology, and this seems to position it as a comparably fundamental force. We used a similar feedback effect as part of the work we produced in response to the “Monument to the Anthropocene” exhibition; “Untitled [Superorganism]”. The project was a re-creation in the gallery of an “ant mill” – a phenomenon in which hundreds of thousands of army ants lose their pheromone trail and begin to follow each other in an endlessly rotating circle until exhaustion and death.

Most Blue Skies is an attempt to come to some sort of peace with the very problematic idea of nature and its relationship to the technological and social systems in which we’re embedded. The project is a quixotic attempt to answer a simple childhood question – where is the bluest sky in the world? We approached the problem using the most advanced resources available to us, including satellite sensing, atmospheric modelling, real time sensor networks and radiative transfer models developed by NASA. There is an apparent paradox between the simple prelapsarian beauty of the blue sky and the disproportionate complexity of the technology we employ to try to answer the question. The work struggles to resolve this paradox in a synthesis, which hopefully emerges as a more optimistic aesthetic for a data-saturated world.

Simon Yuill

Simon Yuill

There has been a great deal of interest in how capital has intervened in almost every area of life, leading some to propose new forms of labour and capital e.g. ‘immaterial labour’ and ‘emotional capitalism’, and others to suggest that processes of valuation are now the major method for understanding the social world. This has become particularly evident in the processes through which social media platforms, such as Facebook, generate immense financial value from the exchange of what for some people appears to be often mundane and value-less information. The relation between time and value (defined in various ways) is integral to the accumulation of capital in this context and it is evident that algorithms play an important mediating role. Analysis of this, however, has often been largely speculative due to the difficulties of obtaining empirical data. Furthermore, despite being a medium that is engaged with over time, and one that is often intimately intertwined with the rhythms of its users' daily lives, platforms such as Facebook have rarely been studied from a temporal perspective. As part of a study of the transformation of personal value into financial value through social media, the Values & Value project has developed a set of custom software tools that combine several intersecting perspectives of temporal activity across participants' use of Facebook, how they are tracked by Facebook as they browse the web, and how it fits within their daily routine. The project has been able to gather forms of empirical data not previously utilised in such research. In analysing this, we propose that platforms such as Facebook effect an attunement between different temporal activities, from personal social interactions to speculative investments in advertising and the circulation of capital within financialisation. Capital is captured from interventions within these circulations rather than from direct production. This suggests a different relation between time, technicity and capital from that of the industrial factory and recent concepts of the social factory. This relation between time, technicity and capital as attunement is analysed through concepts drawn from Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis in which different rhythms interact with one another in ways that do not simply correlate but are rather conflictual and overdetermining. In doing so the project seeks to make more explicit the ways in which algorithms intervene in and constitute processes of the capture of value and circulation of capital. In this talk, Simon Yuill will present the custom software tools that were created for the project, the approach to visualisation used within these, and how they relate to the larger themes of our analysis.

Cecilia Wee and Dani Admiss

Cecilia Wee and Dani Admiss

Co-Building Worlds: Data-Discourses and Other Stories

_#Data-Capitalism; #Curating; #Collaborative-storytelling; #Data-Discourse. This performance-based research and praxis presentation presents the curatorial project ‘PostHuman Unit for NeuroCapitalism’ (PHUNC), a research and design unit engaged in co-creating new visions of post-consumer and postproducer subjectivities through community-based neuro and data-capitalist research. Against a backdrop of new neuros (Pykett) and largescale technoscientific information structures forming super-advanced capitalism’s new frontiers for growth (Neidich), PHUNC proposes that the challenge for those working in arts, technology and social change today is to design interventional acts of ‘radical sensing’ that expand on ‘representational forms that enable articulations of change’ (Rossiter) embracing an experimental process of curating as world-building, a way of taking on personal entanglement and global complexity (Haraway) in response to the normative economic and epistemic goals outlined by data capitalism.

Over a period of two months, the curators collated reports from a worldwide network of PHUNC researchers working in arts and cultural contexts, as well within think-tanks, policy-based organisations and higher education. They asked PHUNC researchers to reflect on how data works in relation to local agency, the identities produced through globalised work and consumption, and the negotiations materialising for people operating in opposition to dominant frameworks of data-discourses within the Capitalocene (Moore). This highly specific evidence forms the basis of a collaborative performative narrative to be presented to the forum audience: emerging worldviews from a variegated set of lived geographic and socio-economic realities under the umbrella of ‘data capitalism’. Bookending the presentation, the curators discuss evolving methods to working with complex, contradictory and chaotic subject matters in the arts and analyse this specific technique of collaborative storytelling.

Link to conference talk