16 Nov 2022

Data Relations

Featuring artists: Zach Blas, Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Machine Listening (Sean Dockray, James Parker and Joel Stern), Mimi Onuoha, Winnie Soon; plus Data Relations Summer School
Guest Curator Miriam Kelly, Coordinating Curator Shelley McSpedden

Opening on 10 December, this major new exhibition and program explores our rapidly expanding data economy, data-obsessed society, and the extremes of artificial intelligence.

Data Relations features major new commissions and site-specific installations from six Australian and international artists and collectives across ACCA’s four galleries.

In addition, a new online project by New York/Sydney based artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne will launch ACCA’s new Digital Wing, a new platform and constellation of digital initiatives including artistic commissions, creative development, knowledge-sharing and publishing. 

The exhibition will also be accompanied by ACCA’s a dedicated digital publication and a week-long Data Relations Summer School featuring performances, talks and workshops by participating artists who will be joined by a wider cohort of artists, academics, curators and activists, encouraging a wider appreciation of what data means and how it can be explored within contemporary art practice. 

Exhibition curator Miriam Kelly says: “Artists included in Data Relations reflect on the effects of the contemporary data economy and techno-mediated relationships in ways that are profound, humorous, poetic and confronting. The impacts of what has been described as the ‘data revolution’ – that began with the internet and accelerated with the opportunities to commercialise data and store vast amounts of ‘big data’ – cannot be understated within our economic, political, environmental, social and cultural contexts. Data now permeates contemporary life”.

“The title, Data Relations, is drawn from analyses of the data economy as having generated new forms of social interaction, while perpetuating existing discrimination, bias, forms of social oppression and class division. I believe that some of the most interesting and vital art of our times is being made with and about data, and particularly the issue of data relations,” she said.

Data Relations includes:

  • Two works by LA-based artist Lauren Lee McCarthy, LAUREN 2017- and SURROGATE 2022, are brought together into a newly commissioned installation and performance that reflects on the physical intimacy of data, surveillance and AI as it relates to the home, body and kin.
  • Hong Kong born, artist-researcher Winnie Soon’s Unerasable characters I-III 2020-22 – a series based on a data-set of censored social media posts, which examines the wider and seemingly endless consequences of control that is implemented through politics, technological platforms and social infrastructure.
  • A new multi-channel sound installation, After Words 2022that explores the datafication and computation of language and speech across a series of semi-fictional tales and speculative scenes, by Machine Listening (Sean Dockray, James Parker and Joel Stern).
  • An installation by New York artist Mimi Onuoha centred around her short film These networks in our skin 2021, depicting four women who work to rewire the cables that carry the data that powers the world, and what it might mean to recreate the internet. Onuoha has collaborated with Dinzi Amobi, a local fashion designer and founder of Ulo Australia, a contemporary African lifestyle brand, on a site-specific iteration of the installation for ACCA.
  • Metric mysticism 2018/22 by Zach Blas, a multi-channel installation and lecture-performance that gazes into the crystal balls of Silicon Valley to chart the transmutation of big data into a magical substance that predicts – and polices – the future.
  • Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s Synthetic messenger 2021 is a multi-channel video tracing the zoom performance of a botnet as it attempts to artificially inflate the value of climate change news and reporting by clicking on ads. The project examines the relationship between climate change and the internet’s data-hungry business model, that subsequently produces its capacity for splintering public opinion and an algorithmic myopia.

In addition, a major new commission by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, Offset, will launch ACCA’s Digital Wing in January 2023. Offset will see the artists establish an alternative carbon offset market platform focusing on social exchanges and political actions with the aim of contributing to a program of radical change. The project will playfully propose a variety of actions that individuals can undertake to reduce emissions and earn carbon credits, as well as produce an archive of offsets purchased from leading offset organisations.

Data Relations: 10 December 2022 to 19 March 2023, ACCA Galleries and Digital Wing. 

Artists: Zach Blas, Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Machine Listening (Sean Dockray, James Parker and Joel Stern), Mimi Onuoha, Winnie Soon; plus Data Relations Summer School
Guest Curator Miriam Kelly, Coordinating Curator Shelley McSpedden

About Data Relations Summer School: 

Staged over one week in February 2023, Data Relations Summer School is a co-presented program of experimental talks, workshops, performances, investigations and site-visits focused on understanding and intervening in the social consequences of a data driven society. As an exhibition of contemporary art that critically engages with political concerns about data, as well as presenting works that visualise real-world data-sets, Data Relations Summer School builds literacy in a rich recent history of data in art and cultural practice.

About ACCA’s Digital Wing:  

A flexible, iterative constellation of digital initiatives, ACCA’s new Digital Wing will include artistic commissions, creative development, knowledge-sharing and publishing, and is aligned with ACCA’s ongoing strategy of creating works beyond the gallery walls. Supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, ACCA’s Digital Wing fosters innovation in art form beyond the gallery, supporting new communities of practice, and a future-focused network of contemporary art practices through sites of experimentation and development, partnership and collaboration. Further details to come.

Read more about the exhibition here.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC 3006
Melbourne, Australia
Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 10am–5pm, Weekends 11am–5pm Entry free

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For further media information:
Katrina Hall

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