Data Relations Summer School Schedule

Thursday 16 to Monday 20 February 2023

Data Relations Summer School took place in Naarm/Melbourne across four days and nights, and comprised of workshops, talks, performances and other activities. The agenda of the school was simply to hold collective space, however temporarily or provisionally, to think critically, speculatively, and collaboratively about what it means to live in a data-driven world, with all the negative and positive valences this entails.

During the daytime sessions, held primarily at RMIT University, participants assembled in ‘classroom’ formation, as artists, researchers, and practitioners from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, for a series of experiments and exercises grounded in pedagogy and artistic exploration. In the evenings, at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, participants and members of the public engaged with live performances, lectures, and conversations by Australian and visiting international artists, framed by proximity to the works in the Data Relations exhibition.

Beyond the institutional platforms of the University and gallery, we hosted a third, online, space, in the form of a Discord server for parallel conversations, communications and exchange. Participants received an invitation via email. In these different contexts, the aim was to produce a cohort or learning community, grounded in shared sociality, to generate and circulate knowledge, ideas, tactics and techniques.

Read below for the full schedule of events and program descriptions, information on the contributors, access and venues. In some instances, participants were asked to prepare for sessions by reading, listening or watching pre-prepared materials.

Thank you for joining us at Data Relations Summer School!

Schedule overview


Session #1, 12–4pm, RMIT: Why Study Data Relations? with Sean Dockray, Andrew Brooks, Winnie Soon, Victoria Ivanova

Public Program #1, 6–8pm, ACCA: Mimi Ọnụọha: The Hair in the Cable and Winnie Soon: The Poetics of Unerasable Characters


Session #2, 12–4pm, RMIT: Scrapism with Tega Brain, Sam Lavigne and Machine Vision Reading Group with Chris O’Neill, Thao Phan, Zach Blas and Michael Richardson

Public Program #2, 6–8pm, ACCA: Lauren Lee McCarthy: Surrogate, Performance in Progress


Session #3, 12–4pm, RMIT: Data Audits, or Why Listen to Datasets? with Machine Listening (James Parker, Sean Dockray, Joel Stern), Mehak Sawney and Lauren Lee McCarthy

Public Program #3, 6–7:30pm, ACCA. Zach Blas: Expositio, Iudicium, Lacrimae, or, Does an AI God Have an Ass?



Session #4, 12–4pm, ACCA: Capture All with Laura McLean with Mehak Sawhney, Uzma Falak, Suvani Suri, Aasma Tulika, Tom Smith, Shareeka Helaluddin, Joel Sherwood Spring

Public Program #4, 5–8pm, ACCA: Suvani Suri w/ Aasma Tulika, Uzma Falak, Shareeka Helaluddin, Mehak Sawhney: Loops, Echoes, Phonophanies, and other Détournments and Thao Phan: Listening to Misrecognition; Artist Talk with Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne





Session #1: 12–4pm
RMIT Media Portal (14.02.131), Swanston St, Melbourne

Why Study Data Relations?
with Sean Dockray, Andrew Brooks, Winnie Soon, Victoria Ivanova

You aren’t the first to arrive. People are already milling around inside, behind the thick glass that is both a window and a threshold to the city. You are about to enter an event staged by a gallery and a handful of Universities, in a room that calls itself a ‘media portal’ but will soon become a ‘classroom’. There are nine flat screens on the wall, speakers mounted overhead, a control panel in the corner, food and drinks on the trestle tables, chairs scattered everywhere.

The Summer School’s opening session will be dedicated to the reflexive question: what are we even doing here? Why study ‘data relations’ specifically? And what might it mean to undertake this study in the form of a ‘summer school’? What is at stake in appropriating that phrase, attached to an exhibition, amidst a never-ending crisis of education, and as the pandemic continues to unfold? Is there something about studying data relations that seems to demand particular forms of pedagogy? And what degree of agency do we have in this respect, given the material conditions in which we find ourselves? In the process of instituting a school, how might we also unmake schooling, data relations, and ourselves?

This session, like every daytime session across the School’s four days, will be co-facilitated by a cohort of artists, researchers, activists and educators, whose biographies you will find below. Together, we will move between a variety of formats: conversation, lecture, small group activities, and experiments.

Reference material:

  1. Miriam Kelly, Data Relations
  2. Sean Dockray, Expanded Appropriation
  3. Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange, Homework
  4. Winnie Soon, Erasure by Any Other Name
  5. Victoria Ivanova, Future Art Ecosystems 3: Art x Decentralised Tech (Victoria suggests reading Chapter 3 of the text, which you can download from the link)
Mimi Ọnụọha, These Networks In Our Skins 2021 (installation view), courtesy the artist and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Photograph: Andrew Curtis; Winnie Soon, Unerasable Characters I 2022 (installation detail), courtesy the artist and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Public Program #1: 6–8pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Mimi Ọnụọha: The Hair in the Cable
Performance lecture and conversation with Mehak Sawhney

“In much of my work I’m bringing forward different rituals, and ways of being that can feed into new stories, positionings, and understandings of technologies. More often than not these new stories aren’t entirely new. They might consist in part of my own ideas, but often I’m simply making space for older ways of being that have been discarded along the paths of modernity, coloniality, and globalisation.” Through a series of media and artworks, Mimi Ọnụọha’sperformance-lecture explores absence, knowledge, and how what is missing is still there. Read more and register here.

Winnie Soon: The Poetics of Unerasable Characters
Performance lecture and conversation with Mat Spisbah

Data today occupies communication, affective relationships and infrastructure via network protocols, censoring and filtering algorithms. According to Data Relations digital publication writer Yung Au, ‘All of us have lived through some form of erasure. That is the experience of having our sentences cut short. Or the experience of being the subject of the moderation that occurs across communication infrastructures.’ We have experienced, in one way or another, various forms of curated information by human and machine forces. This artist talk will unfold the poetics of erasure through forgetting, remembering, recalling, erasing, voicing and generating characters.

Read more and register here.

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Mimi Ọnụọha Performance Lecture


Session #2: 12–4pm
RMIT Media Portal (14.02.131), Swanston St, Melbourne

Scrapism with Tega Brain, Sam Lavigne
Adventures in Scrapism

“I define “scrapism” as the practice of web scraping for artistic, emotional, and critical ends. It combines aspects of data journalism, conceptual art, and hoarding, and offers a methodology to make sense of a world in which everything we do is mediated by internet companies. These companies surveil us, vacuum up every trace we leave behind, exploit our experiences and interject themselves into every possible moment. But in turn they also leave their own traces online, traces which when collected, filtered, and sorted can reveal (and possibly even alter) power relations. The premise of scrapism is that everything we need to know about power is online, hiding in plain sight.” Sam Lavigne.

In the first part of this session, artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne will introduce and then lead a workshop on what they call ‘scrapism’: the critical practice of using web scraping to subvert, invert and detourn online data asymmetries. The workshop will include a basic introduction to web-scraping focusing on text, sound and video. Participants will need to either bring or be willing to share a laptop.

Reference material:


Machine Vision Reading Group
with Chris O’Neill, Thao Phan, Zach Blas and Michael Richardson

“The first Facial Weaponization Suite mask, Fag Face Mask, is a response to gay face and fag face scientific studies that link the successful determination of sexual orientation through rapid facial recognition techniques. The mask is generated from the biometric facial data of many queer men’s faces, which was collected during a workshop in Los Angeles in fall 2012. Pink in color and blob-like in form, the Fag Face Mask refuses the scientific determinism of sexual orientation and opposingly invests in an opacity that conceals against such readability and signals an irreducibly othered presence. The mask is not a denial of sexuality nor a return to the closet; rather, it is a collective and autonomous self-determination of sexuality, a styling and imprinting of the face that evades identificatory regulation.” Zach Blas

In the second part of the session, researchers Chris O’Neill and Thao Phan will convene an experimental session of the reading group on ‘machine vision’ they co-facilitate under the auspices of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making. Because of the size of the cohort, collective reading is not necessarily easy. So the session will move between reflections on how and why to read well, together, and experiments in reading texts by and with Zach Blas and Michael Richardson, in small and large groups. Please try to spend some time with these texts in advance.

Reference material:

  1. Zach Blas: Escaping the Face: Biometric Facial Recognition and the Facial Weaponization Suite
  2. Michael Richardson: Witnessing Algorithms and the Paradox of Synthetic Media

Supplementary Readings:

  1. Zach Blas: Unknown Ideals, Sternberg Press, 2022
  2. Zach Blas and Jacob Gaboury: Biometrics and Opacity: A Conversation
Lauren Lee McCarthy, Surrogate 2022 and LAUREN 2017–ongoing, installation view, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Public Program #2: 6–8pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Lauren Lee McCarthy: Surrogate, Performance in Progress
Performance and conversation with Jenny Kennedy

Registration is essential, please book here.

Roe v. Wade is overturned while gene editing is opening entirely new reproductive futures. What does kin mean as reproductive technologies shift our relationships? How much control should we have over a birthing person’s body, and over a life before it begins?.

‘The Surrogate project began with a desire to serve as a surrogate. During the pregnancy, the parents would have an app I made that provides 24/7 access to all my biodata, and an interface to control me. So in essence, they could have complete control over my body in which their baby is growing.

The past few years of the pandemic have reshaped our bodily boundaries. We’ve swabbed and spit in tubes and traded ownership of our bodily substances in an attempt to feel safe. But these fluids hold the data of our DNA, our personal information, and our identity.

I’m fascinated by the ways we’re taught to interact with data, and how this shapes the way we interact with each other. Central to my work is a critique of the simultaneous technological and social systems we’re building around ourselves. What are the rules? What happens when we introduce glitches?’

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Lauren Lee McCarthy In Conversation With Jenny Kennedy


Session #2: 12–4pm
RMIT Media Portal (14.02.131), Swanston St, Melbourne

Data Audits, or Why Listen to Datasets?
with Machine Listening (James Parker, Sean Dockray, Joel Stern), Mehak Sawney and Lauren Lee McCarthy

You open a dataset, click on a file, and hear a person coughing three times. You click on another one, and a voice starts counting briskly from one to twenty. You notice an accent but you can’t place it. The next file is labeled ‘oooo.wav’. It sounds like the same voice, only holding the phoneme ‘oh’ (o-e) this time. An online tool tells you the frequency is around 140hZ, a C#, though the tuning starts to wobble as the vocalist runs short of breath. Throughout the file you hear shuffling, and a mouse clicking. The recording sounds clipped, low fidelity, a bit like a Zoom call.

You open another dataset, click on a file entitled ‘YAF_voice_sad.wav’, and hear a voice recite the phrase ‘say the word voice’. Or maybe they are singing. Does the voice sound sad, as promised? Maybe. But mostly you are struck by how musical the performance is, and by the strangeness of the phrase, which is also a command. Say (C#) the (C#) word (G#) voice (F#), the voice sings, with no response. You listen again. Say (C#) the (C#) word (G#) voice (F#). Voice, you say to yourself, as you search for another file.

What are these recordings? Why were they made? What can they tell us about the datasets of which they are a part, and the uses to which they are put? In this experimental workshop we will listen to datasets and other audio archives as sites of both power and possibility, critique and creativity. We will consider how auditory data is stored and processed, and how different modes of listening might reveal a world of social relations – of labour, ownership, and context – embedded within these datasets. Across a series of lectures, conversations, and listening exercises, we will attempt to collectively audit two datasets and one dataset-in-waiting, with and against the technocratic purposes for which they were gathered.

You may like to spend some time with these datasets and related materials in advance of the session.

Reference material:

  1. Sean Dockray, James Parker and Joel Stern, (Against) The Coming World of Listening Machines
  2. Machine Listening, After Words
  3. Sean Dockray, Listening to the Diagnostic Ear
  4. Mehak Sawhney, Data Genesis and Speech Recognition in India
  5. Lauren Lee McCarthy, Live Data
  6. Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen, Excavating AI
  7. Cifor, M et al, Feminist Data Manifest-No
  8. Critical Dataset Studies Reading List


  1. AudioSet
  2. The Speech Accent Archive
  3. Sperm Cryo Banks, ‘Hear the Donor’ audio archive 
Opening event, Data Relations, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne 2022. Photograph: Lucy Foster

Public Program #3: 6–7:30pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Zach Blas: Expositio, Iudicium, Lacrimae, or, Does an AI God Have an Ass
Performance lecture and conversation with Mark Andrejevic

Zach Blas explores the idea of religious-un/conscious thriving in today’s tech industry. Charting his encounters with various artificial intelligence gods, Blas tells of a computational world of divine judgment and devout submission, where artificial intelligence exists alongside mystical glyphs, occult sigils, captured bodies, and corporate transcendence. Through a consideration of religious sermons, offerings of worship, and spiritual iconography, an AI religiosity is traced, in which flesh becomes biometric and emotional crying transmutes into a symbolic language of holy quantification.

Read more and register here.

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Zach Blas Performance Lecture


Session #4: 12–4pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Capture All
with Laura McLean with Mehak Sawhney, Uzma Falak, Suvani Suri, Aasma Tulika, Tom Smith, Shareeka Helaluddin, Joel Sherwood Spring

This is (not) a field trip. Today’s class takes place in the gallery, at ACCA, in closer relation to the works in Data Relations. The session will be run by the collective Capture All, convened by Laura McLean, Suvani Suri, and Mehak Sawhney, and comprising artists, researchers, activists and educators all interested in understanding and intervening in forms of data capture, extraction, and governance in settler- and post-colonial Australia and India. It will comprise screenings, performances and discussions, as well as lectures and experiments by the collective, all concerned with how sound and listening practices can critically analyse, and break, the recursive colonial patterns in data-driven governance that haunt and impact contemporary life in setter- and post-colonial countries. Where and how do such practices relate to histories of migration and forced-migration in the Asia Pacific context? How is audibility understood, stretched and counter-mobilised in relation to settler-colonial extractivism, technological control and capture, and ongoing modes of statist and corporate governance?

Reference materials

  1. Laura McLean and Mehak Sawhney, Capture All: A Sonic Investigation
  2. Joel Spring, Unbalanced Formula(tions)
  3. Tom Smith, Narrative 001: The Things We Like
  4. Shareeka Helaluddin, Echoic Memory Song: Listening for Loss, Grief and Possibility through Keeladi Objects
  5. Aasma Tulika, Listening to Success Stories
  6. Uzma Falak, Echoes from an Anechoic Chamber
  7. Suvani Suri, The Search for Hassaina’s Song and Other Phonophanies
Courtesy Suvani Suri

Public Program #4: 5–8pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Suvani Suri with Aasma Tulika, Uzma Falak, Shareeka Helaluddin, Mehak Sawhney: Loops, Echoes, Phonophanies, and other Détournments
Lecture and musical performance

A drift that begins with the attempts to tune into the inaudible recordings of the Linguistic Survey of India archives, producing short circuits in the process. The slow rummaging opens up ways of listening to co-relationalities, within the archival crackles, echoic memories, archaeological artefacts, earwitness testimonies, computational instructions, and cultural data sets moored in South Asian contexts.

Thao Phan: Listening to Misrecognition
Performance lecture

What is the sound of racialisation? How might we listen to misrecognition? What does machine error tell us about the precision of racism? And how can the tools of a racist system be used to transcribe new forms of resistance?

This experimental presentation is a collaboration between feminist technoscience researcher Thao Phan and Machine Listening, an ongoing investigation and experiment in collective learning, instigated by artist Sean Dockray, legal scholar James Parker, and researcher, curator and artist Joel Stern. Part lecture and part performance, this event brings together critical work on race and algorithmic culture with new techniques for dissecting and analysing automatic speech recognition, applied to personal and public archives drawn from Thao’s life and research. It features a discussion and demonstration of the Word Processor tool, developed in 2021 by the Machine Listening team and Reduct, a US-based tech company co-founded by the artist Robert Ochschorn.

Artist Talk with Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne 

Join exhibiting artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne for a talk about their new digital commission Offset.

These performances will be followed by a closing celebration of Data Relations Summer School. Read more and register here.

ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Suvani Suri with Aasma Tulika, Uzma Falak, Shareeka Helaluddin, Mehak Sawhney
ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Thao Phan Performance lecture: Listening to Misrecognition
ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne Launch of 'Offset'


RMIT University

Media Portal (14.02.131)
Building 14, 414-418 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000 (corner of Swantson St and Franklin St)

Wi-Fi at RMIT is available via the RMIT Guest network. You will be prompted to enter the Conference Code: 162570

ACCA volunteers will be at the site to assist. This room is fully wheelchair accessible. 


ACCA is located at 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, in the Melbourne Arts Precinct. Enter from Sturt Street. There’s a tram stop nearby, and plenty of car parks and bike racks. It’s also a nice walk from Flinders Street train station.

ACCA is fully wheelchair accessible, with two accessible car park spaces just outside the entrance in Sturt Street and a wheelchair accessible bathroom. No need to call ahead – come on in. ACCA also has a wheelchair that is available on request for use by visitors. We also welcome Assistance Dogs in the gallery.

Read more about access and planning your visit here.


  • Aasma Tulika (Capture All artist, India)
  • Ana Tiquia (All Tomorrow’s Futures, Australia)
  • Andrew Brooks (UNSW Sydney, & ADM+S Australia)
  • James Parker (exhibiting artist, Melbourne Law School, Australia)
  • Jenny Kennedy (RMIT University, AMD+S, Australia)
  • Joel Sherwood Spring (Capture All artist, Wiradjuri)
  • Joel Stern (exhibiting artist, RMIT & ADM+S, Australia)
  • Lauren Lee McCarthy (exhibiting artist, UCLA Design Media Arts, USA)
  • Laura McLean (Capture All curator, Liquid Architecture, Monash University & ADM+S, Australia)
  • Machine Listening (Sean Dockray, James Parker, Joel Stern)
  • Machine Vision Reading Group (co-convened by Chris O’Neill and Thao Phan)
  • Mark Andrejevic (Monash University & ADM+S, Australia)
  • Mat Spisbah (Independent Curator)
  • Mehak Sawhney (Capture All curator & artist, Sarai & McGill University, Canada)
  • Michael Richardson (UNSW Sydney, Australia)
  • Mimi Ọnụọha (exhibiting artist, USA)
  • Sam Lavigne (exhibiting artist, University of Texas, USA)
  • Sean Dockray (exhibiting artist, Australian National University, Australia)
  • Shareeka Helaluddin (Capture All artist, Australia)
  • Suvani Suri (Capture All curator & artist, Sarai, India)
  • Tega Brain (exhibiting artist, New York University, USA)
  • Thao Phan (Monash University & ADM+S, Australia)
  • Tom Smith (Capture All artist, RMIT, Australia)
  • Winnie Soon (exhibiting artist, Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Uzma Falak (Capture All artist, University of Heidelberg, Germany)
  • Victoria Ivanova (R&D Strategic Lead, Serpentine Gallery, London)
  • Chris O’Neill (Monash University & ADM+S, Australia) / Automated Vision Reading Group
  • Zach Blas (exhibiting artist, University of Toronto, Canada)


ACCA acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people as sovereign custodians of the land on which we work and welcome visitors, along with the neighbouring Boonwurrung, Bunurong, and wider Kulin Nations. We acknowledge their longstanding and continuing care for Country and we recognise First Peoples art and cultural practice has been thriving here for millennia. We extend our respect to ancestors and Elders past and present, and to all First Nations people.

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.

Data Relations Summer School is curated by ACCA in collaboration with RMIT Research Fellow Joel Stern, co-convened with James Parker, and presented with the support of The Ian Potter Foundation, ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S), RMIT School of Media and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australian Research Council (ARC), Capture All with Liquid Architecture x Sarai, ACMI and UNSW Sydney. Data Relations Summer School is presented as part of ACCA’s exhibition Data Relations.

Michael Richardson and Andrew Brooks’ participation is supported by Australian Research Council DECRA grant DE190100486 “Drone Witnessing: Technologies of Perception in War and Culture”.

James Parker’s participation is supported by Australian Research Council DECRA grant DE200101447 ‘The Laws and Politics of Machine Listening’.

Notice and disclaimer: Facilitators of the Data Relations Summer School are using third-party service providers, Discord and to host conversations, exchange of information and resources. The facilitators and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) have no control over Discord and, and as such, we do not make any guarantees, representations or warranties in respect to these platforms and have no responsibility or liability if you choose to interact with them. Please also note, the information you provide as part of your engagement with these platforms will be subject to the individual platform’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service (not ACCA’s Privacy Policy).

Presenting Partners