Lauren Lee McCarthy: What is data?


ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Lauren Lee McCarthy – What is data?


Data is a form of representation of ourselves, our relationships, our lives, our reality. Like any representation, it is incomplete, imperfect, subject to interpretation.

I’m interested in the ways we negotiate over this representation of reality, the way we speak to each other through data.

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 bio data, and an interface to control me. So in essence, they could have complete control over my body in which their baby is growing.

As Roe v Wade is overturned and gene editing opens entirely new productive futures, this project asks: How much control should we have over a birthing person’s body and over a life before it begins?

What does kin mean as rapidly developing reproductive technologies, and increased access to data shift our relationships? What happens when our industrialised drive for control collides with the natural process of birth?

The past few years of 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?