Who is the master and who is the servant in our relationship with data? Though irrefutably valuable in understanding ourselves and the world around us – from the macro to the micro – to what extent does it now control our everyday lives? And can society, nature or lived experience really be reduced to quantifiable terms? These questions lie at the heart of Uncertain Data – a new immersive exhibition at FACT in Liverpool that uses art and technology to reveal the human stories behind the anonymising ‘hard-facts’ that so often dominate understandings of issues such as climate change and migration, reminding us of the uncertainty that our world is built on.
The interactive show features newly commissioned work by four early-career artists, each of whom received the Jerwood Arts / FACT Digital Fellowship. Yambe Tam’s ‘Deep Dive’ (2021) uses virtual reality technology, gaming software and an EEG sensor (a type of technology that detects electrical activity in people’s brains) to lead visitors on a meditative journey through deep-sea ecosystems controlled by the power of the human mind. With a similar focus on thought, Andrius Arutiunian’s ‘The Irresistible Powers of Silent Talking’ (2021), investigates the use of automated deception recognition systems (lie detectors) in border surveillance. This questionable form of AI assesses the facial micro-expressions of migrants entering the EU to generate data that is then used by authorities to inform life-changing decisions about their future, yet it is far from infallible.
Angela YT Chan’s video piece ‘Rain Paradox’ (2021) contrasts official reports of climate change with ‘living room conversations’ to explore the contradiction between our long-standing impression of the UK as a very wet and rainy place, and the reality that our water demand could soon outstrip supply. Lastly, Tessa Norton offers an early glimpse of her ongoing research into post-colonial Anglo-Indian identity and the cyclical forgetting and revival of subcultures that occurs across generations.
Highlighting key issues around how technology is reshaping our perception of reality and the way in which society is ordered, Uncertain Data is an urgent show that asks us to go beyond the numbers and dig deeper in our understandings.