Are We Data (AWED) at Tate Exchange
Video Installation, endless loop, 2018
Are We Data? is an immersive installation produced by AWED, a research team led by Liz McFall and Darren Umney at the Open University, and David Moats (Linkoping University) working collectively with Sapphire Goss and London based software programmer, AV systems designer and musician, Thomas Blackburn. ‘Are We Data?’ questions the relationship between place and place-less ‘big data’ to explore whether digital data can really reveal ‘who we are’.
Are We Data? explores questions about whether digital data can reveal ‘who we are’. We present an encounter between two screens. One screen shows a collage of archival and contemporary footage of Netherfield, a housing estate in Milton Keynes. The second screen is a live ‘dashboard’ of data visualisations or representations of ‘you’, the Tate Modern Exchange audience. At stake are questions about how we can know, represent or ‘draw’ people. By staging the encounter between a film representation of Netherfield and multiple big data visualisations, we consider the possibilities, purposes and limits of all forms of representation.
Netherfield was designed for how people would live in the future and who those people would be. The people who live there now have little in common with the homogenous, mainly white, internal migrants the planners and architects imagined. Milton Keynes current population, at 261,750, far exceeds its planners’ expectations. With 26% of that coming from ethnic minority backgrounds, Milton Keynes has one of the most diverse populations in the UK. Changing patterns of migration, the global refugee crisis and the national housing shortage created by the abandonment of social housing for private sector renting have shattered early visions. This has led to shameful neglect of the material environment inhabited by a thriving, ethnically mixed, community. Sapphire’s film explores these discordances by juxtaposing how natural and made environments come together in unpredictable, unstable ways.
The second screen presents live ‘dashboard’ data visualisations of who, where and what people are. The use of digital methods to analyse large data sets has aroused both dystopian and utopian visions of the future. Our installation tries to identify a pragmatic space between these visions by demonstrating how what you see always depends on where you are standing. Understanding the importance of this space between social sentiments and technical methods may be the key to using data to know, accommodate and engage more diverse audiences. It represents a playful turning of the tables: the data becomes the artistic content.