[ISEA2016] Panel: Tarsh Bates, Jaden Hastings, Helen Pritchard, Jane Prophet & Gillian Wylde – (Re)volting data

Panel Statement (abstract)

As a panel of artist researchers, we offer critical accounts of artistic acts with data that arouse aversion or disgust. We address the following; 1) speculative art fictions that engage with the resistances and revolts of microbes in computational ecologies; 2) the biopolitics of our corporeal matter, using the material transformation of blood into artwork as a case study; 3) artistic research and practice as a study of small things, tiny revolts and frequencies of interference; 4) the boundary between life and death, growth and decay; and 5) the biopolitics of disgust through artworks that invite visitors to eat food produced from members of the human microbiome.

Our panel, (Re)volting data is a response to the ISEA2016 theme of Cultural R/evolution. Discussions of Big Data have drawn attention to corporate acquisition and manipulation of personal data, alerting us to the socalled ‘scraping’ of our “online” identities and social media. From sweat pouring into our smart phones to urinating in sewage systems, we generate petrabytes amounts of quantifiable data, most of which becomes indeterminate to us. Plants, nonhuman animals and microbes also contribute to what has been termed the “data deluge”. Big Data has been described as both being, and causing, a revolution in the way that we live and work. However, we use the term ‘revolting’ in two ways, firstly, to break away from, or rise against, constituted authority, such as placing humans or algorithms in authority over nonhuman animals, or governance by predictive algorithms, based on unknowable decisions in the pool of Big Data.
Secondly, we use ‘revolting’ to mean intense disgust. Recently, social theorists have analysed the processes through which specific populaces are figured as ‘revolting’ and accounted for the practices these populations use in order to ‘revolt’ against their subjectification. Scholars of media art and comparative literature have drawn attention to the collapse of boundaries between information and embodiment and the ways that bodies are co-constituted with data, or emerge with data. It is common for such writing to take either utopian stance, described by Katherine Hayles as the wish, “to be raptured out of the bodies that matter in the lust for information,” or conversely, a dystopian view. We show that there are porous boundaries, or entanglements, between nonhuman animal and human, between life and death.
We propose using corporeal scrapings, biological functions and biomaterial of artists and nonhuman animals as media for artistic expression to subvert the formation of subjects by Big Data. We discuss how these artworks engage with the felt aesthetics of data – one that might offer alternative political possibility. We discuss the generation of data as a form of open rebellion, where data is deployed as a means to cast off allegiance or subjection to those in authority. The authors above are listed alphabetically. The paper will unfold in order of presentation on the panel.

  • Tarsh Bates ,The University of Western Australia, AU
  • Jaden J. A. Hastings, University of Melbourne, AU
  • Helen Pritchard, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
  • Jane Prophet, City University, Hong Kong
  • Gillian Wylde, Falmouth University, UK

Full text (PDF)  p. 391-394