Big Bang Data

This winter, Somerset House will present Big Bang Data, the UK’s first major exhibition exploring the big data explosion that is radically transforming society, culture and politics in the 21st century.

Across the globe, we see and hear more and more stories about the exponential growth of data and its associated advantages and dangers. We are aware that today people generate data on a daily basis, through mobile telephones, social media and online transactions. In 2009, we produced the same quantity of data as in the entire history of humanity up to that point. By 2012, it was estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created every day. The world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever bigger ever more quickly.

Big data is a modern buzzword, yet still an overwhelming majority do not fully understand its meaning, let alone truly comprehend its impact and implications. Undoubtedly, data and all it entails is a key topic of our time, but one that can be baffling; statistics and processes seem often invisible or unfathomable and conversations around the datification of the world are never clear-cut.

Through dynamic and engaging art and design projects from a range of international artists, including some newly-commissioned by Somerset House and some never seen before in the UK, Big Bang Data will demystify data by inviting visitors to look at the ways digital information is produced, organised, used and interpreted, and how it is changing the way we live. The contemporary artists have used data as raw material to create their works and draw upon data from all corners of modern-day culture from science to sport, politics to pets. It is data that has been produced not only by research centres, but also the public, possibly even visitors to the exhibition.

The exhibits will contemplate the complex and often conflicting issues raised by big data for governments, companies and the individual alike. Is data an instrument for knowledge and a democratic tool for efficacy and transparency, or is it the ammunition for an industry of mass surveillance? Data culture is still under construction and its evolution is unclear. While Big Bang Data will lift the lid on practices employed by the political and business sphere and delve into data security and privacy, it will also reveal the creative possibilities of data and show how citizens, communities and institutions are shaping the future form of our data society for the common good.

Participating artists include: Timo Arnall, Zach Blas, James Bridle, Paolo Cirio, Brendan Dawes, Nicholas Felton, Ingo Günther, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Mark Hansen, Usman Haque, Laura Kurgan, Long Now Foundation, Lev Manovich, Jonathan Minard, Ben Rubin, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Moritz Stefaner, Thomson & Craighead, and many more.