The New Observatory

A collaboration between FACT, Liverpool and the Open Data Institute (ODI)

Exhibition held at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, 22 June - 1 October 2017

Artists: Burak Arikan, Wafaa Bilal, Natasha Caruana, James Coupe, Phil Coy, Citizen Sense, Julie Freeman, David Gauthier, Interaction Research Studio, Rachel Jacobs, Jackie Karuti, Kei Kreutler and Libre Space Foundation, Liz Orton, Proboscis (Giles Lane and Stefan Kueppers), Evan Roth, Stanza, Thomson & Craighead, Jeronimo Voss (with Radamés Ajna), and Yu-Chen Wang.

Curated by Hannah Redler-Hawes and Sam Skinner

3D and 2D exhibition design by Ab Rogers Design

Exhibition pamphlet pdf here

Extract from introduction:

The New Observatory transforms FACT into an observatory for the 21st century, bringing together an international group of artists exploring new and alternative modes of measuring, predicting, and sensing the world.

[Photography: Gareth Jones]

Humans have always used tools to observe, but now technology alters our perceptions more than ever. Today we are all connected to ever-growing systems of data. Corporations, governments, machines and individuals are constantly tracking and interpreting the smallest details of our lives.

Artists in The New Observatory create instruments, or use data, to measure the world differently. They conjure new and untold stories, from the personal to the political, micro to macro. They collectively challenge assumptions and standardisation, investigating the moments when logic fails and how that failure might create new possibilities.

Many of the artworks in the exhibition are the result of unusual data gathering expeditions. James Coupe commissioned hundreds of 'Mechanical Turk' videos from across the world observing daily life, displayed across a watchtower, Phil Coy visited ancient copper mines in Ireland, Natasha Caruana trawled coastal towns and pawn shops across the UK, and David Gauthier travelled out to sea to film a Waverider buoy in Liverpool Bay. Other artists collaborate with, or create, new communities of observation. Julie Freeman works with a colony of naked mole rats and Kei Kreutler and Libre Space Foundation invite us to become amateur astronomers.

The exhibition suggests we are becoming ‘observatories of ourselves’ and considers the roles of analysis, understanding, and imagination in this process. The New Observatory stands as an open call for everyone to become actively involved in responding to our complex, contemporary relationship with data. It offers a space to reassess our roles as active citizens within a ‘surveillance’ culture, and to forge more critical, creative relationships with the data landscapes we inhabit.

Curated by Hannah Redler Hawes (ODI) and Sam Skinner, the exhibition includes interactive works, installations, sound, film, photography, critical design projects, drawing and mixed media. It will be the world premiere of Recruitment Gone Wrong (2016), Divorce Index (2016) and Curtain of Broken Dreams (2016), three new large-scale commissions by internationally renowned British artists Thomson & Craighead and Natasha Caruana, respectively, who were the ODI’s first ever artists in residence in 2015.

The Public Programme gives visitors opportunities to get more involved by creating their own pieces of art, instrument making, collecting their own data, and open data training. The Public Programme also links to the history of local observatories through events including monthly demonstrations of Tidal Prediction Machines at the National Oceanographic Centre Liverpool University, a new video commission by exhibiting artist Phil Coy at the Liverpool Planetarium World Museum Liverpool, weekend opening of Bidston Lighthouse, and talks by former observatory employees, and the current artist residents of Bidston Observatory. There will also be activities for young people and families on offer throughout the summer, and a Learning Centre in the FACT foyer.

The exhibition is supported by Manchester Metropolitan University, Canada Council for the Arts, DXARTS (University of Washington), Ministry of Culture (Taiwan), COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), and the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. Commissioning Partners: Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival and METAL. Material sponsors: American Hardwood Export Council and Forbo Flooring Systems. Phil Coy, Natasha Caruana, Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead, and Yu-Chen Wang are supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. With additional thanks to Mixed Reality Lab and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.