Big Bang Data: Big Brother is watching you at Somerset House

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House


George Orwell was such a visionary, right? Somerset House’s much anticipated exhibition ‘Big Bang Data’ opened a few weeks ago. We’ve sent Vastari’s exhibition detective Sarah Lacombe undercover to give you the scoop. Are you ready to awaken your inner geek? But you might not like everything you discover…..

Big Bang Data takes you on a journey through the evolution of technology, touching on areas such as scientific research, social interactions, economic and political purposes. The exhibition questions our relationship with data and how we understand it, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of the explosion of data in our everyday lives.

Let’s firstly address what we mean by ‘Big Data’: The idea is to collect and analyse the huge amount of data produced by everyday actions, both to understand customers’ behaviour and to address their needs with the ultimate aim of selling them a service or product.

Upon arrival, visitors are invited to take a selfie to register their attendance, with the option to blur their face or not. Setting the tone of the exhibition: you will have to face privacy issues.

Starting with the history of technology and the hardware behind the Internet, the exhibition uncovers for example the physical extension of the web by looking at the world map presenting the data cable routes under the ocean.

If you are expecting a highly entertaining exhibition, you will not be disappointed. There are opportunities to interact with objects via the exhibition’s wifi network, including The Transparency Grenade by the artist Julian Olivier, a piece that includes software capable of leaking any information in its near vicinity.

Don’t miss the almost hidden room on your left where you can find the London Data Streams, a social media map of London created by Tejka. This most techy place, named the London Situation Room allows you to play with data collected from Twitter, Instagram and TFL. Discover the general mood of a neighbourhood based on a positive or negative keyword analysis. Spoiler alert: Bexley is apparently the happiest borough of London.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House


After having fun in this room full of screens, we are faced with the other side of technology and the data explosion. A short movie warns you against the US government surveillance and the NSA use of data raises a simple but serious question: What about my privacy? This is especially important after Tim Cooke’s letter to the FBI.

A number of other questions also arise: are the users fully aware of their content being displayed in public? Who has access to their data? We are not only talking about your Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat feed but about any data you send (consciously or not) through a technology device into the cloud. It can be quite disturbing to think about some of the metadata analysis and tracking software used by the NSA on travel behaviours and daily routines.

Sarah’s photo of the data mapping

Someone is probably tracking you right now, and it’s ok as long as you are aware of it. Big Bang Data reminds us that we need to be consciously responsible of the way we use our technology. At Vastari, we love technology (not only because we would not exist without it). We bring the tech into the art world and create new marketplaces and opportunities within the industry. The exhibition highlights the huge amount of new possibilities technology can bring to artists, in the creation of digital projects but also in the wide exposure they can get, but technology needs to be used in the right way to ensure we aren’t exposed in ways we didn’t expect .

In a nutshell: Big Bang Data embodies Vastari’s spirit.


Big Bang Data, running until 20th March 2016 at Somerset House.


If you want more in the same vein: 

Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966) at Whitechapel Gallery until 15th May 2016

Sarah Lacombe