Sensory Apparatus was a site-specific installation across three rooms at Blitz Gallery, Valletta, Malta. The work was funded by the Maltese Arts Council.
How do digital technologies sense humans and how does this affect our behaviour?
In collaboration with two artists, Anna Ridler and Bonamy Devas from London, we investigated the Internet as the ultimate sensory apparatus subjecting ourselves to constant monitoring and feedback.
The first room of the exhibition is shown in these pictures, where we explore a physical manifestation of the internet simultaneously sensing the visitors moving through it and vibrating in response. The geometric forms mirror, in part, graphs of the connectivity of people online.
Room two of the Sensory Apparatus exhibition at Blitz Gallery, Valletta, Malta. Conceived to reveal the mechanism of data collection, this piece is an interactive sound space whose structure and content reflect the forms and functioning of the algorithms processing and controlling our data online.
There are five units each one revealing more than the next about this process. Each unit senses when a person is nearby, which triggers a sequence of spoken text in a Siri-style voice whose content is related to both the type of data collected and how big data algorithms function. For instance, the first unit provides short, snippets of obvious and therefore less valuable information that companies can collect such as gender, date of birth and address. The second unit refers in part to local places in Valletta that apps can track people to. As the audience members move from unit to unit, the story of the algorithm becomes more complete with text about the functioning of the algorithm.
Like in the machine learning algorithms, the form of the piece means that here data is cascading through hierarchies too. The sound penetrates the three rooms of the gallery such that the data collection is omnipresent.
Audience members become the subject and object in the third room of Sensory Apparatus. The atmosphere is dark and reflective, with an industrial drone playing in the background. Taking inspiration from quantum Zeno effect, where the movement of particles is frozen due to repeated measurements, as people enter the space they are targeted with advertising that follows them as they move, modifying their behaviour. The advertising was collected in advance from locals using a data scraping app.
This exhibition was funded by the Maltese Arts Council.