I will be at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, on 20 March 2018 to discuss data, bodies and intimacy, as part of their year-long program on the work of Seth Price. More information here.
Data, or, Bodies into Facts
Data never stops accumulating. There is always more of it. Data covers everything and everyone, like skin, and yet different people have different levels of access to it,so it’s never quite fair to call it “objective” or even “truthful.”
Entire industries are built around storing data, and then protecting, organizing, verifying, optimizing, and distributing it. From there, even the most banal pieces of data work to penetrate the most intimate corners of our lives.
For Sun–ha Hong, the promise of data is the promise to turn bodies into facts: emotions, behavior, and every messy amorphous human reality can be distilled into the discrete, clean cuts of calculable information. We track our exercise, our sexual lives, our relationships, our happiness, in the hope of self–knowledge achieved through machines wrought in the hands of others. Data promises a certain kind of intimacy, but everything about our lived experience constantly violates this serene aesthetic wherein bodies are sanitized, purified, and disinfected into objective and neutral facts. This is the push–pull between the raw and the mediated.
Whether it be by looking at surveillance,algorithmic, or self–tracking technologies,Hong’s work points to the question of how human individuals become the ingredient for the production of truths and judgments about them by things other than themselves.