For Some Future Time
Data Drive – South London Gallery and Resonance FM
Ilona Sagar was invited to work with The Art Assassins as part of The Peckham Experiment: A Centre for Self-Organisation, in parallel to her exhibition Correspondence O at the South London Gallery. Their shared interest in the Peckham Experiment led to collaborative works exploring health, privacy and biodata ownership.
The group began by thinking about what it would have meant to participate in a biological and social mass observation like the Peckham Experiment. The ideas evolved to form a project that used Biodata to produce a series of works exploring privacy, health and data ownership. Early conversations had focused on ‘Flu Camp’ adverts that many of the Art Assassins had been targeted to on Facebook. The group found it unsettling and strange that you could be paid to be made sick, which the group felt somehow made your body a product.
This lead them to consider how companies capitalise on our desire for good health. collectively they started looking at companies like ‘23 and me’ and ‘Ancestry’ that seemed to tap into our fears to “Know more about our health!”. What the group realised is that the product isn’t really a kit, the product is the user. These companies make more money selling our data than from the kits. Turning health into a product, rather than a right – the group started thinking about ways they could combat that to use the data for our own purposes. How could we dupe/hack the system? How could we make our selves anonymous in an age of big data collection? How do they claim back our data?
Ilona Sagar and the Art Assassins
worked closely with Charles Curtice at the IoPPN Genomics & Biomarker Core Facility at Kings College to sequence the groups DNA visually mapping it anonymously. Within the sample there were 10 plots that took 500 random SNPs (Single-nucleotide polymorphism , a ‘SNIP’) and combined all participants together. The plots show the similarities of a random 500 SNPs (genetic traits) across the group. The sequenced DNA was transformed into a large-scale print and sculptural work covering a stage that was a scaled version of the Pioneer Centre swimming pool. The lab data was destroyed afterwards, meaning that the only place these visual sequences now exist is in the work created by Art Assassins and Ilona Sagar. The group was able to take a new ownership over this kind of data production – developing techniques to reclaim it and debate: What makes you, you? What do we really mean by health? Is wellbeing a political question?
For Some Future Time was exhibited at South London Gallery 2018 and was activated by different live events, performances and talks. A publication accompanied the project which is currently available at South London Gallery.