Data as Culture - Art that uses data as a material
An ODI commission
Artist and creative technologist Dan Hett cites algorithms and chaos as two key materials in his work. Transmission One and Transmission Two are paintings created and defaced by the artist to provoke debate around his view that governments’ attempts to control or ban encryption are preposterous. Dan submitted his own bank details, shopping lists, secrets and other personal information to be encrypted in a computer program he created, and he randomly selected two of the encrypted messages for the work. The resultant codes – seemingly meaningless streams of stencilled and hand-drawn characters – are writ large; available for all to see but not to read. The key to decode each message is divided between a secret location and a chip implanted in the artist’s hand. It is almost impossible to decode the messages – even the artist does not know which messages each encryption represents.
While Dan began the work before 22 May 2017, the date of the Manchester suicide bomber attack, the final piece is informed by debates around security in the aftermath of the event. His brother Martyn Hett was killed in the attack. This devastating personal experience strengthened rather than weakened Dan’s conviction that enforced government encryption controls are misdirected activities in the so-called war on terror.