The New Observatory transforms FACT into an observatory for the 21st century, bringing together an international group of artists exploring new and alternative modes of measuring, predicting, and sensing the world.
Humans have always used tools to observe, but now technology alters our perceptions more than ever. Today we are all connected to ever-growing systems of data. Corporations, governments, machines and individuals are constantly tracking and interpreting the smallest details of our lives. Artists in The New Observatory create instruments, or use data, to measure the world differently. They conjure new and untold stories, from the personal to the political, micro to macro. They collectively challenge assumptions and standardisation, investigating the moments when logic fails and how that failure might create new possibilities.
Artworks reflect upon how powerful observational tools, once the preserve of scientists, are now part of everyday life. Liverpool has its own unique history of observation. The Liverpool and Bidston Observatories, active from 1845 and 1867, monitored natural phenomena from the stars to the tides, and created their own bespoke scientific instruments. The exhibition engages with this history and spirit, reimagining what an observatory, and observation, can be.
Many of the artworks in the exhibition are the result of unusual data gathering expeditions. Phil Coy visited ancient copper mines in Ireland, Natasha Caruana trawled coastal towns and pawn shops across the UK, and David Gauthier travelled out to sea to film a Waverider buoy in Liverpool Bay. Other artists collaborate with, or create, new communities of observation. Julie Freeman works with a colony of naked mole rats and Kei Kreutler and Libre Space Foundation invite us to become amateur astronomers.
The exhibition suggests we are becoming ‘observatories of ourselves’ and considers the roles of analysis, understanding, and imagination in this process. The New Observatory stands as an open call for everyone to become actively involved in responding to our complex, contemporary relationship with data. It offers a space to reassess our roles as active citizens within a ‘surveillance’ culture, and to forge more critical, creative relationships with the data landscapes we inhabit.
Hannah Redler Hawes (ODI) and Sam Skinner (Manchester Metropolitan University and FACT)
Burak Arikan, Wafaa Bilal, Natasha Caruana, James Coupe, Phil Coy, Citizen Sense, Julie Freeman, David Gauthier, Interaction Research Studio, Rachel Jacobs, Jackie Karuti, Kei Kreutler and Libre Space Foundation, Liz Orton, Proboscis (Giles Lane and Stefan Kueppers), Evan Roth, Stanza, Thomson & Craighead, Jeronimo Voss with Radamés Ajna, Yu-Chen Wang
Ab Rogers Design
The New Observatory is co-produced by FACT and The Open Data Institute (ODI). Works commissioned by The Open Data Institute as part of the Data as Culture programme were supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.