The New Observatory

FACT Liverpool, Liverpool / UK

June 22, 2017

June 22–October 1, 2017

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)
88 Wood Street
Liverpool L1 4DQ

T 0151 707 4444

Artists: 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

Curated by Hannah Redler Hawes (ODI) and Sam Skinner (FACT and Manchester Metropolitan University)

The New Observatory transforms FACT in Liverpool 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.

The exhibition includes interactive works, installations, sound, film, photography, critical design projects, drawing and mixed media. Many of them 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. It will also be the world premiere of Recruitment Gone Wrong (2017), Divorce Index (2017) and Curtain of Broken Dreams (2017), three new large-scale commissions by internationally renowned British artists Thomson & Craighead and Natasha Caruana, respectively, who were the ODI’s first ever artists in residence in 2015.

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.

The New Observatory is co-produced by FACT and the Open Data Institute.

Exhibition design: Ab Rogers Design

Statutory funders: Arts Council England / Liverpool City Council

Exhibition funders, supporters and partners: Manchester Metropolitan University / Canada Council for the Arts / DXARTS (University of Washington) / Institut for Auslandsbeziehungen / Ministry of Culture (Taiwan) / COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) / The North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership / Datawell BC / Liverpool Arab Arts Festival / METAL

Exhibition sponsors: Forbo Flooring Systems / American Hardwood Export Council / Jayhawk

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.