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Big Bang Data: cats, selfies and hashtags at Somerset House's new exhibition

Big Bang Data: cats, selfies and hashtags at Somerset House's new exhibition
Owen Mundy

What does data look like? Loads of 1s and 0s floating through the ether? A mass of serpentine cables? A nice-looking cat? The answer, as presented by Somerset House's epically informative Big Bang Data exhibition, is all three. It can be difficult to conceptualise data, especially when we're bombarded with so much of it day-to-day. The immersive and interactive artworks on display here offer it to us in more relatable, tactile, feline forms.

But beware, data also has a dark side. Among the dozen or so exhibits - assembled by talented artists and infographic whizkids from the world over - are several reminding us of just how public all your daily updates really are. You could, for example, find your whimsical tweet turned into a massive poster by Thomson & Craighead. The London-based pair are creating artworks out of passing strollers' 140-character brain farts right up until the opening. Or, to see the scale and sheer, unstoppable proliferation of social media, stand a while in front of data visualisation company Tekja's real-time social media map of London, while #London tagged Instagram posts burst like popcorn over the screen.

 

Ingo Günther

And then, of course, there are the cats - pinpointed on Google Earth by Owen Munday when their owners post their feline pics online - in the ominously titled work 'I Know Where Your Cat Lives'.

 

As we face a future lived in the cloud, this exhibition should help us to understand what that brave new world will look like. There's a cool literalism to Timo Arnall's immersive video of a data storage warehouse, full of squiggly cables and computer buzz. But data also equals cool shit, and there's enough closely curated, head-spinningly interesting info here to make your newsfeed look like a load of nonsense posted by your mates.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Data-driven artworks that do compute.

Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Thu Dec 3  Feb 28 £12.50, £9.50 concs.

Read more about Big Bang Data.

Londoners take the saddest selfies in the world.

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