From census boycotts to Indymedia, the Freedom of Information Act to Wikileaks, the question of ownership over personal and public data has never been more pertinent.

Lighthouse welcomes the second year of Data as Culture, on Sat 21 June – Sun 20 July, 2014, an exhibition examining our relationship with surveillance, privacy and personal data through a critical and occasionally comedic lens. The show comes to Lighthouse after previous success at Manchester’s FutureEverything festival and at the ODI’s London headquarters in Shoreditch earlier this year.

Curated by Shiri Shalmy and commissioned by the Open Data Institute (ODI), Data as Culture aims to demonstrate the economic, environmental and social value of open data, artists including James Bridle, James Brooks, Paolo Cirio, Sam Meech, YoHa and thickear employ a range of techniques to expose and share data and to highlight what a double-edged sword it represents.


Works in the exhibition move between the direct and the poetic, the representational and the abstract, attempting to visualise the invisible, interrogate the impenetrable, and give human scale to the monstrous volume of information.

These include:

Watching The Watchers, a series of prints taken from Google Earth by James Bridle that expose the ‘all-seeing-eyes’ of military drone bases.

thickear’s The Pink Sheet Method, which looks at how willingly we surrender our personal information with no knowledge of its end destination.

Invisible Airs (above), the audience is invited to experience council spending data through pneumatic contraptions such as the Open Data Book Stabber and the Expenditure Spud Gun.

Punchcard Economy (below), translates work patterns into knitting patterns, using a hacked knitting machine and real punchcards, each stitch representing hours worked outside of the standard eight hour day.

Sam Meech Punchcard Economy

Curator Shiri Shalmy, says: “I am very excited to work with Lighthouse on the final part of Data as Culture. Alongside work already shown in London and Manchester, the exhibition presents the culmination of thickear’s exploration of personal data transaction and Paolo Cirio’s newly commissioned web piece. As a whole, the exhibition continues to pose questions about secrecy, transparency and personal agency in provocative and engaging ways that challenge our perception of open data.”

Since its inception, the ODI’s Data as Culture art programme has aimed to engage diverse audiences with artists and works that use data as an art material. By exhibiting and commissioning artworks they have reached over 100,000 people, shown works by 14 artists, and commissioned six new pieces.


The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events including:

Punchcard Economy Workshop with Sam Meech and Invisible Airs demonstration with YoHa
(Supported by FACT Liverpool and Arts Council England(
Sat 28 June
11am – 5pm

Take part in Sam Meech’s Punchcard Economy project by signing up to the website ( at least a week in advance of the workshop and logging your weekly working hours. Participants can then sign up to four 90-minute slots (two people per session) to produce their sample. Translating work patterns into knitting patterns using the similar punchcard technology, each misplaced stitch represents an hour of work done outside of the 8 hour ‘contract’.

While the Freedom of Information Act has increased public access to civic records, making sense of the data is no mean feat. YoHa has remedied that with Invisible Airs, a series of irreverent contraptions powered by Bristol City Council spending data. This demonstration will show the work in action, processing illegible data through vibrating seats, book stabbings and spud guns.

thickear’s Pink Sheet Method Event #3
(An ODI Commission)
Thu 3 July
7pm – 8.30pm

In the third and final stage of thickear’s Pink Sheet Method, members of the public are invited to barter for the right to paint over personal data surrendered to the project during Manchester’s FutureEverything festival. Their names, and details of the transactions, will be recorded on the walls for the remainder of the exhibition. Although all participants in the Manchester event were asked for explicit consent to the use of their data in this third and final stage, it was made clear that the way the data would be used in the final stage was completely unknown at the time.


Art Associate Julie Freeman, who leads the Data as Culture programme for the ODI, says: “Data as Culture is for everyone. Using data as a material increases awareness of what data is, how it can be used creatively, how it can inspire, encourage play and lateral thinking, and help people share stories and experiences.”

Lighthouse’s artistic director Juha van ‘t Zelfde says: “Last year the web lost its innocence and showed us how technologies are changing identity, privacy and relationships. Data as Culture is a critical, timely and playful programme that we’re delighted to be bringing to Lighthouse”


Data as Culture runs at Lighthouse, 28 Kensington Street
Brighton BN1 4AJ, on Sat 21 June – Sun 20 July, 2014.