The Right to Database

November 6, 2011
3 - 5 PM
Theater Kikker, Utrecht, The Netherlands Launch project

The current widespread availability of data has led to an explosion of creative practices formulated around the collection, analysis, and visualization of information. The inevitable backend of these exercises, the database, is fore fronted in this programme by Impakt Online and SKOR NetArtWorks.

The Right to Database invites artists to explore the inherent implications of the database system. Their projects trial novel ways of understanding and interrogating database systems, and how they transform both the act of collecting and the objects of collection.

The Right to Database is held with Graham Harwood (YoHa) and Linda Hilfling. Including contributions from Metahaven, Hendrik-Jan Grievink & Coralie Vogelaar and Upload Cinema. The discussion is led by Bernhard Rieder, assistant Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. He is particularly interested in the role of algorithms in social processes.

With their project Data Visualisation as Documentary Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji (YoHa) critically investigate the gap between the perception of the wider public about the social reality created by data and databases. They explore how database systems transform those that commission, use them as well as those that it makes subjects. Furthermore, Yoha tries to find out in what way the information generated and used by different protocols, services and facilities have an affect on the formation of the data body in the health system. By examining the National Health Services in Liverpool, organising workhops, and discussing with Dutch midwives and obstetricians they took the public health record and mapped out the authorities, polices, and rules that hold it in place and give it meaning. By focussing on the underlying code of the database they trace the meaning of the database. Whereas semantic analyses mostly look at the final image of the database, a picture of the database, it is the underlying code that makes the database and gives it meaning. Leaving from the assumption that relations are never neutral and that they always play a role between statements, nothing is arbitrary and everything is interlinked, they aim to find the point where agency is occurring.
YoHa's graphic vision, technical tinkering, has powered several celebrated collaborations including Mongrel and MediaShed. With the use of aesthetics they try to negotiate social positioning, race, national identity and economic forces.

Linda Hilfling works with the premises of participation and public space within media structures, with a focus on means of control (codes, organisation and law) and their cultural impact. Her artistic practice takes the form of humorous interventions reflecting upon or revealing hidden gaps in such structures. Her new project A Public Domain is a reflection on and intervention into language as a commons. The project is an open wireless network, also named a public domain, which anybody can log on to access the Internet. All the data that passes through the network will be filtered in such a way that texts that are not in the public domain are substituted by empty spaces, i.e. those words or phrases get replaced that, regardless of their graphical representation, are registered as trademarks in the jurisdictional area in which the network is established. This means that chunks of information are missing and eventually the users have to guess the overall meaning of the content. A Public Domain is a wireless network intervention that simultaneously adopts and amputates the utopian notion of the net as a public space.
Linda Hilfling has a background filmmaking, architecture and urbanism. She also studied Networked Media at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Her interest in each of these fields is in an attention to the structures they are part of and how practice is inscribed in, and re-forms such structures.

Metahaven - In the Cloud.
When we communicate with the cloud, we send and retrieve information through a jurisdictional web hidden from us. Information retrieved from, sent through, and entrusted to the infrastructure of the cloud, is subject to surveillance and legal oversight which we do not see. For example: data stored by Microsoft in its EU-based data centers is subject to the American Patriot Act, meaning the corporation would hand over data stored on European soil to the US government when asked. This cloud app aims to make visible the geographical and legal systems of the cloud.

Hendrik Jan Grievink & Coralie Vogelaar - History is Yours!
History is Yours! is a provocative magnification of the templates and icons of our time, in the form of an online shop for printed t-shirt. Combine text and image in modern history on your T-shirt, and create your own design that refers to the black pages of history, hope, life events, or a disturbing combination of both.

Dagan Cohen (Upload Cinema) - Banned Videos
Every day 3 billion videos are watched on YouTube, every minute 48 hours of video are Uploaded. Amongst those millions of videos circulating on the web occasionally videos are removed, in which some cases their content is deemed ‘inappropriate’ by governments or organizations. In the project Banned Videos, Amsterdam based Upload Cinema sets out to collect and display videos from around the world that have been removed (or attempted to be removed) from the web, whether for political, religious or ethical reasons. The project consists of two parts: The online part is a website that will be used to ‘crowdsource’ and index banned videos per country; the offline part is a cinematic presentation of the most remarkable videos that have been submitted to their website.

'The Right to Database' is organised by Impakt Festival 2011 and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain.