Contemporary art has borrowed from the archive’s organisational structure, critiqued its hegemonic influence on the construction of cultural narratives, and reconfigured its contents to reimagine the past. However, ‘archival art practice’ has not yet extensively explored issues of Big Data, or examined its effects. Big Data promises to help us better understand the world and build models that try to predict the future. Data collecting devices are inserting their sensors into our lives on an increasingly intimate scale, permeating boundaries between human and computer, the analogue and the digital, reality and fiction.
How might practice based research, combined with an investigative approach, reimagine the political spaces and power structures that influence the production, organisation, and propagation of knowledge?
This research poses a tentative response to the preceding question through theoretical and practical lines of enquiry, in order to explore relationships between emerging technologies, myth-building, and geopolitics. It takes the academic paper, “Capitalisation of the Future,” as a point of departure. The paper was written by Anton Vaino, Kremlin’s Chief of Staff, though both its origins and validity are disputed. In it, Vaino’s alleged invention, the Nooscope, is described as a spatial scanning device, formed from a network of data collecting sensors and satellites designed to intercept interactions between humans and electronic devices. The wording of the paper has been ridiculed as unscientific and mystical. Throughout Russian history, distinctions between the spheres of politics and religion, science and mysticism, are not as sharp as in the West. This thesis takes the Nooscope as a vessel and experimental playground for the exploration of these ideas.
The exegesis articulates a theoretical framework, contextualises the research-based art practice, and presents a case study of the ways in which discourses around planetary-scale Big Data projects, such as the Nooscope, are presented. The artwork provoked by the Nooscope has been designed to be viewed in parallel to the ideas discussed in the written thesis.