The Invisible Hand
28 June -
04 August 2019
The Invisible Hand considers how digital platform technologies are exploiting technological convenience to co-opt personal data in an uncertain zero-sum game. With work from Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan, this exhibition explores current and projected complications and contradictions in the digital realm that increasingly oscillate between technological evangelism and scepticism.
In 1991, the World Wide Web creator, Tim Berners-Lee, developed the first website at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, over one billion websites have proliferated across the globe, with 2.5 trillion Internet searches made every year. Everyday our connected devices generate some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, creating a rapidly expanding field of human communication and providing unparalleled insights into our lives. The rise of global platform companies—Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Rakuten, Tencent and Naver among others—are largely underpinning this mass connectivity, with Facebook alone weaving together over 700 billion friendships across the globe.
However, from search results to self-publishing platforms, these global corporate powers are logging every digital click, like, share and scroll made on these supposedly free services—selling on this consumer information to third parties and advertisers. While this business model has produced mass convenience, connectivity and information sharing, a closer examination reveals a vast information inequity between users and these providers. Nowhere are these invisible computing forces more present than in the hyper-connected East Asia region, where household internet penetration and use is at its global highest. In this region, platform technology companies have the power to alter the course of history, in the same way recent technologically-led scandals like Cambridge Analytica have manipulated contemporary politics in America, Thailand and India, and the coordinated cyber-attacks of public health records loom over Singapore.
Against this dystopic information landscape, The Invisible Hand examines our ever evolving digital realm with careful focus on the East Asia region, a place at the bleeding edge of this technological frontier. Exploring the existential threat of Big Tech through a series of commissioned and recent works the artists each untangle the networked rhythms of our age, with careful allusion to science, public policy, economics and share price. Through these meditations The Invisible Hand presents artistic agitation to the arena of public debate—providing new perspectives, understandings and predications that enable us to better understand our place in this newly formed digital battleground.
The Invisible Hand – Deep Dive Discussions
Saturday, 29 June 2019, 4:30am
As part of the public programming for The Invisible Hand, 4A presents a continuation of discussion after our ‘Please Explain‘ panel, with two additional deep dive discussions highlighting the most pressing issues facing users and consumers of technology and media in the Asia-Pacific.
Top image: The Invisible Hand (installation view), 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, July 2019. Front: Simon Denny, Shenzen Mass Entrepeneurial Huaqiangbei Market Counter in OCT Theme Park Style – Battery, 2017, airbush on synthetic plaster, illuminated plinth, 125 x 132 x 68 cm; Back wall projection: Simon Denny, Real Mass Entrepreneurship, 2017, video, 14:23; photo: Kai Wasikowski for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, courtesy the artists and Fine Arts, Sydney.