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Data sparks new Manchester Science Festival art commission

  • Team behind data visualisation of General Election reaction in emojis commissioned for new work in Manchester
  • Electricity: The spark of life is the first headliner to be confirmed for the 2018 Manchester Science Festival
  • First time work by Tekja has been exhibited in the North of England

For immediate release

Data visualisation experts Tekja have today been announced as the winners of the commission to create a brand-new artwork for the Manchester Science Festival headline exhibition Electricity: The spark of life.

The dazzling new work will create an 'electric' animation in the gallery space, immersing audiences in the sheer scale of electricity used in Manchester and the North West, using real data provided by the region's power network operator, Electricity North West.

The work will span past, present and future, exploring historic electricity usage through time, and will use data modelling to project future scenarios.

Founded in 2012, Tekja is an award-winning, dynamic team of experts in data visualisation, information design and web development. The studio positions itself between art and technology and approaches each project with the ambition of developing data-driven experiences that are as insightful as they are innovative and engaging.

Previous projects include mapping Londoners' Twitter emoji reactions to the General Election for the Museum of London, and a real-time data stream revealing the everyday interactions taking in place in London, for Somerset House.

This will be the first time Tekja’s work has been publicly shown in the North of England.

Antonio Benitez, Director of the Manchester Science Festival, said:

“We are delighted to announce that Tekja were the unanimous winners of the commission to create a new work for our Manchester Science Festival headline exhibition, Electricity: The spark of life. The panel were very impressed by the data visualisation work Tekja have created, and were inspired by their vibrant, thoughtful and challenging vision for this new artwork.”

Amanda Taylor co-founder, Tekja, said:

“We are thrilled to be working with the team on this new data visualisation commission. We will be gathering and analysing masses of data, and by visualising it we will reveal the poetry and meaning behind the millions of invisible interactions and connections our electricity makes each day.

“Our process will involve using big data to answer some key questions to reveal what electricity in Manchester and the North West really is. Where does it come from and what route does it take to get to our houses? What is the scale and volume of electricity that we generate and use and how much do we rely on it?

“Above all we will reveal what this mass of invisible information—the routes, the sources, the sheer speed and scale—can tell us about our very human relationship with electricity and how much we may take it for granted.”

Electricity: The spark of life is the first headline event to be announced for the 2018 Manchester Science Festival.

The exhibition, created in partnership with Wellcome Collection in London and Teyler’s Museum in Haarlem, explores the vital, yet invisible, force of electricity.

At a time when we are more reliant on electricity than ever before, the exhibition will ask us to contemplate our ongoing relationship with electricity and imagine what the future might look like.

Through the ages, electricity has thrilled and amazed people, from the mysterious forces of electricity in nature to early experiments and the changes it has made to the way we live and work. The exhibition explores what electricity is and how scientists have harnessed its power, through to mass generation and distribution. It also invites you to ask questions about what would happen if we lost it and how we can stay connected.

It features art/science commissions from three contemporary artists and brings together more than 100 objects from early electrostatic generators and light bulbs to household appliances, photographs and films.

Antonio Benitez said:

“Electricity is a vital, yet invisible, part of our lives, and this major exhibition will show how this force, that we all use every day, is fundamental to human life and has captivated inventors, scientists and artists alike for centuries.”

The art commission is sponsored by the region’s power network operator, Electricity North West.

Electricity North West Chief Executive, Peter Emery, said:

“Electricity is crucial to almost everything we do—from heating and lighting to home working, online streaming and shopping, downloading your favourite boxset and keeping in touch with friends and family.

“We operate the network that connects every home and business in the North West to the grid and there’s a revolution taking place in the way energy is being generated, delivered and used. More and more of us are moving to low carbon electricity to heat our homes and charge our cars, and even generating our own power through solar panels.

“We’re at the forefront of this innovation in the North West and we’re delighted to be showcasing the importance of the future of energy through this work with the Museum of Science and Industry.”

The Manchester Science Festival runs from Thursday 18 October to Sunday 28 October 2018. Electricity: The spark of life will continue until Sunday 28 April 2019.

More additions to the Manchester Science Festival line-up will be announced on the festival website throughout the spring.

Notes to editors

For more information, hi-res images or interview requests, please contact Kat Harrison-Dibbits, Press and PR Manager at the Museum of Science and Industry, on 0161 606 0176 or email

About the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Its mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond. Manchester was one of the first global, industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world. From textiles to computers, the objects and documents held in the museum’s collection tell stories of everyday life over the last 200 years, from light bulbs to locomotives.                                                      

The Museum of Science and Industry is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the National Media Museum in Bradford. 

About the Manchester Science Festival

Produced by the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Science Festival (MSF) is a creative, playful and surprising science festival taking place across Greater Manchester. It is the largest science festival in England and the North’s premiere cultural celebration of all things related to science and innovation.

Dubbed ‘part laboratory, part playground’, the festival invites over 100,000 visitors to join in more than 120 unique and extraordinary events every year, ranging from art installations and theatre to comedy, debates and workshops.

About Tekja

Tekja is an award-winning data analysis and visualisation studio founded in 2012 by co-founders Jacopo Hirschstein and Amanda Taylor. Sitting at the intersection of art, design and cutting-edge technology, Tekja use data to create installations and digital experiences that unveil the beauty and meaning of the world we live in by revealing the hidden stories and patterns in complex information.

Twitter: @tekjadata

About Electricity North West

Electricity North West is the region’s electricity distribution network operator. We’re proud to power the lives of five million people in the North West. From heating homes to charging cars and streaming TV shows, we work around the clock to keep you switched on for today and tomorrow.

We’re investing £1.8 billion from 2015–2023 in the overhead lines and underground cables that serve the region and last year delivered the best reliability ever seen in the North West.

The way we use electricity is changing rapidly. We’re at the forefront of energy innovation, working with local communities, key stakeholders and expert partners to ensure everyone has the power they need when they need it.

Visit for more information and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. During a power cut or other emergency, check for updates online or call us on 105.

Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is the free museum and library for the incurably curious. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Through its exhibitions, live programming, and digital and publishing activity, it makes thought provoking content which aims to challenge how we think and feel about health.

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. Both politically and financially independent, we support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.

Part of the Science Museum Group