Subtlety and softness in data-driven art. It’s not all infographics and screen-based visualizations.

Visualization & Interface
Location: Buckingham Room Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ***..
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Art that is data affected, i.e. that feeds from, analyses, and translates data generated by local or remote sensors, enables the environment being sensed to be the agent that interfaces with it. In these type of artworks, the work would not be complete (or alive) without some form of live input drawn from biological or environmental data. The world extends itself through the work.

The interpretation of the data in these works can be, to some extent, subjective, with the artist writing algorithms to determine how data is analysed and mapped to various outputs – sound, animation, or motion. This subjectivity can allow vizualisation or sonification of data in a manner that produces work that is soft and subtle, it can lead to work that requires contemplation and can invoke an emotional response.

Using data like this, as a playful, malleable material, is at odds with the current trend for info-graphics and didactic data vizualisation projects, however it can still impart information that is meaningful to the audience.

My art practice sits in the field of representing nature through technological means. A key aim is to perceive elements of the world from a different perspective, one suggested by the intervention of technology in natural systems, usually via some form of sensor. Big data presents a whole new set of material for my work, and brings with it new questions – am I still translating nature, or merely translating data?

In this presentation I will discuss recent work, including a multi-object computer-controlled kinetic artwork that responds to environmental data fluctuations. The work questions whether biological behaviour can be simulated by a minimal activation of multiple non-organic objects. The motion of the group aims to expose changes in an environmental data feed by placing importance on the fluctuation of data rather than actual values.

The work aims to explore subtlety and gentleness within an auto-motive work, to represent some calmer elements in nature and to reconnect us. It seeks to simulate ‘liveness’ and natural motion – abstracted nature, perhaps – through mechanical and electronic means, bringing life into art gently and subtly as the data changes.

I will also discuss my current research into physical data representation at Queen Mary University of London.

Photo of Julie Freeman

Julie Freeman

Queen Mary University of London

Julie Freeman is an artist for whom technology plays an integral part of her practice. Her dynamic artworks are often data-driven, that is shaped by external influences such as humans, animals or environmental factors. Freeman’s work explores the relationship between science and the natural world, questioning the use of electronic technologies to ‘translate nature’. Freeman often works collaboratively with scientists, experimenting to transform complex processes and data sets into sound compositions, kinetic objects and animations.

Her work is held in a number of private collections, and since 1998 has been shown across the UK in venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Kinetica, the Barbican Centre and the Science Museum, and internationally in Brazil, Croatia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Russia and the USA.

Freeman is a PhD candidate in Media & Arts Technologies at Queen Mary University of London. She is a board member of MzTEK.org, and is a fellow of NESTA and TED

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