The grid forms an underlying structure in many of the works, sometimes as a way to present data, and sometimes as a collection of individual elements held together by a specific idea, container, or repetitive action. One can define the grid as an arrangement of discrete units of information in any medium that shows a pattern through repetition.
The grid may contain information as diverse as two-dimensional mathematical patterns generated by cellular automata (Wolfram), climate and nature patterns (Gellis, Nalls, Marzec), psychological patterns of exploitation (Nalls, Glow, Marzec), patterns of cultural migration and disappearance (Glow, Elahi, Frick), spiritual self awareness (Pachner, Moorthy), self surveillance and record keeping (Kalina, Elahi, Gellis, Huth), relationship mapping (Frick, Glow), participatory communal collection of memories, fears, or cultural meaning (Marzec, Moorthy, Huth), comparison of information embedded in textile and fashion (Dorosh, Elahi, Glow), word patterns (Huth, Moorthy), time patterns (Elahi, Kalina, Huth, Glow) and information that has lost its original intention and has been up-cycled to the level of art (Dorosh, Huth).
The following is a starting point to note a few of the overlapping themes between the works in the show. It invites viewers to find their own because we are in this data field together, policing and being policed.
Ann Pachner, Jayanthi Moorthy
Ann Pachner and Jayanthi Moorthy are two artists whose work is an outcome of their spiritual practice. As they tap into the timelessness of the sublime they find various ways in connecting back to the world. The patterning in rings and lines that can be seen in each of their work has been part of human culture long before our digital age. They ponder on similar heuristics of spirituality and data, which are repetition, centrality and connectivity. They delve into the similarities between spirituality and data.
Jayanthi Moorthy proposes that information like the spirit can be continuously transformed from one embodiment to another but is never really destroyed. In her participatory installation, she lets people confront the consequences of excessive sharing that the social media culture encourages and suggests a path of mindful connectivity as a solution. For Ann Pachner meditation and chanting aids observation and the effort to observe is the commonality between spirituality, art and data. Through chanting she dives into deeper dimensions of herself. She is as adept at carving repeated lines on wood as she is creating markings on paper, whether hand drawn or using digital tools on her computer. Color as light enters her work when she uses the computer to emanate a spiritual resonance, exemplified by her digital print in the exhibition.
DATA AS SELF-SURVEILLANCE
Laurie Frick, Hasan Elahi, Noah Kalina
When we record ourselves we strive to achieve permanency in our existence. Some artists try to preserve human emotion, some try to preserve their physical self through digital recordings and others look at human existence in the context of major issues of the world.
Laurie Frick makes a kind of data sculpture to represent human emotion. She gathers emotional data about the people around her and builds translucent acrylic sculptures with her digital algorithms. Self-tracking is part of her optimistic vision of a future in which data will be used in the quest for personal knowledge. She believes patterns of behavior will become patterned artworks and the mass of data will predict our lives. She ponders on data collection being so one-sided with no outside force policing it. She is a proponent of owning one’s own data, “If my data is so valuable, why don’t I get to see it?” With her background in high technology, she predicts that data may lead us to a new awareness of our individuality, one that emerges as a beautiful data pattern. Hasan Elahi’s work brings home the indifference and power of digital surveillance, and shows how it displaces one from time, space and comfort. In his self surveillance, he makes his daily life public and continuously tracks his points of transit in real-time using images and gathers considerable amounts of date that is shared. His communication records, banking transactions, and transportation logs can be viewed by anyone, including various government agencies who have been confirmed visiting his website. In his art practice, the urgency of information has supplanted the art object as a sanctuary for private contemplation. Noah Kalina started his self portraits of daily self-surveillance as a young photographer in the year 2000. He plans to continue taking them for the remainder of his life. His early recognition of the power of the selfie shows how artists take risks and follow their intuition even before data confirms the importance of their commitment. This ongoing personal/public record of his existence shows how much the history of photography has been shifted by the power of digital tools, especially the cell phone. Each of us has a cell phone camera that gives us a new kind of access to our lives, at a price. Privacy is a lost comfort that only pre-digital generations will ever know. We are becoming a recorded self that may eventually be reduced to data dust!
TEXTILE AS DATA
Daria Dorosh, Hasan Elahi, Beatrice Glow
If textile is data, the clothing we wear is a culturally coded information channel.
Artist Daria Dorosh “reads” what we wear in order to find patterns in the social norms we live by. She follows patterns that appears across disciplines such as art, fashion, and digital culture. The Tshirt and jeans, for instance, dominate global fashion concurrently with digital culture. She believes that the power of this pattern in fashion also appears in art as abstraction and narration. In her installation Datafied, she juxtaposes textile neckwear on watercolor structures with digital images of them. She sets up a comparison of data structures that are analog and digital to contemplate the characteristics of these inherently different versions of reality. The social codes embedded in clothing are further explored in her video The Hat, in which she uses the power of the grid to challenge the gender narratives we live by, in which textile is not seen as important data when it is ascribed to women’s fashion. Hasan Elahi’s digital print ERDL+, is a timeline of thirteen US military uniform camouflage patterns that are displayed side by side to show the transition from analog to digital. The stated purpose of camouflage is to “conceal, disrupt, disguise, and mimic”. But applying that data without awareness of context leads to tragedy when a shipmate falls into the sea wearing a sea-colored uniform. Beatrice Glow’s Afghan
Poppies (New Silk Road), Spice Route Series, depicts poppies, the active ingredient in morphine, opium and heroin. The seductive beauty of the silk textile print is also a reference to the poppy fields of war torn Afghanistan that feed Western European and North American markets. As a result, the Silk Road is now nicknamed the Heroin Road.
NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AS DATA
Sandy Gellis, Gayil Nalls
Artists have worked with natural elements in the past, primarily as an exploration of material and site. In the culture of big data, artists are addressing the global impact we have had on our habitat, such as climate change, disappearing landscapes, and the loss of flora and fauna.
Sandy Gellis has always been drawn to the basic elements of the earth, especially water. She observes and records natural elements in her prints and sculpture, such as the amount of rainfall that fell on given successive days annually, or the flow of a river and how it changes with the seasons. Her process is to allow the natural world to reveal itself in texture and color. Change occurs on a slow cosmic timescale in her sculptures. But she patiently continues to collect data driven by a constant sense of wonder. Her artistic-scientific process results in an intimate measured artwork that looks like a delicate science experiment. The work of artist/researcher Gayil Nalls engages with the sensory, emotional and psychological properties determined by olfaction. Her work raises questions about the relationship between perfumes, perfume bottles, and politics, as she explores how synthetic fragrances were first deployed on a mass scale. They involve the interplay of data, facts, historical and cultural information. Her mathematical, structured,and aromatic social olfactory sculpture, World Sensorium, comes out of an artistic process that involves extensive data collection of each country’s signature plant that represents a cultural olfactory heritage. The sculpture is a single scent based on a survey taken to formulate each nation’s population percentages. The natural scents are invested with historical and cultural meaning, with foundations in mythology, religion and anthropologic traditions, and used by each culture for their healing properties. In her Avon Photography Series she shows the commercialization of scent in which America’s symbol of freedom, independence and justice are used to mask and market a synthetic product that has been drained of cultural and bioactive value. By decoding the symbols, she situates them in a new aesthetic, social, and philosophical context.
Amelia Marzec, Beatrice Glow, Geof Huth
Certain kinds of data are not easily mappable due to availability, accuracy, or sudden change and may not be very useful to scientists and researchers. The artist, however, driven by a personal vision, can incorporate fragments of incomplete data into a radical composite work that has meaning. Weather forecasting, for instance, is complex because it involves processing vast amounts of data that is in flux.
Amelia Marzec makes her appearance as a weather scientist who uses performance to alert the public to an uncertain future and asks the community to strengthen ties for when we will need to rely on each other. She built a mobile Weather Tower that contains homemade weather instruments, sensors, and a radio transmitter. She uses it to gather data for a particular microclimate and broadcasts the results with a wry sense of humor, including the predictions of visitors who participate with their own fears and superstitions. Beatrice Glow, an interdisciplinary artist and multi-sensory storyteller, assembles fragments to fight evaporating memory and erasure in the service of public history and art. She borrows from anthropology, ethnography, botany, and archeology and follows the cultural trade routes between Asia, the Americas and Europe. Her artistic range is unlimited as she makes the world her research space and studio. “I have also been tracing environmental degradation, wealth inequality, and the ramifications of colonialism to their roots in the early modern spice trade. From botanical expeditions to militarized landscapes and forgotten tropical paradises, I examine the contemporary resonances of these patterns of exploitation.” Unlike a scientist, she roams freely through history, biology, culture, and her imagination, and brings us her findings as art in a variety of beautiful forms. Geof Huth is an artist and visual poet who lives in a world of data in the form of words, information, and databases. Sometimes the words have been handwritten with a quill pen and are crumbling with age, sometimes they are new, made of ice, or written in snow, added to a public spot or a found object. They are ephemeral and at the mercy of time. In his profession as an archivist and records manager, he has seen information systems disintegrate, become fragmented, and lost. Rather than discard fragments of old records that have fallen away from their documents during a century in storage, he bring pieces from various unknowable documents together in his series Third Life, in which they enter into their last iteration as art. As a visual poet working with archives,he does not recreate the past but recontextualizes these discarded pieces of the world to show how the past degrades over time, becomes less knowable and will continue to decay until it is unreadable.