Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘data visualization’

11 NOVEMBER, 2009

Physical Data Art by Willem Besselink

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What a 1950′s house has to do with 125 days in Berlin and the weather in Sarajevo.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of artists experimenting with data visualization at the intersection of digital and analog — you may recall Nadeem Haidary and his In-Formed series of physical data art. But Dutch artist Willem Besselink plays on a whole different level.

In his latest project, RE:ID, he tracked the movement of the 12,500 visitors to Rotterdam’s Museumnight, then visualized the data in real-time both online and as a large-scale public installation. The physical visualization was built out of bricks and cement on a public square, with full-blown construction equipment including a churning concrete mixer, red and white tape, and a crew of 10 construction workers working in near-real-time. Cement piles reflected the changing amount of visitors, “updated” every 15 minutes, and brick walls indicated the most popular Museumnight routes throughout the city.

Besselink has a long hisotry of physical data installations. In 2004, he exhibited 16 Days in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina — a cubic grid of 16×16 nylon wires, with one axis visualizing his pulse recorded in 30-minute intervals over the course of 16 days, intersected with temperature variations in the city over that period of time on the other axis. (This pulse visualization is somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Harris’ 2007 project, The Whale Hunt.) The resulting 3-dimensional installation was suspended in mid-air in the gallery space.

Timelines offers an ambitious visualization juxtaposing how one specific house was used in the 1950′s, and how it is going to be used in the future, after a large-scale neighborhood renovation project.

Berlin Rotterdam is an abstract comparison of the scale of the two cities. During his 125-day stay in Berlin, Besselink recorded his position in the city in fixed intervals, then visualized these time and location data with glass beads, hanging from a map of Berlin suspended on the ceiling, down towards a map of Rotterdam laid out on the floor, moving closer to Rotterdam as the days progressed.

Explore the rest of Besselink’s data sculptures — while it may be tempting to dismiss this as cool-for-coolness’-sake postmodernist experimentation, it bespeaks a deeper cultural concern: Our restless need to make sense of all the abstract data that surrounds us, to make it more digestible and graspable by making it more tangible, more physical, more real. And art has always been a potent vehicle for exorcising our collective restlessness over the cultural concerns of the day.

via Infosthetics

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10 NOVEMBER, 2009

The Visual Miscellaneum

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Infoporn meets brain candy, creationism vs. evolution, and how to make data relatable.

It’s no secret we’re majorly obsessed with data visualization. And one of the main sources fueling this obsession over the past couple of years has been David McCandless’ wonderful Information is Beautiful blog. So we’re delighted to see David’s book, The Visual Miscellaneum, is finally out — and it’s fantastic.

Through remarkable visualizations and infographics, the book dissects our relationship with information in the digital age, offering hope and inspiration for making sense of the cold and alienating world of raw data.

From the most pleasurable guilty pleasures, to how long it takes different condiments to spoil, to the creationism-evolution spectrum, The Visual Miscellaneum scoops you up and tosses you into a fascinating world of knowledge and learning that feels like whimsy, not work.

But what makes the book so special is that it goes much deeper than pretty infoporn. Through all the eye-and-brain candy, McCandless implicitly answers the pivotal question of what makes information design good — something relevant to anyone, not just designers. Because, at its bare bones, information is just ideas. And we all want to communicate and share our ideas in compelling, engaging ways — whether they’re on a storyboard for a client, or a paper napkin at a dinner party, or a brainstorming doodle in your garage.

The Visual Miscellaneum is easily one of the most exciting design-and-beyond books to come by this year, not just an essential handbook of modern visual culture, but also a potent digestive aid for the information age.

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09 NOVEMBER, 2009

Introducing the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

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What liquor stores have to do with the advancement of the digital arts.

Last week, we saw artist-explorer Jonathan Harris’ profound reflection on the current state of the digital world. But as digital culture grows on, we need more explicit, concentrated efforts to make sense of it all and its ever-evolving relationship with the arts. Enter GAFFTA, the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts — a visionary Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture, based on the principles of openness, collaboration, and resource sharing. (Principles validated all the more strongly as Firefox, the quintessential epitome of this movement, turns 5 today.)

GAFFTA‘s programs explore the creative intersection of art, design, sound, and technology — a celebration of the interdisciplinary cross-pollination of ideas we’re so fond of around here.

The world is experiencing an explosion of technological development that presents us with inspiring opportunities and challenges. While the ability to rapidly produce and consume information has fueled quantum leaps in innovation, its abundance can also disrupt our focus and fragment our consciousness. By funding and curating projects that offer insightful perspective on the information of our age, using the technologies of our time, GAFFTA provides a means to decode and humanize the evolving global database.

GAFFTA was born out of the realization that, beyond a limited number of mainstream museums, there is no cohesive public space for exhibiting and fostering dialogue around experimental digital art. Eventually, Gray Area took over 7 storefronts in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, previously used as a porn arcade, liquor store and bar, and transformed them into a Media Arts Center populated by galleries, studios and office spaces.

It’s no coincidence that the ever-amazing Aaron Koblin is on the GAFFTA team, populated by equally incredible creative visionaries and artist-technologists.

GAFFTA‘s inaugural exhibition, OPEN, opened last month and runs through November 18, highlighting work from several digital art pioneers spanning a multitude of formats and techniques. And while such events and workshops are no doubt a fantastic leap forward for digital art, we’d love to see GAFFTA’s mission extended to the broader digital community in a portal or social network that transcends geography and allows for the wider cross-pollination of ideas.

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