key concepts

data-driven art

by Vincenzo Fiore Marrese, key concepts

Abstract

I contend that data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology. In my art research, I add to this joint a third piece, magical thinking. Then I use this framework to develop artwork on broad and specific themes, like violence and online hate speeches.

© VFMarrese, “Symbiotic Violence”, based on photo by A. Saleem

Starting from the ISO/IEC 2382:2015, I shaped a description of the terms data and information. Then I reflect on the historical roots of data-driven art and the implications of categorizing this kind of art. Three questions remain open for the future. Which kind of challenges does data pose to the idea of the medium? What could be the role of aesthetic pleasure in data-driven art? What could be the relationship between data-driven art and political and social context?

Note

To work on a specific medium is not my high interest in art. However, I am aware that new kinds of media arise. This awareness triggers my research interest to inquire into some specific medium. That's also because these new kinds of media pose questions about the status of the media itself in art. I relate this key concept to the theme Encyclopedia of Irrational: Symbiotic Violence.

key concept

The data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology.

In my art research, I add to this joint a third piece, magical thinking. Then I use this framework to develop artwork on broad and specific themes, like violence and online hate speeches.

The concept of "data" involves the idea of "information".

Since we are speaking about technology, I refer to technical terminology provided by the "ISO/IEC 2382:2015 Information technology — Vocabulary". Thinking of these definitions[1], I shape two broad sense descriptions where information is a kind of knowledge about things and data is a way to represent information.

To frame our topic more, we can specify the use of the term "data".

The authors of "A Concise Taxonomy for Describing Data as an Art Material"[2], for example, "refer to digital (binary) data specifically: machine-readable (...)"[3]. The ISO/IEC 2382:2015 define "digital" as related to "data that consist of digits"[4]. We can say that we are talking of data represented by digits.

Indeed we use the term digital art.

However, the curator, professor Christiane Paul, states, "The terminology for technological art forms has always been extremely fluid and what is now known as digital art has undergone several name changes since it first emerged"[5]. According to Paul, we started to use first the term computer art, then, through other terminologies, we began to use the term new media art "at the end of the 20th century"[6]. Paul states that "digital art" and "new media art" are sometimes used with the same meaning[7]. However, according to Paul, going deep into the definition, things appear nowadays more complicated[8]. Apart from the fact that, as reported by Paul, that is already in use terms like post‐digital and post‐Internet connected with the idea of New Aesthetic[9].

Due to the use of the computer machine, data-driven art can see as part of computer art.

According to the art historian Kristine Stiles, we could say that computer art began in 1952 with Electronic Abstractions by Benjamin Francis Laposky[10]. However, in the frame of our topic, we have to notice that Laposky, in these works, did not use digital signals but analogues[11].

As mentioned by the artist Frank Dietrich the "first computer art exhibitions" were in 1965[12]. Dietrich noticed that these first exhibitions were "held not by artists at all, but by scientists"[13].

From one side, it could appear reasonable to frame data-driven art under the historical category of computer art. However, framing an art form in a group mainly related to the tool used in the art process can be limited.

According to the research by the scholar Lisa OConnor, one can see data-driven art in the broader theme of the relationship between art and mathematics[14]. That's a fruitful point of view. Indeed mathematics is more than a technology (information technology) or a tool (computer machine). Furthermore, the relationship between art and mathematics has long roots, as OConnor noticed, at least with the research on the proportion of the human body[15]. Following other scholars, OConnor places the beginning of data-driven art in the 1990s[16]. OConnor defines data-driven art (in her words, data art, data driven art, or data inspired art) "math art that combines statistics, algorithms, and frequently computer programing to create art"[17]. OConnor defines the kind of data as statistical data "In modern American life a relatively new (20-30 years) raw material is data, large amounts of statistical data"[18].

We have to say that the use of information technology and computer machines in art, is a social and political choice nowadays, indeed not neutral due to the role of numbers in global issues. In that sense, data-driven art is a joint between art and information technology.

Indeed Paul states "The history and aesthetics of digital art obviously cannot be separated from its social and political context. The technological history of digital art is inextricably linked to the military‐industrial complex and research centers, as well as consumer culture and its associated technologies"[19].

The artist Jer Thorp stated, "The biggest failure of data art, in my opinion, is in neglecting to address the individual character of a data set"[20]. Furthermore, according to Thorp, data art and visualization are the same object[21]. Indeed OConnor, following other scholars, states that it is in use of the term data visualization art since it "grew out of data visualization"[22].

The idea of data visualization could bring a sensitive issue in the art field, the aestetich pleasure. Even at the beginning of computer art, Laposky wrote in 1953, "Science and art may sometimes be combined to produce visual effects of strange beauty"[23].

The idea of art as aesthetic pleasure appears limited, but the connection with data-driven art seems strong. In conclusion, at least three questions remain open for the future. Which kind of questions does data pose to the idea of the medium? What could be the role of aesthetic pleasure in data-driven art? What could be the relationship between data-driven art and political and social context?

Bibliography

  1. Buford K. 2012, Data Art vs. Visualization? The Distinction is Unproductive, says Artist Jer Thorp, Silicon ANGLE, https://siliconangle.com/2012/08/22/data-art-vs-visualization-the-distinction-is-unproductive-says-artist-jer-thorp-qa/. Retrieved 5th of Janaury 2023.
  2. Dietrich F. 1986, Visual Intelligence: First Decade of Computer Art (1965-1975), LEONARDO, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 159-69, 1986.
  3. Freeman J., Wiggins G., Starks G., Sandler M. 2015, A Concise Taxonomy for Describing Data as an Art Material, Proceedings of the IEEE VIS 2015 Arts Program, VISAP'15: Data Improvisations, Chicago, Illinois, October 25th-30th 2015.
  4. Gaboury, J. 2018, The Random-Access Image: Memory and the History of the Computer Screen. Grey Room, 24-53.
  5. ISO/IEC 2382:2015, ISO/IEC JTC 1 Information technology technical committee, ISO/IEC 2382:2015 Information technology — Vocabulary, https://www.iso.org/standard/63598.html. Retrieved 4th of January 2023.
  6. Laposky, B. F. 1953, Oscillons. Electronic Abstractions. A New Approach to Design, Ben F. Laposky, Cherokee, Iowa.
  7. OConnor, L. 2021, "AN EXPLORATION OF IDENTITY THROUGH DATA DRIVEN ART" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 41., https://digscholarship.unco.edu/honors/41. Retrieved 4th of Janaury 2023.
  8. Paul C. 2016, Introduction: From Digital to Post‐Digital—Evolutions of an Art Form in A Companion to Digital Art, edited by Paul C., Wiley Blackwell, 2016.
  9. Stiles K., Selz P. 1996, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings, University of California Press.

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