Statistics as art

Art from unlikely sources interests me. I like the idea that art that doesn’t have to come from creativity, emotions, spontaneity, and original thinking but from human order, patterns and human habit. Fractals, for example, are so ordered and deliberately mapped yet so very beautiful. The oldest art forms are from nature and there is nothing more ordered than nature.

Art in the form of my favourite vegetable

Art in the form of my favourite vegetable

I recently came across the notion of the infographic. These are basically visual representations of statistics. It does seem to be possible to create art out of statistics, such as Eric Fischer’s analysis of the tweets of New York City. The result is quite beautiful.

Most tweets happen in Manhattan

Most tweets happen in Manhattan

Also Evan Roth‘s ‘Multi-Touch Paintings’ which are created by the smudged finger marks made by people using hand-held devices.

Beautiful smudges

Beautiful smudges

Someone, I don’t know who, they apparently want to remain anonymous, has generated images created from squashed movies. Each frame of the movie is stretched tall and thin to create this single image from an entire movie.

There is no spoon in this picture

There is no spoon in this picture

During my research for this topic, I was introduced to David McCandless‘s book Information is Beautiful. David describes himself on his website as a data journalist and information designer. His passion isn’t so much turning data into art, but rather presenting data in a visual way so that it has appeal and can be more-easily interpreted than a table of figures. However, a by-product of this I think is that he is a sort of artist. He might not be creating something with the final result in mind, but the results are art nonetheless. I find his book utterly compelling.

One of my favourites - how different cultures associate colours with emotions

One of my favourites – how different cultures associate colours with emotions

Conceptual artist Katie Lewis has been recently collecting and charting data relating to her body to create works that appear quite random but are actually extremely controlled and pre-defined. Interestingly, she shares with me an interest in using art to chronicle the passage of time, or ‘presence and absence, chaos and order, control and loss of control’ (katiehollandlewis.com/statement). So she is using a scientific method to create something that looks creative and spontaneous. There is something calming about these ‘chaotic’ works. It shouldn’t make sense but it does somehow.

Presence and Absence - coincidentally what my current project at college is all about

Presence and Absence – coincidentally what my current project at college is all about

Love also the idea of synthesizing words and probability to create art as in the Jeff Noon word tree here created by another fan of data and image. The result is poetic as well as artistic.

I think the idea of data as art needs some further thought, it is a paradox that has lots of legs, especially in this post-modern data driven world in which we seem to have found ourselves.

References

Kuo, A. (2013) ‘Drawing with Data’ Modern Painters October

Katie Lewis’ website, http://katiehollandlewis.com/ [last accessed 5 November 2013]

Krum, R. (2011) Moviebarcodes: Whole Movies in a Single Glance http://www.coolinfographics.com/blog/tag/art [last accessed 4 November 2013]

McCandless, D. Information is Beautiful 2009 (HarperCollins, London)

Rev Dan Catt’s blog http://revdancatt.com/2013/03/13/notes-on-remixing-noon-generative-text-and-markov-chains/ [last accessed 5 November 2013]

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One Response to Statistics as art

  1. Pingback: Maths as art | BeckyBendyLegs

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