Monday, April 07, 2008

Two links on the use of data in art

Data is an essential component of our lives. We use it in myriad ways in social, economic and political analysis but is rarely seen as an input to creating art. Here are two instances where data is used in newer (and imaginative) ways to represent our contemporary situation (globally in the first case and locally in the second).

The website worldmapper features a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest. The categories (among others) range from income distribution, health indices and destruction ratios across the world. It is interesting to see how a picture can sum things up neatly.

In 7 out of the 12 regions more than half of the population live in households where the people live on below PPP (power parity) US$10 a day. In Central Africa 95% of households have workers earning this little; in Western Europe and Japan less than 1% of the population does.

Data again forms an essential aspect of Chris Jordan's art. He uses it to model our consumer oriented outlook and shock our sensibilities on the subject of consumption (not the drinking kind, but the kind that leads to profligacy and waste).

This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books.

Territory size shows the proportion of all people living on US$10 purchasing power parity or less a day worldwide, that live there (image ripped from the worldmapper site).

Plastic Cups, 2008, 60"x90", Depicts one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours. This is the detail of a very much larger image. (Image ripped from the artist's site)

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