Big Data as an artistic medium

When all we had was basic powder, water and caves, we painted on cave walls. When we discovered and invented the means to create oil paints and canvases, we made what is considered today to be traditional fine art. Now, there are artists working in all kinds of media, from latex paintings to seaweed sculptures. We have a tendency to whip up artworks from whatever we have around us.

I work in tech by day. I'll admit that I used to think tech was a little dry, but I've discovered it's an outstandingly creative space. Just as technology is becoming more artistic, art is becoming more technological. Artists are using technology as the basis for new or enhanced media, as has been seen in lots of exhibitions lately.

Big Data has been the buzz word of the tech world in 2013. It refers to the mapping of all kinds of data - from hospital records, to online transactions, to the journeys we make via public transport every day - and it's inspiring artists all over the globe.

The interest in Big Data has inspired British art talent Stanza to create what he calls 'Syncronicity'. The piece takes real-time data from bus and tube users in London, and manipulates it to show the city as an organic pattern-based system. The Syncronicity map builds up in 3D over time, and changes colour to highlight different abstractions based on the data.

On an aesthetic level, it doesn't look worlds away from Kerry Brewer's paintings.

I'm trying to figure out what the medium is here. Is it the mapping technology? Is it the data? Or is it London, in some distant sense? Whatever it is, Stanza is an artist immersed in the modern metropolis and creating accordingly. It does make you think where we go from here, though. If something as seemingly technical as Big Data can inspire and host creativity, what can't?


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