Is your work generative art?
Yes, but I would emphasize ‘data art’. Even though I do use generative techniques and algorithms, mostly I used the data to drive the aesthetic. The data determines such things as colors, color juxtapositions, shapes, shapes locations on the screen, and the camera angles from which the viewer sees the work. I am mostly not constructing these. I leave it to the data.
What are you looking for in data that you might turn into art?
I am looking for two very different things. The first I call reverse engineered dreams. In the past I would solve problems or take advantage of an opportunity by dreams that would have colors, shapes, and locations. The data architecture and algorithms would somehow flow from these visions. I am now reversing this process and allowing the data to form the colors and shapes of a dream that becomes a vision. When the visualization comes close to matching a prior dream, then I know that the artwork has arrived. This is why I call it reverse engineering of dreams. The second thing I am looking for is the sentience of data. For me, data has a way of ‘talking’ to me about the world it represents. I am trying visualize for others the sentience that I see and feel in the data.
Mention your tools. I know there are a lot of steps and complexities to go from raw data to an aesthetic.
The main tools I use with the source data are MySQL for the data mining and Processing for the visualization. That’s where the dreams are reverse-engineered before I take the visualizations into post-processing tools such as After Effects and Final Cut Pro for special effects and the addition of music or audio.
When you start to view the data, is the aesthetic process emergent or do you have a strong mental image of how it might look?
Just like Gerhard Richter talks about, I am amazed at the colors and shapes I see when I first start running the data through a few simple algorithms to start the process. I am reminded of Gerhard Richter’s process of layering paint. Like Richter, I am always surprised by what is revealed in colors and shapes within the data.
Where are the data? I do not see the data in the video.
You do see the data in an abstracted form. You will not see the data in the way you see data in a spreadsheet chart like an Excel graph. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the data driving the video are the results of data mining. The resulting data are really patterns in the raw data that I find interesting or compelling. For example, some of the DNA videos are based on patterns I find in the genotypes and their locations on the chromosomes. Secondly, the data are not being plotted, but are rather being used as parameters into simple algorithms such as color determination all the way to complex algorithms that create special effects on the screen.
If someone wants their own data portrait, what is the process for engaging with you?
To start the process just send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be an initial discussion about price, turnaround time, data acquisition, and a bit about the person who is the source of the data. This conversation can be in person, via Skype, telephone, and/or email. To get an idea of the next parts of the process please click here to read this collector’s experience.