Data’s everywhere. It can be intimate (how many steps you’ve taken, or stairs you’ve climbed in a day) or cosmic in scale (the fluctuations of radiation belts around the earth). To make sense of that information, Data Visualization art, or #DataViz for those in the field, shows us what the numbers can’t on their own. It creates a compelling story out of data, and inspires us to use information to improve our lives. And visualizing complex calculations can yield truly beautiful results. Below are five of the most illuminating creators in the field today.
GIORGIA LUPI & STEFANIE POSAVEC, DEAR DATA
For an entire year, two friends separated by the Atlantic Ocean sent each other postcards visualizing the data of their daily lives: doors, moods, chores, and all. Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec published 52 weeks worth of their hand drawn art under the title “Dear Data.” Now the Museum of Modern Art has acquired the originals for their permanent collection. These postcards show the duo’s loving determination to record and communicate the details of their lives, inspiring us to consider how we each keep track of (and what we do with) the minutiae and the major in our day to day. Below is a selection from week 24, a week of doors.
NICHOLAS FELTON, PHOTOVIZ
PhotoViz, Nicholas Felton’s NYU course-turned-book, champions the evocative power of photography in data art. A designer and artist himself, Felton’s project features work from a range of artists who tell complex, descriptive stories with their medium. Some of the examples are ingenious. Take artist Pelle Cass’ composite photograph of a basketball court teeming with players. In just one image, Cass shows the entire range of motion by players over the course of a game. Read more about Cass’ work on his site.
OCCUPY MUSEUMS, DEBTFAIR
The Whitney Museum’s biennial survey of contemporary art notoriously mixes politics with its art. This year is no different. For their part, artist and activist collective Occupy Museums brought data art off of the screen, embedding it within the fifth floor walls of the Whitney’s still-shiny Renzo Piano building. Surveying over 500 American artists, the collective gathered data on artists’ debt. The result is a powerful installation of work from thirty of these artists, arranged according to the type and amount of debt each artist owes. Check it out in person: the Whitney Biennial runs until June 11. You can learn more about Occupy Museums at: http://www.debtfair.org/
ELIJAH MEEKS on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Visualization of 1890 Census Data
One of the best ways to approach Data Visualization is to dig into its history. Enter Elijah Meeks, senior data visualization analyst for Netflix. Meeks has been starting fires over the future of Data Viz on Twitter, while bringing attention to its glorious foundations. Meeks posted a procedural drawing based on this visualization by W.E.B. Du Bois, the legendary sociologist and a founder of the NAACP. Du Bois’s interpretation of 1890 Census Data is an early entry in the vast landscape of Data Visualization, and expresses it at its best: it tells the story of complex data simply, clearly, and beautifully. See the fully spiraled creation on his site.
Jennifer Daniel seems to be everywhere at once: think of a web platform, and chances are she’s on it. Daniel tells complex stories (like what outer space is) often hilariously, in images, animation, and illustration. One of my favorites is her epic comparison of soccer announcing styles). What really caught my eye were her series of intricate, rhizomatic drawings that speak as much to the vocabulary of data art as they do to Babylonian mosaics or 1970’s Sol LeWitt wall drawings. That she can touch on references as far flung as these is an indication of how eclectic her artistic powers are.