Textures of Complex Data: The works of Fernanda Viégas & Martin Wattenberg

Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg opened Columbia University’s Talk Series: Artists using Data in late March.

Messiness, Clutter and Revelation

As pioneers in data visualisation, analytics and data art, Viégas and Wattenberg have paved new pathways for users to understand and explore data.

As technologists we ask: Can visualization help people think collectively and move us beyond numbers into the realm of words and images and never-before-told stories? As artists we seek the joy of revelation.

While most of their current work is geared towards AI as part of Google Brain, Viégas and Wattenberg began by walking their audience through one of their earliest projects using Google called ‘Web Seer’ that allows users to compare Google Suggest completions.

This is also a really interesting window into public psyche. Because, this is what people are coming to google for. It visualizes exactly the same data but by adding a couple of dimensions. So, we get a sense of which ones are more popular. We can see the completions that are different for each one of the cases. But, we can also see what they have in common.

You see a richness in these kind of data sets. It also starts to show how vulnerable some people are when they come to google for answers.

Viégas

History Flow

Tying into the idea of data created by the masses, the artists unfolded processes that went into their notable ‘History Flow Tool’ which, visualized the behind-the-scenes dynamics of publicly edited Wikipedia pages in 2004, when the online encyclopedia was a relatively new and mysterious place on the web. Viégas prospected commonly overlooked occurrences on Wikipedia like vandalism, watch-listing, edit wars and disambiguation that go unnoticed due to the sheer Web 2.0 speed at which the giant encyclopedia gets edited.

Article on Abortion, Image Courtesy: hint.fm

Wikipedia fosters a knowledge community built upon trust. An interesting feature that the artists discovered in their process were Watch lists. Something that we commonly seem to be unaware of. Watch lists on article topics help active Wikipedia contributors take notice of vandalism. Every time an article of their interest is edited, contributors receive notifications. A notification from a new IP address or a user they haven’t seen before would be cause for alarm, wherein the community would check to make sure that it’s not a vandal. A real-time visualisation within the History Flow tool would show no discontinuities. 

An article on Cat tends to be longer than a lot of other articles such as ‘Design’, as more people edit ‘Cat’. The visualisation of the history of the ‘Abortion’ page would have distinct discontinuities, reflective of the polarized opinions around that topic. The artists also colored the text based on its age instead of the authors to determine parts of an article that could be posited as qualitatively more stable.

We were really interested in how people were negotiating in this sphere, how were they deciding what fits and what doesn’t fit. Questions like these, were out first exploration into how these collaboration dynamics work.

History Flow became a part of MoMA’s collection in 2003.

Seeing Music

Image Courtesy: bewitched.com

Image Courtesy: hint.fm

An attempt to extract structure from longer pieces of music, Wattenberg’s ‘The Shape of Song’ from 2011 looked at notes of repetitions from classical music and folk songs to Jazz and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.

Jazz is actually quite interesting. You get something that’s relatively simple at the beginning, which then explodes into complexity towards the end. This, to me, is actually capturing something visually that you can otherwise only hear.

Flickr Flow

In 2009, a Boston-based print magazine ‘The Positive Things’ commissioned Viégas and Wattenberg’s piece Flickr Flow with a brief to visualize Boston. The artists turned to the photo-sharing website Flickr for a year’s worth of creative-commons images of Boston Common, a central public park in downtown Boston, Massachusetts – with the intent to capture Boston’s visual dimension through its seasonality. The images were organized by months and parsed through for different kinds of reds, greens and so on, counting pixels for each image, which became raw data for drawing the ribbons.

 

This is a very “dirty” data set if you will, because these were not all going to be beautiful pictures. There would be pictures of benches, for example and other things that have nothing to do with flowers or foliage. But, we decided to work with the messiness and see if we can get somewhere.

Even with all the messiness in the data, there was still some signal that there is change. In fact, this looks very fluid. But if we break it down into the height of each season, you can see that the color distribution is dramatically different between winter, fall, summer and spring.

Art of Reproduction

Playing with the idea of visual half-truths, Watternberg’s Art of Reproduction was a collection of fragmented collages of famous artworks representing dramatic differences across the reproduced images.

Not all of these images are really the correct image at all. For one thing, they are different sizes. But, more deeply, the colors are different. And if you keep looking, you realize just how broad the variation is. We all know that reproductions are not the same as the original on some level. But, seeing the breadth of these different things is impressive. 

The Wind Map 

In 2012, the artists pioneered a distinctive way of visualizing the wind – something that has virtually no visual form. Working with government data of the United States, they initially began by conceiving of wind as ‘particles that we see as a pattern’. Eventually, they settled on the idea of particles that would leave behind little trails, which allowed for communicating subtler forms information such as change in direction.

Image Courtesy: hint.fm

When Hurricane Isaac made landfall in August 2012, the artists began receiving emails from people affected by the natural disaster.

It was a very strong experience to have something on the web that is real-time that people were looking at for very different reasons and that we had people in these very specific situations talking to you about the data that you’re visualizing.

Image Courtesy: hint.fm

When working with data such as this, designers tend to aggregate in turn obfuscating a lot of the detail. Viégas and Wattenberg, instead emphasize the texture and richness of the data relying on the viewer’s visual system and intuitive understanding of the difference between ‘broad patterns of wind versus delicate things’. This particular map came to be used professionally by farmers, and scientists who observed bird migrations and butterfly migrations, and teachers and school children to learn forecasting. Cameron Beccario, a software engineer adapted this tool to scale it to the entire earth at different levels going up to the stratosphere, creating greater accessibility to the data for purposes such as aerial navigation.

There were a lot of decisions we made in this visualisation – design decisions. We’re not using color, for instance. We’re not showing pressure or temperature. We’re not drawing (geopolitical) boundaries on the map. We wanted this to be as unobtrusive as possible. We wanted you to see the shape because that’s what we wanted to see and then, people started using it in really unexpected ways.

It speaks to the power of just making complex data easily accessible. How can you make anyone digest and interact with complex data. This is one of the aspects of data visualisation that’s near and dear to us.

The Wind Map became a part of MoMA’s collection in 2012.

Humanizing Data for Just Cities

Design and the Just City in NYC exhibit that opened in early January this year to the public nudges the audience to think of the city through the lens of justice. Featuring research from Harvard GSD’s Just City Lab led by Toni Griffin, it examines a values-driven approach to urban planning and design to address conditions of injustice in the city.

Imagine that the issues of race, income, education, and unemployment inequality, and the resulting segregation, isolation, and fear, could be addressed by planning and urban design. Would we design better places if we put the values of equality, equity, and inclusion first? If communities articulated what they stood for, what they believed in, and what they aspired to be, would they have a better chance of creating healthy and vibrant places?

The project invariably draws one’s attention to the nature of data that informs urban planning processes, moving away from traditional statistical models towards humane, intentional, complex and nuanced forms of city data.

Situated in a cozy, reflective nook at the Center for Architecture, the exhibit engages the visitors in rethinking their neighborhoods and places in terms of the values they represent.

A large walled map of New York City is a canvas for New Yorkers to collectively aggregate these values and add their dimensions to the city.

 

How Fake News Really Spreads

Post-truth politics is a “political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy”. The narrative takes center stage and factual rebuttals to the political agenda are consciously disregarded. Demagoguery assumes the role of the protagonist. Fake news, Disinformation and Hoaxes become the setting. And, the Internet is the theatre. Since 2016 however, these post-truth plays have been largely harbored by Twitter.

In a study commissioned by the Knight Foundation, Matthew Hindman of George Washington University and Vlad Barash of Graphika examined how ‘fake news’ actually spread across tweets in the months preceding and post the 2016 US presidential elections.

In a vivid interactive by Accurat that carefully captures the fluid temporality of the twitterverse, the study depicts more than “10 million tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts that linked to more than 600 fake 
and conspiracy news sites.”

One myth that this study debunks is that fake news is spread by thousands of small, independent sites when in reality, it is largely concentrated around a handful of websites, and in the case of the 2016 elections, 24. A pattern that seems to run throughout these coordinated twitter campaigns is that of Clusters, a network of twitter users who inter-tweet and inter-link to disinformation from these sources. These accounts, a whole 13861 of them, the study samples as the most crucial in spreading fake news, half of which were found to be automated based on their posting cycles.

Check out the full interactive here.

Data Matters Newsletter  —  Dec 2018

Data is never self-contained; it comes into existence only when someone expends resources to gather and record it, and its meaning is inextricable from its context. 

Look Back:

Listening to a Glacier on a Warm Summer Day

 

“Climate Change is an abstraction. We read about it, but it’s happening too slowly for us to perceive, and so it’s hard to accept it as something that’s real and urgent. This artwork is an attempt to give a ‘voice’ to a specific glacier in the hopes of making climate change something we can hear and see — something that feels real.” — Ben Rubin

We Recommend:

1. Illustrating Mental Illness

It’s hard to visualise mental illness in the same way we might visualise physical disabilities, and this can make it difficult for people with no experience of mental health problems to empathise or imagine how they affect peoples’ lives.

2. Water, data, art!

“Waterways get polluted. But they can also be cleaned up. It’s a process that’s reversible… Data forces you to work with constraints, at the same time as it gives unexpected results and surprises,” Kildall says.

3. Aeromidd | Earth Square Moon

A neat little fact about the solar system demonstrated in animation. Did you know that the radius of the Earth in ratio to the radius of the Moon is 3:11? This remarkably means that If you create a square of a side length equivalent to Earth’s diameter, it will have the same perimeter length as a circle of diameter equivalent to the Earth and Moons’ diameters together.

4. An Artist Sees Data So Powerful It Can Help Us Pick Better Friends

Frick imagines a future in which your smart watch will know how your body is responding to someone. Then it will combine with Facebook data about their personality. And that will let you know whether that person makes you lethargic, raises your blood pressure or depresses you.

5. Visualize your music DNA with Data 

Let’s retrieve your listening history of the last 100 days. Nothing that the recent GDPR wouldn’t allow though! Just the precise date, genre of the songs listened to and how many times you’ve listened to the same song/artist.

Upcoming Events in New York City:

1. Making Art in the Age of Algorithms Symposium– Friday, December 7, 2018 | Register

2. Culture Shifts in Social Data – How Brands Learn and React to Global Shifts in Thinking – Tuesday, December 11, 2018 | Register

3. NYC #OpenData 102 — Unlocking Open Data through data journeys – Thursday, January 17, 2018 | Register

Throwback Podcast:

Urban Legends with Karl Mamer

Back in 2014, Karl Mamer decoded the data mysteries behind three well known urban legends on Data Skeptic.

Follow:

Instagram @MappingLab.Me

Journey of a Meme: Culture Jamming & Elections

Meme is the basic unit of culture jamming – an idea that utilizes the conventions of mainstream media to disrupt, subvert and plays upon the emotions of political bystanders so as to evoke change and activism.

On Oct 11 2018, the hashtag #JobsNotMobs came into being anchored by a ‘supercut’ viral video of cable news’ use of the word ‘mob’ juxtaposed with footage of various protests that happened last year. This meme slowly made its way through the crevices of social media across 4chan, reddit, facebook and twitter into President Trump’s twitter feed. 

Keith Collins and Kevin Roose in their NY times article, 

visualize the birth and spread of #JobsNotMobs and how it rapidly became part of the Republican campaign narrative in the midterm elections. 

The creator of the meme, who goes by the pen name “Bryan Machiavelli,” told The New York Times he charges $200 an hour for his “memetic warfare consulting” services.

Check out the visualization here.

Inside – Bruno Latour’s Gaiagraphic View

As part of the ‘French Natures’ conference-festival hosted by NYU, Bruno Latour’s awaited piece ‘Inside’ premiered in the US last week on Friday at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre in New York City . A 60 minute long lecture-performance which has toured across several cities in Europe, Latour calls it a theatrical thought experiment. Directed by Frédérique Aït-Touati, his long time collaborator in research and theater work, ‘Inside’ asks one of the most pertinent question of our times –

how we can rethink our relationship to the planet in times of environmental catastrophe.

Humans have long thought they walk on a globe, on the Globe. But in recent years, geochemists have shown us a completely different planet, by turning attention to the “critical zone,” this thin surface film of Earth where water, soil, subsoil and the world of living beings interact. If this area is critical, it is because life, human activities, and their resources are concentrated there. – French Natures

A version of the performance filmed in February 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany

The production of ‘Inside’ Latour saysoffers alternative visualizations  which allows to shift from a planetary vision of places located in the geographic grid, to a representation of events located in what we call a Gaiagraphic view.’

In her New York Times portrait on Latour’s work, Ava Kofman speaks to his post-truth philosophy:

In our current environmental crisis, he continued, a new image of the earth is needed — one that recognizes that there is no such thing as a view from nowhere and that we are always implicated in the creation of our view.

Learn more about Inside’s Premiere here.

When Place favors Power: A Spatial Recount of the Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing

TRIGGER WARNING: This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

Image result for blasey ford

Continue reading “When Place favors Power: A Spatial Recount of the Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing”

Mapping Technology’s Reach: Anatomy of an AI System

‘Alexa, turn on the hall lights’

The cylinder springs into life. ‘OK.’ The room lights up….

This is an interaction with Amazon’s Echo device. 3 A brief command and a response is the most common form of engagement with this consumer voice-enabled AI device. But in this fleeting moment of interaction, a vast matrix of capacities is invoked: interlaced chains of resource extraction, human labor and algorithmic processing across networks of mining, logistics, distribution, prediction and optimization. The scale of this system is almost beyond human imagining. How can we begin to see it, to grasp its immensity and complexity as a connected form?

The graphic and passage above are excerpts from Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, “Anatomy of an AI System: The Amazon Echo As An Anatomical Map of Human Labor, Data and Planetary Resources,” The AI Now Institute and SHARE Lab, (September 7, 2018)

In their stunning new work, which comprises both an essay and a vast infographic, Crawford and Joler strip away the smooth exterior of Amazon’s Echo to reveal the global network of human labor, data, and planetary resources that make this technology possible.

…invisible, hidden labor, outsourced or crowdsourced, hidden behind interfaces and camouflaged within algorithmic processes is now commonplace, particularly in the process of tagging and labeling thousands of hours of digital archives for the sake of feeding the neural networks.

Read the essay and see the infographic here.

10th Berlin Biennale: Mapping an Exhibition Network  

by Prof. Dr. Eleonora Vratskidou and Dr. Anne Luther

Introduction

The Berlin Biennale is a contemporary art exhibition first organized by Klaus Biesenbach (Director of MoMA PS1 in New York), Nancy Spector (Chief Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York) and Hans Ulrich-Obrist (Artistic Director at the Serpentine Galleries in London) in 1998. The creation of the Berlin Biennale in the mid-1990s stands at the outset of a significant increase in number and geographical dispersal of such large-scale perennial exhibitions ─a phenomenon that fully partakes in the global flows of objects and people, the expansion of neoliberal economic structures, urban development, social engineering, and city branding. No more than ten in number around the early 1990s, biennales are today more than a hundred to take place more or less regularly around the world, [1] becoming the standard format for producing and displaying contemporary art.

With every Biennale a specific network of actors takes shape, involving curatorial and research teams, artists and their galleries, funding bodies, artistic collaborators and other public and private support bodies, institutions and their curators that are invited for a one time facilitation of the exhibition, graphic designers and media experts, technicians, transporters and installation teams, art writers and art historians, mediators and art educators, invigilators, etc. An inquiry into the network of actors that biennales bring together is the foundation to understanding how these exhibitions are made.

The information that is released about the number and kind of actors involved in the production of each show is a conscious decision communicated in press material, their website and publications. This decision is related to the labor politics and work ethos to which each biennial subscribes as well as to the self-image it seeks to broadcast.

The proliferation of biennials has not yet been thoroughly examined. A number of studies, based often on individual cases, focus mainly on curatorial practices and discourses ─or the discrepancies between discourses and practices─, but more empirical approaches regarding the involved actors, issues of connectivity and work ethics are still rare. The acknowledgement of internationally active artistic and curatorial networks is certainly a given, but their actual study is not yet systematically pursued. This inquiry seeks to contribute in this direction, based on the example of the 10th  Berlin Biennale, that took place in summer 2018 (June 9 – September 9, 2018) .

Under the title We don’t need another hero, the last edition of the show was curated by Johannesburg-based curator, artist and art educator Gabi Ngcobo. Upon her appointment by the international selection committee in November 2016, she invited four fellow curators, with whom she had collaborated individually in the past  to join her in the direction of the show: Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba. The discourse of the exhibition put the emphasis on collectivity, collaboration and collective authorship and promoted dialogue as generative force. To this ethos testify most prominently the “curatorial conversations” published in the catalogue. Instead of an extended curatorial statement, the conversations serve to illustrate the reasoning mode and the collaborative generation of ideas at work among the members of the curatorial team.[2]  Similar attitudes were adopted among the artists: they were manifest in the production of the exhibited works, such as the programmatic installation piece by Dineo Seshee Bopape at the KW, which hosted works by three other artists (Jabu Arnell, Lachell Workman, and Robert Rhee), an initiative which was qualified by the curatorial discourse as “a gesture of hospitality and collaboration”. [3]

Interested in the collaborative ethos promoted by the show, we decided to pursue an investigation into the specific information made visible about the makers of the 10th Berlin Biennale, as an example of communication of a specific biennale network. The article introduces a network visualization based on the information on the collaborating actors mentioned in the website of the Berlin Biennale 10. We collected and structured data from the website in a format that allows to develop a node-link network of the various actors and their relationships. The following will introduce the data collection, node types and link relationships for the exploration of the interactive network graph of the Berlin Biennale 10.

Data Collection

The interactive network graph that we created maps out the relationships between the actors that made the 10th Berlin Biennale based on the information drawn from their website http://www.berlinbiennale.de. More specifically, we collected and manually structured the data that is displayed on the introduction pages of every participating artist. These pages contain the following elements: artist name, image of presented work or installation view and image credit, text to each participating artist and their exhibited work, name of the author, exhibition venue, list of works with or without courtesy and credits of various roles.[4]The artists’ pages communicate specific information on funding, support and art production regarding the making of the 10th Berlin Biennale that are by default linked to an artist’s name. In the structuring of our data, we considered this communication logic and defined the various node types (listed below) according to their corresponding artist.

The information provided on the website concerns the production and funding of the works and projects presented by each artist; the representation of the artists (galleries/courtesy) as well as the production of curatorial discourse (texts), involving 26 invited authors along with the members of the curatorial team.

We focused on artists’ pages, since this is an important point of contact between artistic and curatorial agency. While in the texts, members of the curatorial team and invited authors sought to place/situate the contribution of each participating artist within the larger curatorial project, artists were themselves responsible for the information communicated regarding those implicated in the making of the presented works, their various collaborators and supporters. The amount of contributors in the actual production of the works surely depends on their nature and media: a drawing is in this respect less demanding than an installation, a performance or a video. Diverging attitudes regarding crediting among the artists become most evident in the case of film and video works, which are per se collective enterprises. To cite only one example, Cynthia Marcelle names 48 collaborators (director, camera, steadicam, camera assistant and grip, production and production assistants, sound design, music research, editing, stills, musicians, drivers, etc.) involved in the production of her video Cruzada (2010, 8’35’’), while no collaborators are named for Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa’s video Promised Lands (2015, 22’). (We are not able to account for such differences at this point.)

The Βerlin Biennale is organized by KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e.V. and funded, since its 4th iteration in 2006, by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation), the amount allotted to the show being augmented from 2,5 to 3 million euro starting with the last iteration.[5] This funding agency will not appear in our graph, since it is a given for every iteration of the exhibition, while what is of interest for us here is the way each curator and/or curatorial team appropriates the institution of the Berlin Biennale anew and shapes a network of actors depending on their own position and connectivity within the art world. Equally not considered are other public and private sponsors mentioned in the catalogue, such as the Berlin’s Senate Department for Culture and Europe or the car industry BMW (as Corporate Partner), since no information is disclosed regarding the concrete way they are connected to the various participating artists and exhibition related projects.

Data structure

The data from the website was structured in the specific format typical for the construction of node-link networks, as required by the digital tool Graph Commons. A node is an actor, entity or object within a network that is connected to other nodes with a specific link, which is called an ‘edge’. The ‘node type’ describes the actor in the network such as art institution or gallery, while the ‘edge type’ describes the relationship between actors. In order to illustrate how this database was structured, let us take as an example the participation of Basir Mahmood. In the credits on the artist page (http://www.berlinbiennale.de/artists/b/basir-mahmood), we find the following information: “Commissioned and produced by Sharjah Art Foundation”. Sharjah Art Foundation is the name of a node with the node type “Institution” that is linked to the node name Basir Mahmood with the node type “Person” by the edge (or relationship) “Commissioned and produced”.

While for the names of nodes and edges we closely followed the vocabulary adopted by the biennale for communicating the roles and relations involved in the making of the exhibition, we proceeded to the necessary classification of nodes and edges into types. We assembled all descriptions in two following node types:

Institutions include:

  • Art institutions: Primary function: supporting, hosting (pe. residency), conserving (pe. museum), archiving (pe. museum) and exhibiting art. Art schools have also been categorized under art institutions.
  • Cultural Institution: Largely educational function – active beyond the field of fine and performing arts. Many of them are involved in international cultural relations/exchange.
  • Political Institution: Its primary function is in the political realm.
  • Enterprise: Its primary function is in the economic realm.
  • Gallery: Its primary function is selling art.
  • Collection: Everything that has been qualified as such by the Berlin Biennale

Persons include:

  • Artists that are participating as such in the Berlin Biennale 10.
  • Curators
  • Authors of artists texts in the catalogue and for the website.
  • Persons active in the production or support of exhibited work.

Regarding the edges, we grouped the various descriptions found in the website into four big categories: Commission, production and support; Courtesy; Art Production and Text. These meta-descriptions are indicated by color coding in the network graph. Concretely, we assembled the following phrasings under:

Commission and production and support: : 15 Commissioned and coproduced; 12 Commissioned and produced; 1 Produced; 3 Commissioned; 6 Coproduced; 4 Coproducer; 1 Produced in partnership; 1 Produced with the support; 1 Existing works as well as commissioned works produced; 1 Existing works as well as commissioned works coproduced; 54 With the support; 3 In-kind support; 1 Funded; 13 Thanks.

Courtesy: 75 Courtesy; 14 In (Collection).

Text: 45 Text.

Art Production: Production, 3 Producer, 1 Production, 5 Production Assistants, 6 Production Team, 2 Artistic Production. Performers:24 Featuring, 7 Performed, 1 Choreography, 16 Musicians, 30 Activator. Director/Camera:1 Director, 2 Assistant Directors, 2 Cinematographer, 3 Camera, 3 Camera Assistant, 1 Camera Assistant and Grip, 1 Grip, 1 Steadicam. Screenplay:2 Screenplay, 1 Screenwriters, 1 Script, Direction, and Editing, 1 Line Producer. Editing: 2 Editor, 1 Editing, 1 Video Editing (Coloring), 1 Video Editing (Editing). Music/Sound: 5 Sound, 1 Sound Assistant, 1 Sound Design, 1 Sound Designer, 1 Sound engineer, 1 Music, 1 Music Director, 1 Music Research, 1 Spatialization and mix by, 16 Musicians. Light/Photography: 7 Light, 1 Film and Lighting Technician, 4 Director of Photography, 3 Stills. Costumes, make-up, design: 1 Costumes, 1 Costumes stitched, 1 Costume Designer, 1 Make-up, 1 Project Design Collaborator, 1 Set Design, 1 Backdrops painted by. Varia: 3 In cooperation, 3 Including works, 2 Collaborator: Vibratory installation, 1 Collaborators: Fluffy sculptures, 1 Printed and published, 1 Poster, 1 Driver, 1 Water Truck Operator, 1 Assistant, 1 Project Liaison.

We chose to adopt the ‘original’ description that the Berlin Biennale displays as information about the making of the exhibition: every link displays the wording that is also displayed on the website of the Berlin Biennale. The node types that we display in the graph use descriptions that are the closest to what we could find on the website. We did not use our own interpretations of roles in the art world but rather chose to display descriptions from the Berlin Biennale website. These descriptions of art world roles are displayed in a network view.

The visual representation of the network of actors is displayed in a Force Directed Graph, which is a visually pleasing method. The nodes are forced in a direction that gives space to comprehend edges and nodes in distinguishable ways. Nodes with a higher degree of centrality, which is determined by the number of edges connected to a node, are displayed closer to the center of the network.

Disconnected nodes are drawn to the outside. In Graph Commons, it is possible to view the Degree Centrality of each node displayed in a chart by in-degree centrality, out-degree centrality and betweenness centrality. In-degree centrality shows the number of edges that are directed towards a node and out-degree centrality shows the number of edges that are directed from a node. In this particular graph, analyzing the nodes by in-degree centrality, we can therefore see how many actors were involved with an exhibiting artist as co-producers, art production or authors (to name but a few). Analyzing the nodes by out-degree centrality, we can ask the network graph questions about the funding bodies who supported the most artists or how many galleries had more than one represented artist in the exhibition.

Clusters are nodes that are connected with each other with a higher number of edges. The betweenness centrality shows nodes that connect clusters with each other. Graph Commons allows the user to view these clusters in detail in the analysis tab.

The visualization of actors of the 10th Berlin Biennale is a platform to ask further questions and develop a broader inquiry into the networking, politics and funding of the exhibition and international biennale structures more generally. The authors will develop a deepened investigation and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals with a focus on art and technology.

 

Notes

[1] Panos Kompatsiaris, The Politics of Contemporary Arts Biennials: Spectacles of Critique, Theory and Art, New York and London, Routledge, 2016, p. 9.

[2] Gabi Ngcobo, Nomaduma Rosa Masilela, Serubiri Moses, Thiago de Paula Souza, and Yvette Mutumba, “Curatorial Conversations”, in: 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, We don’t need another hero, exhibition catalogue, p. 31-41  (English part).

[3] Portia Μalatjie, “Dineo Seshee Bopape”, in: 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, We don’t need another hero, exhibition catalogue, 2018, p. 62 (English part).

[4] This information is also provided in the catalogue, though not structured in the same way: in the main body of the catalogue one finds the texts on each artist –the website contains only short versions of the printed texts–, but the list of works by artist and information on courtesy, funding and production are given at the end of the essays section. Out of convenience, we used the website as our main source where all relevant information is grouped together.

[5] Gabrielle Horn, “Introduction”, in: 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, We don’t need another hero, exhibition catalogue, p. 15 (English part).

 

Listening to a Glacier on a Warm Summer Day

Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

In June, CDA Director Ben Rubin and Data Artist Jer Thorpe completed Herald/Harbinger, a work of light, movement, and sound that unfurls from the south lobby of Calgary’s Brookfield Place, extending outdoors into the open tree-lined plaza.

The plaza at Brookfield Place, Calgary. Photo: James Brrittain, © 2017

Heralding the ascent of Earth’s Anthropocene period, Herald / Harbinger speaks to the interrelationship between human activity in Calgary and the natural system of the Bow Glacier in the Canadian Rockies.

The artwork’s story begins about 160 miles west of Calgary, where the Bow Glacier melts, cracks and shifts with changing temperatures, existing in a perpetual state of physical transformation. In 2016 and 2017, the artists constructed a solar-powered seismic observatory at the edge of the glacier. There, they installed sensors that register the near constant shifting of the restless ice and feed this data in real-time to the artwork’s servers.

“Up on the mountain, when the wind wasn’t blowing, there was an eerie, complete silence. Watching the data scroll by on the screen, though, I could see that the ice was not as it appeared; that its stillness belied a quick and constant movement.” – Jer Thorp

The glacier’s movements are made visible as displacements of scan lines on an array of LED lights. Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

The artwork itself is a permanent public installation that renders the glacier’s movements audible in an immersive outdoor soundscape of ice and water sound, and visible as displacements of scan lines on an array of LED lights. Inlaid patterns on the granite plaza surface map the forces pushing the Bow Glacier down from the Wapta Icefield toward the Bow lake.

“Climate Change is an abstraction. We read about it, but it’s happening too slowly for us to perceive, and so it’s hard to accept it as something that’s real and urgent. This artwork is an attempt to give a ‘voice’ to a specific glacier in the hopes of making climate change something we can hear and see — something that feels real.” – Ben Rubin

The pattern embedded in the granite plaza surface maps the forces pushing the Bow Glacier from the Wapta Ice Field down toward Bow Lake. Photo: Brett Gilmour, © 2018

As Calgary’s day gets busier and traffic levels rise, the patterns in the artwork are interrupted by the patterns of the urban life, with aggregated data from pedestrians’ footsteps and traffic sampled at 14 different locations around the city sometimes intruding upon the glacial tempo. Vehicle traffic is displayed as seven ‘roadways’ on the piece’s seven LED fixtures. Herald/Harbinger creates an encounter between Alberta’s natural systems and the city’s restive human activity, establishing a kind of conversation between these two realms.

And yet for all of its complexity, the artwork’s presence remains subtle, blending discretely into its urban surroundings even as it invites curious passersby to pause, listen, and investigate.