From Paint to Pixels

“I say, run toward the data,” Frick said. “Take your data back and turn it into something meaningful.”

A growing number of artists are using data from self-tracking apps in their pieces, showing that creative work is as much a product of its technology as of its time.

Data artists generally fall into two groups: those who work with large bodies of scientific data and those who are influenced by self-tracking. The Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach falls into the former category: She transforms weather patterns into complex sculptures and musical scores. Similarly, David McCandless, who believes the world suffers from a “data glut,” turns military spending budgets into simple, striking diagrams. On one level, the genre aims to translate large amounts of information into some kind of aesthetic form. But a number of artists, scholars, and curators also believe that working with this data isn’t just a matter of reducing human beings to numbers, but also of achieving greater awareness of complex matters in a modern world.

One artist who does this well is Laurie Frick, she uses self-tracking data to construct objects and large-scale installationsincluding one called Floating Data that’s about two stories tall and made from 60 anodized aluminum panels that represent her walking patterns. Frick used her own records, gathering steps on her Fitbit and combining it with location data from the online program OpenPaths and her iPhone’s GPS. “I drew a little track that tries to capture the experience of walking speed, and the feel of walking through a busy neighborhood near my apartment in Brooklyn,” she explained.




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