Does art spur emotion or does emotion spur art? (Well both, duh.) But data visualization seems to throw its weight into this debate.
Here’s a fascinating article from the NYT on data visualization. I’m such a visual learner that data visualization is right up my alley. I can’t fathom a string of numbers, but I can get the essence of 1,000 sharks’ teeth or 2 million fish. (I was talking yesterday with a colleague about that other type of “string” — string theory. You can imagine that my eyes were glazing over.) I wrote something about “volume” on my blog recently in the “Guiness Book of World Records” post… someone had collected thousands of graffiti stickers and then posted them in a room and called it art. And there was the photo of hundreds of clergy at St. Peters. These perhaps lean more toward the wow! factor than being art for art’s sake. Maybe.
So what is data visualization? From the NYT:
Data visualization…is an interpretation, a different way to look at and think about data that often exposes complex patterns or correlations.
Data visualization is a way to make sense of the ever-increasing stream of information with which we’re bombarded and provides a creative antidote to the “analysis paralysis” that can result from the burden of processing such a large volume of information. “It’s not about clarifying data…It’s about contextualizing it.”
My favorite (and the most easy to interpret) example of this is Chris Jordan’s portraits of global mass culture in the “Running the Numbers” photography series which he uses “as a bridge between alienating information and its emotional impact.” The photos above, for example, illustrate a specific quantity of something: the number of tuna fished from the world’s oceans every fifteen minutes.
But is this art? In Chris’ work, which largely shows the effect of human consumption/impact I guess you could say that he used emotion (poor tuna!) to spur art:
large amounts of fact data > emotion > “emotional” data > becomes art
Which turns on its head the below philosophy that puts art at the beginning of the chain — that seeing a piece of art spurs emotion:
art > perception of art > perception of beauty > spiritual and physical love (emotion)
This second concept flow is the central theme of Degrees of Freedom.