Rhythms of life data replayed in art

Jonathon Keats, contributor


Sleep Patterns, a Los Angeles exhibition by Laurie Frick, converts EEG traces, recorded from the artist as she slept, into wood and watercolour (Image: Laurie Frick)

Six years ago a computer programmer named Ben Lipkowitz began tracking how much time he wasted washing his room-mate's dishes. Soon he was recording everything he did all day long and plotting the data on colour-coded charts, impressing fellow life-loggers and attracting the interest of artist Laurie Frick.

What drew Frick's eye were the patterns, seemingly abstract, yet corresponding to rhythms of living. To her, the patterns appeared "inherently recognisable and familiar", as did the tables she started keeping of her own sleep rhythms, recorded nightly with an EEG.

Frick has made these patterns the basis of a series of artworks currently on show in Los Angeles. They do not look like conventional data plots. Blocks of activity are represented by blocks of recycled wood, which Frick attaches to the wall or lays on the floor. Her avoidance of high-tech visualisation techniques is a smart move, reining in our compulsion to analyse the data, but the materials she has chosen are problematic. The sense of nostalgia evoked by old wood distracts us with irrelevant thoughts about ageing and memory.

Frick does far better with her watercolours, where the patterns themselves are paramount. These delicate images are mesmerising to look at and beguiling to contemplate. She hypothesises that they resonate because they sum up the rhythms of human life, providing a provocative suggestion as to the origin of our aesthetic sensibilities. But it is just as likely that we are drawn to the patterns because they are unfamiliar. If that's the case, Frick's art highlights the chasm between studying life and living it.

SOURCE: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/03/data-of-lifes-rhythms-of-life-replayed-in-art.html