Nov 8, 2007

Mariko Mori at Deitch

Went to an art opening at Deitch Projects by Mariko Mori.

The wall text proudly announced that Tom Na H-iu (the glowing orb above) is connected via the Internet directly to the world's largest observatory in Japan, and that the piece is a live visualization of the neutrino data from that lab.

Whenever I see art visualizing data from the Internet, I think of Natalie Jeremijenko's famous Live Wire project from 1997.

Natalie's piece showed data that everyone could directly relate to (the amount of traffic over the network in an office, corresponding to how busy everyone is). The visualization was very simple: The amount of network traffic controls the speed of a stepper motor. A clear single variable, shown using one dimension of movement. The visualization made perfect sense: the more traffic, the more the wire dances about. Yet it was also surprising, revealing a usually hidden dimension of our daily cycle.

Unfortunately, when most artists make Internet data visualizations, they do what Mariko did. She took a piece of data we are so unfamiliar with that nobody could tell the difference between real and made up data. Then she presented it using a visualization so abstract it needed wall text to explain it. At that point, why not make it up? Nobody will call you on it.

The piece was beautiful, but all the wall text about neutrinos and live Internet data was just a way to prop the work up with some pseudo-scientific claims. Better to just to say "we made a giant ten foot tall Lava lamp."


Michealangelo said...

Your way leaves no metaphorical connection between physical reality and the land of the dead. It's poetic the way it is. Don't be so in love with physical reality
it's not all its cracked up to be.

Jon said...

To the contrary - putting aside the argument about whether art should be any of the things you mention, my way leaves plenty of room for visual art to be metaphorical, poetical, a bridge to "the land of the dead", or anything else you might want it to be, if those ends are achieved within the work itself.

My gripe in this case was less with Mariko's piece (which I found enjoyable to look at) as with the text explanation of the work, which made a big deal about it being a real time presentation of scientific data, as if this somehow gave the work a sound critical basis.