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August 15, 2006

DataNature

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Cohabitation Artifact

DataNature is a mult-site electronic artwork by Ben Hooker and Shona Kitchen who state: As artists we are inspired by people's (local residents', frequent travelers', airport employees'--and our own) love-hate relationship with airports, and with technology in general. DataNature is an attempt to capture and visually articulate this tumultuous relationship ... our emotional zigzagging between nostalgia for a simple life and cyberpunk fantasy for being connected to everything everywhere...

I encountered the nondescript kiosk in the Cesar Chavez Park at night and like the small crowd gathered, watched others for signs of what to do. We each pressed the button and received our dispensed boarding pass ticket, discussed how to best illuminate and position for the chest-height camera, once it was discovered that a passport-type photo was being taken and printed on the boarding pass. One woman pressed the button while setting off her camera flash, another held her key-chain flashlight close to the face of the next in line. We all compared our tickets as they contained different pictures and text, though all the passport photos came out black in the night light.

The dot matrix type printing proved too difficult to read in the low light of evening and other events nearby drew recipients away after they received their “souvenir”, as the artists called the passes.

The artists’ state on the reverse of the ticket: By presenting a remix of live data and archived information collected from the many people we have met during our time as artist-in-residence at SJC, we hope Datanature captures the spirit of the eclectic, yet deeply connected place that is this airport.

Now that the festival activities have subsided I’ve read the narrative of the artists’ experience included on the back of the ticket and puzzled together the disparate data fields on the front. I hope that others will do so as well because it provides insight into the artists process of discovery and synthesis so often invisible to the public which may take the art experience as a mere artifact or souvenir without reflecting on the creative process or deeper meanings.

Given the security alerts that rippled through airports as a result of the uncovered (supposed) terrorist plot last week in the UK, ISEA/ZeroOne attendees will no doubt be affected on their return flights. While they wait in the inspection lines they can read the details of their DataNature souvenir boarding pass and perhaps have a humanistic reminder of the many folks required to keep the airport operational, even if such operations include the seemingly misguided data-driven response actions in the name of terror. Hopefully there will be another DataNature souvenir holder with whom to compare passes, as the stories therein and the ensuing discussions with others are the strength of this piece.

Posted by michelle at August 15, 2006 12:47 AM

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