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The Art World View: The Beauty of Data

25 October 2016
Image: Courtesy the artist
Image: Courtesy the artist

What is data? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis… things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation”. Data is being recorded at an exponential pace – 50% of all data in the history of mankind has been created in the last 10 months. In our times data quantifies our world, and in return offers us heightened insights into society, our environment and even ourselves.

Corporations amass data every second of every day – this data is increasingly being harnessed to drive innovation, processes, product development and customer relationships. And somewhere in all that analysis still remains the human, the intuitive, the irrational and emotional as ways of experiencing and understanding. With artists providing alternative perspectives onto the world and making visionary linkages and connections, data itself is now a rich source of inspiration, a new medium. Artists are unpacking meaning and beauty in the code.

As part of our work with one of our biggest corporate collections, Aspen Re, a desire to support cutting edge creative practice led to the creation of the Aspen Online Art Award in 2013. Three years on, the award reflects Aspen’s commitment to innovation by providing a commissioning opportunity at a point when the artists most need support – just graduated, seeking opportunities and professional development. This year’s recipient Matilda Skelton Mace is working on a truly groundbreaking approach to data and our experience of the web. Every click, page view or browse contributes to a virtual landscape created by the unique digital fingerprints of Aspen website users. Constantly evolving, this artwork blends the human and the technological to create a digital portrait of how we navigate this company’s online offer.

Data is elusive, hard to pin down; in order to realise its value it has to be organised, cleansed, stored. It raises questions of privacy, authorship and ownership. It can create information overload or simplify narratives to facilitate understanding. The beauty of data in business is the possibility of more informed decision-making. In the art world, the data itself has an intrinsic beauty as a source of deep insight into the human condition over time and virtual space. The way in which artists are embracing data helps us understand the fundamentals of our world just that little bit differently.

Fabienne Nicholas
Head of Consultancy