( OS prefers reducing animation! )

Research Blog

Panneels, I., Smyth M. and Helgason, I.

Home > Research > CI Research Blog > There be Dragons – Creative Horizon 4

There be Dragons – Creative Horizon 4

Navigating the uncharted data territories of creative practice.

Creative Informatics was delighted to exhibit the works of five selected artists who responded to an open call over the summer of 2022. The There be Dragons exhibition was curated by New Media Scotland curator Mark Daniels and was exhibited at Inspace Gallery from Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd October 2022. Chris Scott provided the photos below.

The project aimed to investigate and untangle some of the messy issues around data and creativity in order to build a picture of the role that data plays in the life of the creative practitioner. Each artist was encouraged to explore either actual or imagined realities and the five responses that comprised the There be Dragons exhibition were a reflexive examination of data in creative praxis.

The Creative Horizon strand of projects funded by Creative Informatics supports blue sky research on the creative industries. The Creative Horizon 4 project explored creative responses to data collection on and by the creative industries. Data can empower creative businesses to do more and to do it better. Data can be used for creative practice, with creative practice, and to tell us about creative practice. However, coping with data is not a simple or straightforward activity. It has to be collected, analysed, visualised, understood and communicated. There are ethical and privacy issues to consider about where, why and for whom data is being gathered, together with the amount and nature of personal data that individuals are willing to divulge.

Artworks on plinthes and benches.
Exhibtion overview.

The Artists

Elke Finkenauer is a visual artist and former data analyst. “Doing Data” is a series of experimental sculptures, structures and infographics, grounded in the data-driven processes inherent in creative practice. Finkenauer created a dataset of materials in her studio and used parts of this dataset to make compositions of ‘data points’ that told a story, but which could be re-arranged into new, different compositions. The sculptural strategies deployed were devised from possible solutions to data-gaps, reframing these as spaces for reconfiguration and new approaches. She recorded the process of creating the sculptures, engaging in data visualisation techniques to tell a further story with the data collected. These visualisations narrate materials, strategies and unplanned occurrences and improvisations which inevitably find their way in. Informed by her background as a data analyst, these works explore parallels between processes of making and those of data gathering, interpretation and use.

Assemblage object on a table.
‘Doing Data’, Elke Finkenaur.

Applied Arts Scotland  members Lorna Brown, Amy Dunnachie and Lynne Hocking produced “Enough is Enough”, an installation which breaks down the creative practice and process into components. Applied Arts Scotland used data about creative practice to create works with this data. The team worked with its membership base to explore the types and value of data collected about creative practitioners in the course of their professional work, evidenced in the components laid out on the large table. The work invites the viewer to prioritise these components by gifting fifteen handmade ‘tokens’ which the viewer could place on the table thus marking their top fifteen activities. Through this interaction, the range of activities that go into building a creative practice as part of a fully-rounded lived experience becomes visible and makes clear what values shape the choices we make. This work imagines a world where generating income has become disconnected from the value system, where basic needs are met elsewhere. It was notable that making time to see friends and eating well consistently scored in the top three activities, thus switching dialogue away from purely economic productivity to the act of living. However, time is a finite resource. Through a dissection of data about the creative process, this work reflects on the precarity of the creative practice. Many makers work with business models that are antithetical to neoliberal capitalist growth models. Instead, they seek an equilibrium point where enough is enough. “Enough” is different for everyone, and varies by personal circumstances. It sits at the intersection of financial sustainability, quality of life, and quality of making experience; and is not currently captured by any single, measurable index. This work challenges posits that we need to learn from “enough is enough” business models and the thinking that underpin them in order to promote sustainable futures, while also enabling creative risk-taking and innovation among solo practitioners.

People standing around a table with objects and boxes on it.
‘Enough is Enough’, Applied Arts Scotland.

Mel Frances “Cloud” is an interactive story about the cloud. Through exploring data fragments – emails, calendar invites, voicemails, texts and reddit posts – audiences were transported to 2032 and invited to investigate a new cloud that has appeared in the skies above us. Everyone understands this cloud differently – some believe it is a data centre, ‘the cloud’ made manifest, others think it is a weapon, a few believe that it is a lost deity that has returned to us. This work could be navigated in the space both digitally, on screen, and analogue using pens and paper. A collaboration with sound artist Michael-Jon Mizra surrounds the work in the space. Frances worked with Trainee Associate Artist Vaishnavi Singh whose text provides an insightful and thoughtful framing of the work. As audiences read and listened they were invited to analyse the fragments and then capture the story they saw within. This work thus considered how we find narrative in datasets. There is no one narrative about what the cloud is, where it has come from or what it is for, instead the data fragments combine to create hundreds of different readings. Each person who experiences cloud will come away telling a slightly different story. “Cloud” creatively explores processes of data analysis, considering how we find narratives in and how we place narratives onto data sets, and, with a focus on the mundane, how the fragments of our day-to-day – emails, phone calls, scribbled notes – become the narratives of our lives and work. Frances thus used data for and with creative practice.

Projection of the word 'cloud' with text on a gallery wall with a table in front of it.
‘Cloud’, Mel Frances.

More Fun With Games created the performative “Privacy Wizard’s or Data Thieves?”, a project that encouraged players to wonder in the area surrounding Inspace Gallery, provoking thoughts about data both personal and historical. Through an onboarding process in Eventbrite, acting as a test case for new AtmosphereOS technology, the project collected a range of data from individuals and based on that, assign them a character to play a game that riffs on personal privacy and data security. For the canny observer this seemingly innocuous act of signing up, revealed a dark quagmire of ‘consent’ with data being stored in ‘Shangri-la’ and other fairy tales. Interestingly, one visitor could not connect as their QR code reader proved to not be entirely honest about its operations and thus blocked by the software designed by the game designers. This incident thereby inadvertently made clear the very premise of the work. Once ‘onboarded’, the character assumed in the game impacted the players experience of the game and story but choices they make along the way meant their destiny was not set in stone. Players were guided with physical and digital props and clues and at the end of their journey were given some insight into the game design process and how it used data. Fun With Games therefore explored data with creative practice in this work. This project was produced by ABS from MFWG working in partnership with Ray Interactive and New Media Scotland/Atmosphere OS; director, writer and game maker Cameron Hall and with cartography and illustration by Two Rats Press.

A person standing in front of a tree scanning a QR code to bring up text on their phone.
‘Privacy Wizards and Data Thieves’, More Fun With Games.

 Theodore Koterwas is an artist and musician working with data, perception, physical phenomena, and the body to examine aspects of daily experience that often go unnoticed but profoundly impact how people understand themselves, others and the environment. In “When do you give yourself away?” an interactive data sculpture collects bodily data (pulse and galvanic skin responses) from each visitor to generate a multi-sensory experience unique to them. It then tracks changes in this data to see how the artwork affects the viewer. The value of a creative work is usually measured by more superficial metrics: sales, stars, likes and follows, and often monetised through capturing behavioural data of its audience. The work explored a range of questions. What is at stake when data is no longer just behavioural or personal, but intimate and internal: when we hand over our very heartbeats? Who gets to decide how this data is used, what is means, or what this data is worth? Do we have any right to this data as the ones who created the conditions for it? If “art” lies in an audience member’s experience as much as it does in the thing created by the artist, does the audience have an equal right to the art? If the work moves them, who deserves credit, and if it fails? What happens when the data is not just personal, but internal? Who gets to choose what’s done with it? These queries thus make Koterwas explore data for and with creative practice

Gif image of a large screen changing colour when a person touches it.
‘When do you give yourself away’, Ted Koterwas.

This Creative Horizon project aims to investigate and untangle some of these messy issues and to build a picture of the role that data plays in the life of the creative practitioner. We wanted the results of the project to speak to the creative community, and so we sought to harness the creative and artistic skills of the community itself in a collaborative design and exploration process. If you have missed the exhibition, coming soon will be a short film by Edinburgh Video Productions which will capture the interactive nature of the works. We are also working with writer Jules Horne and graphic designer Alix Lunn on a visual report that will look in more depth at the exhibition.

Small digital dragon under a sign.
There be Dragons!

All images by Chris Scott.