Inge is one of five researchers working on the Creative Informatics programme. In addition to her academic interest in the creative industries, Inge has worked as a freelance artist for more than 20 years and continues to run her own studio in the Scottish Borders.
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Inge Panneels, a Belgian and adopted Scot, who came to Scotland to study at Edinburgh College of Art and set up my own studio here in 1998. I have recently returned to Edinburgh to work on Creative Informatics as a researcher after twenty years of working as a freelancer on public art projects and exhibiting widely, and twelve years teaching at the Artist Designer Maker course at the University of Sunderland. Recently, my academic research has taken precedence and is now focusing on how sustainable thinking can inform and transform creative making and thinking practices.
How have developments in technology over the last few years changed the scope and possibilities of your work?
Technology has had a huge impact on my practice over the last decade. Digital technologies such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC), laser and waterjet cutting, 3D printing, and rapid prototyping have really opened up new possibilities for making work, enabling new aesthetics to emerge that were previously considered impossible. Digital technology has transformed making practices for at least two decades, as new technologies always do. Waterjet glass cutting for example, an industrial process adapted for studio practice as pioneered by Dr Vanessa Cutler, made it possible to cut glass into delicate forms that could not have been done by hand. New technologies have enabled me to work faster and more efficiently, as well as offering new ways of working. Tiny computers can now control kilns so that they can fire precisely and efficiently. It is the speed of transformation that is exponential. The interesting things happen at the intersection of industrial processes ’hacked’ by studio practices and vice versa.
Developments in technology have also provided new ways of disseminating work. In the space of the last two decades I have moved from sending physical copies of slides to sending digital images to prospective clients and galleries, having an online presence, selling online, using databases for mailing-lists, and using social media, which has radically changed my working practice. Creative work which previously existed predominantly in physical form now arguably has more longevity, and possibly value, in digital form. A lot of creative work now exists only in digital form and no longer has an analogue presence.
Thirdly, the new wave of digital transformation is moving away from digital technology per se towards Big Data and how this is, and might affect the creative industries. Critiquing this next development of the digital revolution is important: ethical considerations for example feature large in many data projects and Creative Informatics will be looking at these over the next few years.
Can you give an example of how data manifests in your creative practice?
The Liverpool Map (2011) was a collaborative project with Jeffrey Sarmiento, a commission won through public competition to make a cultural map of Liverpool. This large-scale glass map is a permanent sculpture housed in the Museum of Liverpool opposite the Liver Building. It encapsulates lots of different forms of data and is a snapshot of the city at the time when Liverpool was City of Culture in 2008.
We used digital visualisation (by Dr Bettina Nissen) to imagine what the map would look like in the space, which was not built at that time. The 17 layers of the glass map contain historical data, interpreted from analogue and digital archives from the Museum of Liverpool. It also contains data contributed through public consultation in the form of online polls, emailed anecdotes and handwritten stories that were transferred into digital files. All this data was digitised, ordered and put into the layers of the map. The digital format of this data was used to plan, scale and make the actual glass pieces. The digital files were transferred to screen prints, used to drive digital technology such as the waterjet cutter which cut the fine lines of the map or the estuary of the Mersey River. In the finished piece the interplay between digital and analogue data was embodied in a permanent, tangible block of glass that will (hopefully) outlast the fleeting nature of digital data.
Who do you take inspiration from in making creative/artistic work from data?
One of my data heroes is Lise Autogena. Like myself, she originally trained as an artist, specialising in glass, but developed a collaborative practice with Joshua Portway that includes some wonderfully poetic projects that use data such as Most Blue Skies, which uses global meteorological data to show where, at any precise moment, has the most blue sky in the world. It has acquired a poignant quality, as phenomena such as the Haze in Asia – caused by pollution and burning of large tracts of land – make ‘blue sky’ no longer something that can be taken for granted in large parts of the world.
What excites you about Edinburgh’s creative community at the moment?
Having returned to Edinburgh after more than a decade, the creative industries appear to be thriving. Besides the amazing institutions that make Edinburgh a world class destination for the arts, it always astounds me what exists and thrives in studios, workshops and buildings tucked away in hidden corners of the city, doing amazing work that often goes under the radar.
How important is R&D in the creative industries?
Research and Development are hugely important; it is often from the unplanned, the unexpected that new stuff emerges. Making space and time, to ‘allow’ yourself that headspace to wander off and wonder is absolutely critical. It is not a luxury but an absolute necessity. I have a well-equipped studio in the Scottish Borders where I make most of my art work. I often work collaboratively with other creatives, trades and professions in many different places and locations, so having a ‘base’ really helps to anchor my practice: the studio is an experimental place where I can try things out, hoard stuff and keep work in progress to return to later.
To find out more about Inge’s work, visit: https://www.ingepanneels.com