Yesterday (2/23/2015) morning I attended a data visualization presentation by New York Times graphics editor Amanda Cox at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Amanda presented some great examples from the Times as well as other sources while breaking down her presentation to the topics Scale, Context, Pattern and Annotation Layer. I arrived late and missed the majority of the Scale portion. The following are notes from the presentation…
Make the data open, make it flexible, present a user with an interface to manipulate the presentation of the data, to see the data in various groupings.
The power of text: the most common thing that people do on a page is read and by far it is only the top of the page that people read. Most people do not click on buttons.
The example that Amanda presented regarding pattern is “Mapping America: Every City, Every Block”
Form is key to revealing patterns – use of familiar geography to superimpose information employing color, shading, shape and size. In geographic placement of data regarding the House District results one may quickly grasp that urban versus rural areas is decisive.
Annotation should be minimal, no more than a layer of pointers or outlines or brief notes superimposed onto graphics be it image or video. Amanda momentarily turned it over to a video interview with NY Times Science Graphics Editor Jonathan Corum:
She then presented a brief video documentation explaining aerial skiing by United States Olympic aerialist Ryan St. Onge and science reporter Henry Fountain in which extremely simple annotation is superimposed on to the video to make important points. She also compared this very simple graphic with and without annotation – “graphs are stronger when they say something” – Amanda Cox.
An example of the using annotation to illustrate different ways of looking at data is the NY Times “One Report, Diverging Perspectives” – a visualization of the last jobs report before the 2012 elections. The visualization allows one to view the report with “Democratic Goggles” and “Republican Goggles.” The data is the same and both interpretations are true, however the manner in which the data is interpreted depends one’s perspective.
Amanda Cox showed varying forms of engagement through the representation of data. In “All the Medalists: Men’s 100-Meter Sprint,” the reports begins the page with a 3D video animation that depicts the change of speed of gold medalists in the 100 meter run from 1896 to 2012. Following the video the page scrolls down to scatterplot displaying the same information. Of course, the time based animation will engage the viewer very differently than the static scatter chart.
The final example that Amanda Cox presented was a the superimposition of two separate data visualizations to present a cultural and historical reality of the United States. One was a visualization of the Republican versus Democratic votes in the 2012 Presidential Elections from southern states. The pro-Obama areas presented an arch of concentration that presented strong similarities to a very old visualization of cotton farms across the same states. When these two visualizations are collapsed one over the others, a strong sense of history regarding the present is established as the areas that were once cotton farm areas voted strongly for Obama.
Amanda made a point that beyond interactivity and cool graphics is the strength of the content. If one has minimal resources, focus on the content and in depth research. Practically, with so many people looking at the web on their phones, a simple text and image may be much more effective than an immersive experience.
Occasionally, I see something that makes me reconsider the Libertarian platform as perhaps not being so ridiculous. The latest something to do so is the short documentary by Stephen Maing titled “The Surrender” which is currently available on First Look Media.
A simple conversation between Stephen Kim an intelligence analyst in the State Department and an ignorant Fox reporter James Rosen lead to the prosecution and 13 month prison sentence of Stephen Kim. The basis of this prosecution is a report that a UN Resolution would lead to further nuclear tests by North Korea. As Jon Stewart put it “that’s it, that’s the leak… North Korea has a nuclear test based economy.”
A good man looses his life savings fighting ridiculous accusations by the Obama administration using the Espionage Act to try and dig up whistle blowers. It’s difficult to not consider whistle blowers as the agents for a transparent government, one of the values espoused by Obama.
Why are our tax dollars going toward the conviction of innocent people who are trying to help build a better world? Of course Libertarian ideals and the desire to contribute toward a better government and country are at odds. Immediately after reconsidering Libertarianism, I recall… “oh ya, Libertarians must be land-owning white people who are pissed about taxes, like to have their guns and feel strongly that they had nothing to do with slavery or its aftermath. They probably home school their children and are against vaccinations.”
Once Stephen Kim’s prison term is up, he must show proof of employment. Later this year Stephen Kim will go from highly regarded State Department Analyst to a Beauty Product Salesman (Kim secured his employment at a beauty supply store before heading to jail).
Hunter College Media Studies professor, Jason Fox invited Charif Kiwan of the Abounaddara Syrian video collective to screen a compilation film and speak with Hunter Students. The evening made for a powerful and eye-opening exchange.
Inspired by Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera” (1929), Abounaddara is Arabic for “man with glasses.” Charif Kiwan is the collective’s representative who no longer lives in Syria and has no plans to return. Osama al-Habali, one member of the collective has been imprisoned for the past year and a half, however the collective continues with its mission to produce and post one video a week depicting Syrian life at a time of war.
As Charif described the work of Abounaddara, the collective’s goals are simple:
1. Produce and post one video per week that captures Syrian life at this time of war. Kiwan referred to this practice as “emergency cinema.”
2. Defend the “right to the image” as a basic human right.
The outcome of these goals are to inform and motivate others to find a way to help a people in crisis and to create an archive that portrays every-day life in Syria at this moment. The French-German television network arte commissioned the nearly hour-long compilation of Abounaddara’s videos that was screened at the Roosevelt House.
Although Charif claimed that the anonymous video collective attempts to capture all sides of Syrian life and in doing so give voice to members within the Bashar al-Assad regime and the Islamic State as well as to the rebels and the victims of the ongoing conflict, the compilation is most strongly a call to end the violence and suffering.
Amongst the most powerful shorts in the compilation are “Children of Halfaya” and “SYRIA: Snapshots of History in the making” both are embedded below. “Children of Halfaya” captures boys in a refugee camp in Lebanon, the oldest boy recalls bombing massacres, including that of his school. And “SYRIA: Snapshots of History in the making” captures a young man retelling the moment that he became an activist and the empowerment of protest, however, he must pause as his interview is interrupted by bombing.
Whereas other videos posted to Vimeo, merely capture moments in everyday life, such as young people enjoying a street concert (this video was not included in the compilation):
Charif Kiwan pleaded to the audience to act, to engage and to work toward a better world. The video compilation captured diverse perspectives, however, the message appeared clear – the United States must intervene in Syria. It is the moral imperative to end the killing. Charif stated that Syrians are strongly against imperialism, and he seemed to imply an understanding of the price that a U.S. intervention would cost Syria and it’s culture. The current reality of human massacre, suffering and exodus necessitates intervention by foreign powers.
Today, February 13th 2015, I attended the last two sessions of the New Schools “The Fear of Art” two-day conference. I have a few notes from the last panel.
Jeffrey Deitch: on mural of coffins with dollars by Blu… I’m sure that Jeffrey is familiar with the term “parachute artist”… why in this day and age would a museum and an artist create public work ignorant of the immediate community? It seems so unprofessional, disrespectful, naive, ignorant… inform oneself before creating a work, particularly a work destined for the public space. Some veterans protested against the white washing of the wall. They believed in what the mural portrayed – the union of money and war.
In the end a problematic image that created public outcry was short lived… It sounds like our mass media cycle – is this as art should function or the type of work and outcome that a museum desires? Deitch leaves it up to the artist, and that seems too easy. It is the makings for a lot of bad art getting a good run. What about the question of the maturity of the artist. By maturity, I mean an artist undertaking the responsibility to inform oneself, to talk with people, to do research and consider the nuances of a neat visual idea. If an artist informs herself and then proceeds with the work, great, but if an artist runs with a strong visual idea without carefully considering the meaning from various perspectives… then should this type of work be supported? Can research lead to self-sensorship?
Boris Groys: at museums pray to religious artifacts… always imagine what an ancient Egyptian or Greek or Aztec would feel or think if visiting a contemporary museum with these artifacts.
To offend people is a good thing to do because it provokes a reaction, it makes clear the attitude, it puts things on the table.
Lisa Phillips: the strongest art is disrespectful, problematic, because it’s a new way of seeing, a way of seeing that is disruptive and exists before entering the mainstream and being accepted.
Jack Persekian: Installation in preparation for the Pope’s visit to Palestine, images that merged Baroque art with current life of Palestinian’s… what we think of the Holy Land and what it means to live in the location… Carvaggio – Thomas asked to touch Jesus’s wounds – switched to identity card used to scan the finger print of Palestinian’s. The work turned out to be too confrontational to be presented to the pope.
Tonight (1/22/15) I attended the Jewish Museum’s “Universal Pictures: Considering Contemporary Video Practice” – a roundtable discussion with artists Joan Jonas, Ken Okiishi, Lucy Raven and Jennifer West.
I was 30 minutes late and unfortunately missed Joan Jonas’s presentation.
I walked in at the end of Lucy Raven’s talk as she introduced the excerpt from her film “Curtains” (50 minutes, 2014). Raven traveled around the world to capture various post-production studios where films are processed into stereoscopic 3D films. The snippet itself appeared terribly boring to have to watch, but the conceptual basis is striking. In considering the use of sound, Raven remarked how, the 3D processing flattens the film to a moving hologram, whereas sound when using surround sound is much more immersive and physical and 3 dimensional. There was little time for question and answer, however, I would have liked to have heard Raven’s thoughts regarding the temporal reality of a given digital technical labor. Today these post production studios are getting tax breaks in major cities. As the tech becomes less specialized the labor will move to cheaper markets rather than major cities, I wondered how quickly these studios would dissolve. I would have liked to have heard her reflections regarding digital labor after having visited all these post production studios throughout the globe.
To Ken Okiishi, I have one suggestion – don’t put video in a PowerPoint presentation – doing so will keep your computer from crashing. The interactive paint ball installation was cool, but trite. And the painted screens seemed to be too much of a shtick, not very interesting as objects though momentarily engaging. I did like the parallel between these art objects and our use of smart phones with traces of greasy finger marks…
Jennifer West presented fascinating material, including a satirical 18th century illustration of people’s fascination with lenses. She discussed her practice of using recycled film, drawing from the magic lantern, interests in pre-cinema practices, the beauty of 70mm film. The use of flash light projections in her installations. And she ended with images or brainstorming around her ongoing project on film memory. Which lead me to consider what do I remember of a favorite film? The pieces that stand out? And to consider the psychological power of circulation & cinema upon a mass public.
The Jewish Museum should have allotted more time for this roundtable, I’m sure other people had questions, but they pressed how they had gone beyond the given time.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing small web sketches comprised of photos that I’ve shot and animations or illustrations that I’ve done. Since the Charlie Hebdo attack, I’ve been thinking about God or higher being in its most popular forms which lead to a visual idea that I quickly assembled. Below is the rotoscope loop of a male nude walking with a rotation of the heads of primary religious figures as popularly depicted. And here’s the gif embedded in an HTML page with music and 3d effects walking through digital space…
The Franklin Furnace Fund awards grants annually to emerging artists to enable them to produce major performance art works in New York. Grants range between $2,000 and $10,000 based on the peer review panel allocation of funding received by Franklin Furnace.
Franklin Furnace has no curator; each year a new panel of artists reviews all proposals. We believe this peer panel system allows all kinds of artists from all over the world an equal shot at presenting their work. Every year the panel changes, as do the definitions of “emerging artist” and “performance art.” So if at first you don’t succeed, please try again.
Artists from all areas of the world are encouraged to apply; however, artists selected by the panel are expected to present their work in New York. Full-time students are ineligible.
The Franklin Furnace Fund 2015-2016 is supported by Jerome Foundation, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by general operating support from the New York State Council on the Arts. Artists supported by funding from Jerome Foundation must live in the five boroughs of New York City.
Deadline: April 1, 2015 at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time
If you have any questions about the application process, please contact:
Program Coordinator, Franklin Furnace
In 1972 President Richard Nixon took a dramatic first step toward normalizing relations with the communist People’s Republic of China. In 1985 Reagan saw Mikhail Gorbachev as a viable negotiating partner. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had dissolved. The normalization of relations between the United States and adversary countries tends to lead to diplomatic change and a working relationship that mutually benefits both countries. For Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to not recognize this reflects an ignorance of international relations. Change can only come about through communication and understanding.
As part of the exhibition “PLAYING WITH FIRE: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions” at El Museo del Barrio several interviews were conducted with the artists concerning their practice. Below is the interview that the curator Nicolás Dumit Estévez conducted with me for the exhibition. The exhibition continues on view until February 7th.
NDE: Can you talk about the use of firearms in On Transmitting Ideology?
RMZ: Through the amplification of mass media, ideological rhetoric is a powerful cultural weapon. I wanted to make as transparent as possible the power of ideological speech and its transmission through the media; mounting the radios on to the forms of AK47s and Uzis immediately triggers this link – the transmission of ideological speech is a political weapon.
NDE: I had the opportunity to see images of the performance of On Transmitting Ideology in Berlin, Germany. What were some of the reactions from passersby? My understanding is that people in the streets encountered you, as well as a small cadre of performers carrying wooden AK47s? How did you go about recruiting participants to your piece?
RMZ: The march was one act of a 24 hour sound performance titled “Moving Forest” that was commissioned for “transmediale.08: CONSPIRE…” an annual art and digital culture festival in Berlin. The performance and call for participants was circulated during the festival, so it was festival participants that volunteered to be part of the performance. The march of 20 participants was from Haus der Kulturen der Welt to the public park Siegessäule with a stop by the mayor’s home. My constant fear was that of authorities stoping us, but police merely looked at us with disinterest. Also most pedestrians merely paused to watch us, some asked what we were doing and when English speaking, we had them listen to the audio montage. People who did so, generally understood the work and were only surprised by the extremism spoken in the historically famous speeches.
NDE: There is a great deal of debate between those who advocate for guns and those who want to ban them . I am wondering how On Transmitting Ideology may or may not position itself in the context of this push and pull.
RMZ: The representation of the gun is to reflect the violent nature of ideology and if one is to listen to the audio montage, it capture extremism. I consider both violence and extremism as negative characteristics of society. The reading of the work that is most in line with my goal in creating the work is that we as a society need to move away from both weapons and ideological extremisms – political and religious.
NDE: What are your thoughts about the politization of aesthetics. It has come to my attention that, while it is fashionable to make “political” work, politics are not a hip subject in the art world?
RMZ: I have little interest in the art world. I’m much more interested in art that exists outside of the art world; art that engages people who are not seeking art and may function outside the gallery or museum. I’m interested in art that attempts to weave itself into the fiber of everyday culture while investigating, questioning and perhaps critiquing normative culture to stir self reflection. Much of the exchange in the art world is to decorate the homes of the wealthy or perhaps to serve as an investment for the wealthy. Perhaps for the art collector, investing in work that portrays current day politics is a bad long-term investment choice and not the best home decoration. If art world work is political, it needs to be sufficiently abstracted or undefined to function as a commodity object, so that any political potential has been muted.
NDE: Making political art work entails a big responsibility and a challenge as well. How can art that is politically-conscious live beyond the art world and effect change in society at large? And is this the role of the artist?
RMZ: This is a tough questions, because I don’t know how one would measure the effect of politically charged work upon others whom it may inspire to act. I believe that as long as the drive to create political art is sincere – that the artist is compelled to make political art due to first-hand experience of injustice, inequality, the misuse of power, it is not the role of the artist to effect change. The role of the artist is to capture and convey.
This interview is part of Crossfire, a project conceived and edited by Nicolás Dumit Estévez for El Museo del Barrio.
Using CartoDB user SRoghers has created a visualization of the hashtags #ICantBreathe, #BlackLivesMatter and #HandsUpDontShoot on Twitter