Interpreting the Data
Martin Wattenberg andn Mark Napier, April 4 – May 4, 2002
Data – raw information – is the seed of all artistic inspiration. But it may never be as transparent as it is in digital art. Both of these artists create art through the digital interpretation of data; both generate fantastic artistic output from familiar input. Martin Wattenberg takes relatively mundane sources of inspiration, for example, a page from the dictionary or the morning’s stock quotes, and interprets the data to create mesmerizing art. For the show at bitforms, Wattenberg has chosen a very rich data source: music.
Wattenberg takes music – ranging from Mozart to Madonna – and analyzes it to reveal the deep structures of musical form. The result is beautiful designs, and each print is as distinct as its musical equivalent. Upon close examination, one can discern typical patterns of musical genres; so, while the digital representation of a Beatles song may resemble that of other pop melodies, it differs drastically from designs corresponding to a gospel choral piece or a Mahler symphony. For Wattenberg, who is close to tone deaf himself, this is a very personal form of music appreciation – in addition to an entirely new mode of artistic production.
Where the art institution sees an object of art, Mark Napier sees an interface; where the person who buys a work of art is traditionally seen as the owner of that work, when you buy a piece of Napier’s you become a collaborator. With this show, Napier upsets the ideas of ownership in art, introducing the radical concept of “shared art.” This is “net” art, art that is about the Internet and is designed to exist in a network environment. The work resides on a CD-ROM and can run on any computer equipped with a cable modem. The interactive artwork can be sold to more than one person – each time someone else “buys into” the work, they have the ability to alter the code, to contribute to the evolution – to the very realization – of the kaleidoscopic images.
“This is not about one person taking possession of a unique object when they buy art,” said Napier. “I see artwork as a network. This art is a process to be shared by many. Collaboration is essential.”