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What Is Information Art?

Information Art, or InfoArt, is a creative intersection where data meets design. It transforms complex information into visually compelling narratives, making the abstract tangible and accessible. By marrying aesthetics with analytics, InfoArt invites us to see patterns and stories hidden within data. How might it change your perception of the world around you? Explore the possibilities with us.
Debra Barnhart
Debra Barnhart

Information artists create art based on the cross-fertilization of ideas from art and science. They allow scientific research and technology to inspire and shape their work. Not recognizing any dichotomy between art and science, theories of information art suggest that art and techno-science can influence culture equally.

The Information Age has caused an explosion of ways to access and retrieve information.A wide array of methods for artists to express themselves has been established as the result of influence on the visual arts and information art. These modes of expression can range from the use of the principles of the natural sciences and mathematics to the use of computers and video game technology.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Many who create information art find inspiration in the natural sciences. For example, Ned Kahn is a sculptor who gains insights from physics, geology and astronomy. One of his sculptures, Seismic Sea, consists of a layer of water inside an acrylic dish. By standing on the base of the sculpture, viewers can create vibrations that cause waves to develop inside the dish. They can look up and see the beautiful patterns these waves create as well as see them reflected on the wall.

Dr. Clifford Pickover was not trained as an artist, although he sees himself as one. Educated at Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Pickover uses computers and fractal mathematics to create drawings and paintings. His humorous work, E.T. Fractal, looks like one or more aliens, depending on a person’s point of view.

It should go without saying that computers have had a profound influence on information art. Pieces based on video game technology is a growing area of information art. Often, these art games have no definitive goals like the ones found in typical video games. Their intention is to engage the viewer in an interactive experience that makes he or she re-evaluate concepts about art and games.

For the most part, information artists are not just interested in using technology to create art. They seek an understanding of the scientific principals and technology to create new forms of art. Viewing themselves almost as researchers, information artists feel that scientific knowledge can shape artwork. Theories of information art recognize that endeavors in art and techno-scientific innovation both require observation, creativity and abstract thinking.

Creators of information art often point out that prior to the Renaissance, art and science coexisted without any sense of dichotomy. Modern culture, however, has often separated the two, viewing them as disparate disciplines. Theories of information art see this schism as being illogical and based on narrow thinking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is information art and how does it differ from traditional art forms?

Information art, also known as data art, is a contemporary art form that uses data and information as its primary medium, rather than traditional materials like paint or clay. It often involves the visualization of complex data sets to create aesthetic patterns and structures that can be both visually appealing and intellectually stimulating. Unlike traditional art, which may focus on emotional expression or aesthetic principles, information art frequently engages with scientific or digital themes and often aims to make statements about technology, society, or the nature of information itself.

Can you give examples of how information art is created or displayed?

Information art can take many forms, including digital prints, interactive installations, or dynamic projections. For example, artists might use algorithms to transform social media trends into visual patterns, or they might create sculptures based on statistical data. A notable example is the work of R. Luke DuBois, who uses data from U.S. Census reports to create detailed maps and portraits. Information art is often displayed in galleries, public spaces, and online platforms, where the interplay between the artwork and its audience can become part of the experience.

What are the purposes or goals of information art?

The purposes of information art are diverse, ranging from aesthetic enjoyment to social commentary. Artists may aim to reveal hidden patterns in data, critique the omnipresence of information in modern life, or highlight issues such as privacy, surveillance, or the digital divide. Information art can also serve educational purposes, making complex data more accessible and understandable to the public. Ultimately, it seeks to bridge the gap between the abstract world of data and the tangible experiences of everyday life.

How has the rise of technology influenced the development of information art?

The rise of technology has been instrumental in the development of information art. Advanced software and computing power allow artists to process and visualize large data sets in ways that were previously impossible. The internet provides a vast source of real-time data and a platform for interactive artworks. Moreover, technology has expanded the audience for information art, as digital works can be easily shared and experienced globally. The proliferation of personal devices has also made interactive and personalized information art experiences more common.

What skills are necessary for creating information art, and how can one get started?

Creating information art requires a blend of artistic sensibility and technical skills. Familiarity with data analysis, programming, and graphic design software is often essential. Artists may need to understand complex data sets and have the ability to translate them into compelling visual forms. To get started, one can take courses in data visualization, digital media, or computer science, and experiment with visualization tools like Tableau or Processing. Collaborating with data scientists or participating in workshops can also provide valuable experience and inspiration for aspiring information artists.

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