PRINT March 2001

“Data Dynamics”

CHRISTIANE PAUL: In the past five years, visual models for the mapping of data flow have become one of the central narratives in Net art. “Data Dynamics” focuses on those models, which offer navigational possibilities for experiencing information, a form of “dynamic mapping,” where the map is continuously reconfigured before the viewer's eyes.

SAUL ANTON: The notion of dynamic mapping is a bit abstract. Are we talking about the packaging of information and the way it's delivered through interfaces like browsers, e-mails, or videos?

PAUL: Information can be infinitely recycled and reproduced, and it can breed new ideas through recombination. Data are intrinsically virtual and exist as processes that aren't necessarily visible. The search for visual models that allow for dynamic mapping is inextricably connected to the attempt to visualize the nonlocality of cyberspace. Although video also lends itself to appropriation and reframing, it still represents a fairly linear format. Even interactive installations mostly rely on arranging and rearranging sequences. In digital art, data sets (from the stock market to the weather) can be monitored live and translated into various forms of visualization. Models created for visualizing data are a form of intervention and aesthetic choice.

ANTON: The social context of these works is related to the museum's role as “convening authority.” Does “information,” itself a cultural form, also play the role of “convening authority,” to the extent that it homogenizes distinct media into “plurimedia”?

PAUL: I don't believe that information plays this role of “convening authority,” but one could certainly understand it that way. The concept of information is a theoretical construct similar to the postmodern idea of the “text.” Everything from a painting to a sculpture to a novel can be understood as “information,” but that doesn't mean that artists today have to produce it. Rather, it's the basis from which they are working. There are many online/digital artworks that create parameters which make the visual manifestation of the art possible. Many of the artworks in “Data Dynamics” explicitly address this issue and function on this basis. Netomat (, for example, is based on code that allows users to filter and process information. Martin Wattenberg's and Marek Walczak's The Apartment, 2001, translates the words typed in by the User into 2-D and 3-D rooms. There is no visual manifestation of the artwork until the user starts creating it. In Point to Point, 2001, the piece Mark Napier created for “Data Dynamics,” visitors to the museum will create the artwork just by walking through the museum space. The art consists of both the underlying source code and the manifestation it finds through user input or the processing of data.