NEWS18 March 2015

‘I'm the Kim Kardashian of data’ proclaims Brendan Dawes at Impact 2015

News Opinion UK

UK — Artist, designer and self-confessed geek Brendan Dawes told delegates at Impact 2015 how data and information gleaned from the internet can be used to create physical objects of beauty that take on a life outside the PC screen.


The English data artist was delivering an amusing and upbeat keynote at the culmination of yesterday’s ( 17 March) first day of the MRS conference, talking about “how we perceive data and how we can use it”.

He took the audience through a career – showcasing both personal and professional projects – that has seen him create an array of deceptively simple apps, objects and gadgets that make the abstract notion of data manifest as physical and virtual objects, images and animations.

Dawes touched on data and its ownership in relation to a piece of software he created called Kennedy – a smartphone app using a “super-minimal interface” that allows users to mark moments in their lives against the backdrop of what’s happening in the world around them. “The data the app collects on their phone – that’s their data,” he said.

Jokingly describing himself as the “Kim Kardashian of data”, Dawes said: “I take stuff and bend it into different shapes and forms to create different things, hopefully things that resonate with people in different ways.”

One installation called ‘Data at 24 frames per second’, that is due to go on show at Somerset House in London and has been displayed at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York), uses every frame from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ to create a massive image that reinterprets the film as a single art-piece.

Dawes also showed delegates a piece of work he produced for mobile operator EE’s launch of its 4G network – a collection of striking Vogel spiral-style images, a visual coalescence of “millions of pieces of Twitter data” representing UK cities over a period of time. The resulting ‘Digital City Portraits’ included an image of London, where a spike in social media activity was cause by news of Hurricane Sandy in New York causing an eruption of colour in the corresponding image.

Dawes also spoke of a project he is currently involved in with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which uses an algorithm to link Shakespeare quotations to news items, bringing “everything from 500 years ago up to date”.

“Data by itself is not enough”, he concluded. “Data needs poetry.