Experimentation with Materials and Data

2010 – 2012

This is a record of various exercises I completed at ITP. The first images correspond to a pop-up book with poems written by Nicky Beer and illustrations by Ernst Haeckel.

Next is a series of fabric pages from a project called Madame Bovary; Embroidered Punctuation, where I explored translation by creating new texts from the same original, translated into different languages. I removed all letters, leaving only punctuation and unique characters (é, â, ñ, ç, è, etc.), which highlighted encoding issues in French and Spanish.

With these stripped-down texts, I experimented with ways to print them and chose embroidery, a common practice in the time of Madame Bovary. I took the first 30 lines from each generated file, created an embroidery file, and used an embroidery machine to produce the pages.

In a third project, we propose an object constructed by translating digital text into a 3D form. The text was something like this: You are looking at an object that manifests this text; pure digital information recreated in a physical form. In contemporary new media and the information age, what can be said about dematerialization? This project proposes that translating data into a material form is a method of dematerialization. Manuela Garreton and Jack Kalish, two artists working in New Media, created this text-object by combining two previous works.

In winter 2010 at NYU’s ITP program, Jack Kalish and Gabriella Levine created Bytelight, an interactive light sculpture. Bytelight allows people to manipulate digital information through light switches, translating it into overhead colored light.

Around the same time, Manuela Garreton developed Plant Reader, a program that extracts information from plant photographs taken during her research in a Plant Biology Lab. It visualizes data from each pixel as a graph, transforming real-world information into digital data for analyzing plant growth.

These works explore translating material and immaterial manifestations of color from opposite directions. Bytelight translates digital color information into physical light, while Plant Reader converts natural color information into digital data.

New Media is inherently immaterial, relying on information as its medium. In this project, we translated this digital text into a physical object using a 3D printer, inspired by Luis Camnitzer’s writings on dematerialization and conceptual art in Latin America. By extruding text into a three-dimensional plane, each character’s digital data defines the object’s shape.

For us, dematerialization in art is about expressing a concept through various media while maintaining the original idea. As Sol Lewitt stated in “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” a conceptual artwork begins with an idea and involves the process of conception and realization. Our works, Bytelight and Plant Reader, share the central concept of information translation. By transforming this concept into a physical object, we created a new work that explains and justifies its own existence. In New Media, information is the most dematerialized medium, inherently conceptual, allowing us to start from the idea.