Remarks on Data as Art Seminar

I’ve spent the beginning of this week at Data as Art – Art as Data Seminar that took place at Aalto University School of Art and Design. The seminar was intended for doctoral students of two doctoral schools Elomedia and Design Connections. The idea of the seminar was to make us think about the role of data in our own research.

Tuesday I held a paper, which was themed loosely around assemblage theory and Kittlerian media theory. You can find the extended abstract here as well as the abstracts of other panelists. When I made the abstract I didn’t realize that it would be published online nor that I’d have to give a presentation about the subject. So the whole paper was stitched together quite quickly.

Now data is a challenging concept for anyone doing research in the field of humanities or arts. In fact a quantitative understanding of data was entirely missing from this seminar. Instead data was understood as something that has its own agency, something that is always in the limit of pre-rational and rational, sense and non-sense. Many of us claimed that as researchers we need to let the data speak its own language. It shouldn’t be forced into ready-made molds of research methods or pregiven answers. Indeed there was a demand for autonomy of objects and I am quite sure Object Oriented Ontologists would’ve been happy to hear many of the talks.

Mika Elo’s keynote “Exposing Art as Research” was particularly interesting. Elo’s argument was that we need artistic research since it digs beneath concepts such as meaning or sense. For Elo artworks touch – both metaphysically and emotionally. They work in the category of pre-rational which for Elo is something co-rational instead of irrational. Elo referred to Walter Benjamin’s concept of translation. If I understood this correctly translation for Benjamin is not a translation of content. Instead translation provides an access from one language to another. Hence we can think of artistic research as translation of one medium to another. Not only the ideas or meanings of that art work but also how it touches our senses. One particular attempt to provide a better platform for publication of artistic research is Journal for Artistic Research where Elo’s talk is to be published in the near future. It is indeed an interesting platform and worth checking out.

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