Big Data in Art

When you look at the image below, what springs to mind? Would you have guessed that it is in fact made up of 100,000 photographs shared on Twitter in Los Angeles during the summer of 2013?


This installation is one of several in the collection Instagram Cities by Damon Crockett, where photographs that were posted on Instagram, are divided into 16X16 pixel parts and organized by average hue and brightness. The collection gives an insight into cultural life in the individual cities, such as which metropolis has a high frequency of nighttime photography.

Or what about Dandelion Mirror by Scottie Chih-Chieh Huang? It features a mirror that uses a physiological measuring device with non-contact sensor technology. The virtual dandelion blooms when the viewer smiles, shrinks when the smile fades, and becomes a flower bud if the viewer does not smile.


Big Data is intertwined more closely to art than is initially thought. For every image that is seen and every video that is watched, Big Data has a role to play. These aforementioned pieces of art are just two examples of how modern day artists are delving into the world of Big Data. The art exhibition opened at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, on April 21. Dr. Hans Jörg Stotz, senior vice president of IoT Strategy Products and Innovation at SAP, gave a welcome speech. This was followed by an introduction from curator Alexandra Cozgarea and an engaging speech, Art in the Digital Age, from gallery owner Priska Pasquer.


From April 22 through to July 29, SAP will host the exhibition of works by contemporary artists who are interested in the visual representation of Big Data and who embrace digital technologies in the structural make-up of their creative explorations.

The exhibition includes eight approaches to the subject by international artists in the media of photography, video, and installation. Exhibiting artists include: Evan Roth, Viktoria Binschtok, Adrian Sauer, Johanna Reich, Philipp Schaerer, Software Studies Initiative, Scottie Chih-Chieh Huang, Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer. The exhibition is being held in collaboration with PRISKA PASQUER and ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe).

How can art and Big Data complement one another?

Against the background of global connectivity and the proliferation of data that stems inevitably from it, “Big Data Goes Art” is an attempt to visualize gargantuan volumes of data and create a tangible “Big Data experience” through interactive installation artwork. Through the interplay between art and digital technology, these new art forms not only raise questions about structural characteristics and about the boundaries between the physical and the virtual, the analog and the digital; they also reflect our visionary departure into a multifaceted media future that will be shaped by innovation.

According to Evan Roth, artist of Slide to Unlock, “Digital media should be free and copied. That’s its natural state. It’s like flowing water. We’re all part of the digital revolution. It’s happening so fast, and there is a new group of informed collectors who are beginning to understand the work in an intimate way.”

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