Information Flows

The sound vibrates through your feet and up through your legs, as it also flows through your arms as your hands touch the speakers suspended from the ceiling. Tajinder Dhami is concerned with data flow in the form of sound installations, as it has a perceptible relationship with the body.

Data flow is part of a new aesthetic affecting artists, their works and their users. In Dhami's work the individual becomes the subject, at the centre of a room full of suspended speakers. The sound acts upon her.

There are several ways to describe the individual engaging with the contemporary art work, especially when it has electronic structure; user, participant, enactant, gamer, surfer, interactor. The boundaries between artist and user continue to dissipate.

"The aura of art no longer lies in the hinter-world represented by the work, nor in form itself, but in front of it, within the temporary collective form that it produces by being put on show." [1]

Incorporating the user, the other, into the work, affecting them or allowing them to affect what is there is part of the data flow aesthetic, allowing them to be 'acted upon'.

Tina Gonsalves similarly affects the user, the participant, in her Chameleon Project. Faces on screens respond, as the program reads facial expressions and other signs of body language. In this way the participant, the other, becomes the subject of the work. Without participation there is nothing to see, or rather to experience.

"What human flow, governed by what forms, thus passes into art forms?" [2]

Grégory Chatonsky's moving image work, L'Attente - The Waiting, is very much concerned with human flows and Information flows. Contrasting the disconuity of filmed footage of passengers waiting at a railway station, with the 'incoming' comments of people on a social networking platform, which scroll across the screen. As if to emphasize the discontinuity of the passengers waiting, in discrete terms, footage segments repeat or loop several times. We become like the passengers, watching the screen and waiting for meaning to occur from all these disparate experiences and comments being 'relayed'.

L'Attente has its own particular rhythm, emphasized by the accompanying sound. Repetition is contrasted with an appliance, perhaps a light, being switched on and off. This is a database of information which can be entered at any point by the viewer. This creates the effect of never seeing the program the same way twice, creating the illusion of real-time interaction with the data.

Sound is very important to Renee Turner in her piece She..., a work of hyperliterature for the net. How to make a piece of hyperliterature? Turner has chosen to download news stories about iconic women, like Hilary Clinton and Princess Diana, as well as less well known women, like Elizabeth Fritzl, who was abused by her father and Marie-Smith Jones, the last Eyak speaker in Alaska.

These news stories are then interspersed with texts Turner has written, detailing her imaginings of the emotional state of these women, in relation the media texts. The effect is one of looking at the Media machine and contrasting the public and the private.

Information flow, in terms of downloaded news stories, creates an impressionistic hypertextual narrative which explores female iconicity, as generated through the Media matrix. Sound effects are carefully added to Turner's texts of private thoughts and feelings. This work relates in part, to data flow as moving image, and the effect of this hyperliterature is to immerse the user in an almost cinematic way.

Julia Burns has made a performance piece out of data flow, as she explores the relationship between public and private space. In 'Public Access to Privacy', she sits on a sofa, in a shopping mall in Sydney, typing messages into Twitter, the social networking platform. The computer screen is connected to a screen which displays her messaging activities to the public. There are certain similarities with the Renee Turner piece, although Burns is more concerned with simply exploring the nature of private information flow made visible as a public activity.

All these works deal with the way data flow affects perception, and in the case of Dhami and Gonsalves, exhibiting their work in a gallery context, how the participant can be acted upon, within that context.


Sarah Thompson 24.09.09

[1] Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presses du Réel, p61

[2] Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Les Presses du Réel, p74

To see Rennee Turner's work:

To see Julia Burns' work