Artists Working with Material Evidence

In the paper by Golan Levin about computer vision for artists and designers he talks about techniques used to, for example, track people or other objects and their movement in real life to transfer it to a screen for mainly artwork purpose like frame differencing, background subtraction and brightness thresholding. He refers to all these as simple concepts yet as very effective; the key being the fact that these are all suitable for novice programmers. He also mentions several examples that have either been made in the 20th century or the early 2000s, which makes it very interesting to compare how much computer vision has developed in the recent years.

One example that particularly spoke to me was the Suicide Box and the problem raised by it which is “the inherent suspicion of artists working with material evidence”. In this particular case there was an inconsistency with the number of people who committed suicide according to the interactive art piece and the data from the Port Authority. According to Suicide Box there were 4 more people who committed suicide and that raised suspicion whether the data represented in art pieces can be trusted. It reminded me of the French artist who visited us a while ago and talked to us and shared his projects where he had also done some sort of data visualization, for example, death and birth rates and the train departure time. I then realized that in these cases people didn’t seem to have a problem relying on this data because it is also of less significance than suicide attempts. Therefore, with so many more possibilities nowadays it is important to remain with a critical mind and check where the information is coming from (essentially in the Suicide Box case it could have probably been random objects vertically falling down and not necessarily people), although I also think it’s great how many opportunities there are now to make things look great and carry people away.