Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

26-28 November 2020, University of Applied Arts Vienna/Online

112. The Data Corpus: the Body as a Physical Informational Nexus
Session: Session "NSP14 / Automaton"
Speakers: Joe Cantrell

The proliferation of data transmission and mobile devices in particular has positioned information to be in acutely close proximity with the human body. In the course of our daily activities, we are in constant contact with the cloud of digital data that is literally washing through our bodies at any given second in the form of electromagnetic pulses from wireless data, mobile phones, and digital broadcasts. Although invisible, these transmissions are just as real as our own bodies.  

In this sense, our lived environments are deeply entangled with the ebb and flow of data and the cultural, economic, and political forces that drive it. This relationship is not just metaphorical, but exists as a constant physical reality. The mobile data that helps us navigate our streets, travels through and is enmeshed with our physical anatomy. In this sense, the map becomes the territory: we perturb the streams of data with our communications and computational choices, and they in turn change and are changed by us.

When viewed in this way, it becomes difficult to perceive the body as an actor that treats data as an external utility. In other words, the shared physical nature of data streams compels a view of them as being an entangled part of the body. This extended view of the body becomes a contested technosocial space, which feeds into and is fed by a collective agency that includes data, human physicality, and sociocultural histories.

This artist talk will present work that explores the liminal state between information and the human corpus. Works discussed will include copy | write, which considers the body a filter for audio data as it changes digital to the physical and back again. This is exabled by printing out the waveform of a hit song onto rolls of receipt paper, and hand tracing them back into a computer via a pen tablet. The result is a version of the song that is recognizable, but also indelibly changed by the inexactitudes and involuntary motions of the body as it acts as a conduit for information. 

Other pieces and perspectives in this area will also be explored, including the connection of the body to the physical products and mechanisms that produce and enable performative media data. These include the EEG-enabled piece Shift Register, as well as an examination of the connection between the labor involved in the creation of data and its physicality.

Joe Cantrell

Hosting Institutions

angewandte   inarts