Performing Data

visualisations of trees in a forest in the UK and Brazil

Performing data is a concept that has arisen as a response to the ways that the artists bring data ‘centre stage’ within their artworks – employing performative and temporal strategies to provoke emotional responses to the data.

‘The visualisations provide a conversation not only metaphorically between the trees and locations, connected by the two sets of mobile sensors but also across different temporal zones, enabling the public to experience forest environments as an evolving, moving landscape that changes over time.”  (Jacobs and Shackford, from the Material Conditions Publication)

“The drawings produced by the Climate Machine physically fill up the space as time passes, you wouldn’t get this sense of accumulation through a scientific graph, a screen or projected image.” (Jacobs and Selby, from the Material Conditions Publication)

paper discs with C02 data hanging from the ceiling behind the climate machine

This concept of ‘performing data’ was extended through the development of the Timestreams platform and defined as:

  • Data that can be replayed or experienced live in real time and real physical space
  • Data that can be used to create and control sensory, embodied, immersive experiences and mechanical and electronic artefacts, in order to represent a meaningful narrative based experience (replayed or live) of the data
  • Data that is remediated as sensory, embodied, immersive and mechanical time-based artworks


setting up a timestream

“performance is there in terms of the way we make the data perform or that we create a situation where the audience can influence what’s going on… kind of feedback loops between the audience, the experience and back to them and so either they are actively taking part in it or they become active performers” (Watkins, 2012)

inflatible sculptures controlled by decibels and C02

‘The Prediction Machine’ will explore how performances of data can occur both through the interaction with a machine that tracks climate data and marks moments of climate change, through printing out a narrative devised in collaboration with artists, scientists and the public. This will then directly inform an ‘action’ to mark these climate change moments. This will be a public performative event that will be informed by and in response to the data.

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