Arts & Culture, Went There

WENT THERE: Data Flow at Boston Cyberarts


Nathalie Miebach, “The Last Show Was For The Bleachers” (2016)

Boston Cyberarts’ multimedia Data Flow exhibition explores relationships between data, creativity, nature, and perception. The exhibition includes pieces that have utilized data and code as production materials, and the work deals with biological, physical, chemical, and geographical events in natural and scientific settings. The Data Flow exhibition is found in Boston Cyberarts Gallery at the Green Street T stop in Jamaica Plain. The gallery rumbles periodically as the Orange Line runs beneath the floor. A Boston Cyberarts attendant sits quietly at the desk.

A striking piece in the corner of the gallery is Karl Sims’ Flow (2018). Flow is an interactive installation that uses a real time camera feed to insert the viewer and outside world into the art, processing the images it receives and invariably emitting its programmed interpretation of the environmental events. Flow runs nine total hours of image processing via ten total modules, from “Particle Waves” to “Ink Squirt”. Though the code may eventually repeat itself, the image onscreen might never be quite the same, if only for the very slightest variation of natural light, which peeks in through the exhibit’s windows and glass doors to Green Street Station.

Among my favorite pieces in the gallery were those by Nervous System, who use a unique process involving generative design and 3D printing to create their art. Florescence Zoetrope (2014) revisits an obsolete style of animation through the scientifically advanced scope of Nervous System’s creative process. The greatest value of Florescence Zoetrope to me is in its duality. Each of the two zoetropes can be evaluated in its resting state, but when the yellow button is engaged, the carousel is sent into a spiral beneath a rapidly flashing light, creating an exciting illusion that could mesmerize a viewer of any age.

Another mesmerizing series in the Data Flow exhibition is Mark J. Stock’s Immaculate Collision (2014-2017). These works initially reminded me of still life. They seem like thin black veils, somehow suspended in gravity and time. As it turns out, the images are virtual x-rays of large droplets of colliding fluid, “generated by complex algorithms and emerging only after trillions of mathematical operations.” How beautifully natural the Immaculate Collision pieces appear to be stands in stark contrast to the unfathomable complexity of their origin. A bus driver in high school once told me that Jesus understood quantum physics. If the design of the Immaculate Conception was as intelligent as that of Immaculate Collision, then Donny from the South Orange bus had to be right.

Mark J Stock, “Immaculate Collision 11” (2014)

“Data Flow: An Exhibition of Algorithmic Art” is on display now until October 28, 2018. Admission is free and the gallery is open Friday through Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. at 141 Green Street in Jamaica Plain.

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