Systems Thinking. In Conversation with the artist Stanza

August 8, 2013 by stanza Leave a reply »
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Systems Thinking.  In Conversation with Stanza

Stanza’s system and technology-based works have been exhibited around the world for nigh-on 30 years. With this body of work focussing on urban architecture and alienation, data and privacy, and online environments and culture, his work – mashing up networks, screens, circuitry and CCTV – seems more relevant than ever.

We caught up with Stanza at the start of his new show at the Watermans Gallery, The Emergent City – From complexity to the city of bits.

Read the Full Interview here

http://www.imperica.com/in-conversation-with/systems-thinking-in-conversation-with-stanza

Portrait of artist Stanza

Portrait of artist Stanza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stanza’s system and technology-based works have been exhibited around the world for nigh-on 30 years. With this body of work focussing on urban architecture and alienation, data and privacy, and online environments and culutre, his work – mashing up networks, screens, circuitry and CCTV – seems more relevant than ever.

We caught up with Stanza at the start of his new show at the Watermans Gallery, The Emergent City – From complexity to the city of bits.

Please introduce The Emergent City – your vision for the exhibition and how it came into being.

I began a series of artworks in 2003 based on connecting city spaces which used research that I have been doing into real-time data and future possibilities for smart cities. A series of artistic experiences resulted from the research, based on the mashed-up metadata from city data streams.

The Emergent City leverages these real-time data city streams, using my own sensor systems, and represents them online, showing the life of the system, opening it up, and the publishing emerging changing behaviours of the space. All things are becoming connected and networked – not just the city, but the whole world. Eventually, sensors will be interlinked to give a real-time global visualization, a public domain data resource for art and environmental monitoring.

Artwork By  Stanza Using Big Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The installation goes beyond simple single-user interaction, to monitor and survey the whole city in real time, and represent the complexities of the city as a shifting, morphing, and complex system. The artwork explores new ways of thinking about life, the emergence and interaction within public space, and how this affects the socialisation of space. It uses environmental monitoring technologies and security based technologies to question audiences’ experiences of real-time events, and creates visualisations of life as it unfolds. The artwork captures the changes over time in the environment (the city) and represents the changing life and complexity of space as an emergent artwork.

What you experience and see are hundreds of parts which come alive as the data changes and evolves. It’s a hybrid work, powered by live events. On the floor, there are hundreds of electronic components: fans, LEDs, solenoids, motors. The fans turn when the temperature changes and the motors turn when the light changes. These move in response to the wireless sensors, and are monitoring the light, temperature, noise, humidity of the space and the city. As this data changes, this “wired artwork city” changes. Inside the work are CCTV cameras that present feeds onto micro-monitors within the work itself.

How has the concept of what a city is and works, changed in your personal experience?

The city is everything, everywhere, without limits. It’s a virus on the skin, spreading outwards, upwards, and underground. There is no need to limit the city. It has no bounds.

The city itself is always changing; it is always in flux. Each aspect of city life seems to demonstrate specific characteristics which can be developed into individual parts of the labyrinth, making up the images that will be used. A city experience consists of small unit blocks and cells which inter-relate, and lock together to form the composite city identity. The city has moved from metropolis, to megalopolis, to the ecumenopolis. The city is everywhere, with lifeless design spreading upwards and forming a conundrum of physical objects in space.

How have you used the gallery space for this piece?

The gallery space becomes a live emergent sculpture to wander through. The changing life in the real-time city creates all the changes which one experiences in the gallery space. The leads, wires, and cables are incorporated into the artwork in order to look like a city map.

The installation is “designed” like a piece of urban design; a city, surveyed and controlled. The whole gallery space becomes one large artwork made from real-time city information and data. The moving objects, fans, changing lights, motors, noises, which you encounter in the gallery are all responding to changes in temperature, light, pressure, noise, and the sound of the city outside. The aesthetic and feel of the space looks like an electronic city. The city is made of units, grids, repetition, building blocks.

What are your personal thoughts on the amount of data that city systems now collect about their inhabitants, perhaps in the light of the recent NSA / GCHQ controversies?

Can we use new technologies to imagine a world where we are liberated and empowered, where finally all of the technology becomes more than a gimmick, and starts to actually work for us, or are these technologies going to control us, separate us, divide us, create more borders? My wireless sensor network is set up to “visualise” the space all around us as worlds full of data. These new data-spaces can help us understand the fundamentals of our external environment.

 

Please tell us about Synchronicity, and how the app has helped to augment the visitor’s experience – both in terms of the depth of what they can experience, and how mobile has helped to extend the way in which visitors understand your work.

Dara Visualisation by The Artist Stanza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an artwork, Synchronicity paints the real-time data of London, including public transport data, into a real time “thing”. This maze is represented to the screen as a system that moves, morphs, shifts. Its organic networks of information technology are remediated, creating analogies for the organic identity of the city as a social sculpture in what is a public domain space.

Do you think that contemporary city systems help or hinder the concept of urban alienation?

We are connecting and monotoring not just the space, but the movement and agency of space. The motives for this are vague and questionable, from a variety of positions – ethically and morally.

We know about the surveillance cultures and the notions of the Panopticon. Too much is being “invested” into this controllable space. The is no doubt in my mind, the there are obvious benefits which are easy to cite. However, such a blanketing of control is a sophisticated red herring. It is too risky for a large population of have-nots. We are better off with no surveillance, and the investment should be made elsewhere.

Can we “log off” from the system and live invisibly and choose not to be processed, or are such notions of freedom now well in the past?

The networks are never available to the public when we need them…. they get switched off. Transparency will only work when the power is shared equally.

There will be no invisibility. I explored this in Freezone, in 2005. The irony and contradiction is that if you are off-grid, it will be much easier to locate you. Work such as Monument play with levels of transparency inside this collection of information.

City systems and massive data processing facilities remain in the ownership of large organisations (whether public or private). How can they be democratised? Turned over for the common good? Hacked?

What amazes me is the shock of the Snowden leaks. However, I think all the countries are monitoring one another, so that’s no shock. We have known that various systems have been in place which have been and are being re-developed and updated all the time.

We are just going through a current phase of observation in the guise of big data: collecting everything because it has “value”. There are many reasons for this, from money-motivated values to well-grounded observations regarding modelling techniques that benefits someone in some way. However, they all lead to more levels of state control and alienation for those that will not be able to pay for them. The city of haves and have-nots.

What’s next for you after Watermans, and coming up for the rest of the year?

Data Data Data is made from data collected by the sensors inside a building. This is an art project which gives information about the fabric of our cities. In Façade, the artwork changes its behaviour as a result of changing conditions in the environment. The results become representations of the real time spaces and environment of Trondheim.

 

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