BCNM was pleased to host artist Luke DuBois at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation November 10th, 2016 to discuss “Sex, Lies, and Data Mining.” Luke charted his artistic trajectory, from co-authoring Jitter, a software suite for the real-time manipulation of matrix data developed by San Francisco-based software company Cycling’74, to his latest projects in hard data visualization. Luke explained how he first worked with synthesizers and created visualizations based on audio. He then began playing with “time-lapse sonography,” which collapsed classical composition, removing rhythms and melodies to reveal new harmonies. He applied this technique later to larger swaths of music, film and images, collapsing the history of American music, for instance, into 37 minutes (the 1970s is unsurprisingly in the F key!). This allowed Luke to uncover some of the formal aspects of the media he used — main characters in modern films, for example, are always in motion, meaning that they are erased from their own films when these artifacts are compressed. By creating a computational canon, Luke explores how our culture is outside of our control. Luke also began working in text based art, creating “Vision” tests for each of the Presidents based on their state of the union speeches. He applied this text analysis also to dating profiles to learn more about the average man and woman, drilling down to the zipcode level to investigate who we are, want to be, and would like. Luke ended with the most powerful of his works, an illustration of why data visualization fails. In New Orleans, he bought a gun used in a murder and placed it in a gallery filled with blanks. Each time a gun was shot in the city, the gallery gun fired, filling the vitrine with cartridges. Patrons of the gallery would feel disappointed when the gun did not fire when they visited, even though they were aware what the shot meant. In this way, Luke pointed out how graphs and figures fail, how data can hurt. All of his works evidence his larger goal of pushing against cultural homogeny through peacemaking.
It was a pleasure hosting Luke! If you want to see more of his work, visit the Minnesota Street Project, which is currently exhibiting his art in fifteen year anniversary showcase of Bitforms.