Evil Earth System / 2016

Evil Earth System is an exhibition and a series of works based on the exploration of contemporary language and data visualization. The works were presented as an installation.

What began as test collaboration with Slovenian programmer Marko Plahuta became the foundation of a search into contemporary language, the possibilities of data visualization, and its relationship to the representation of landscape. Exploring how the Internet and social media have changed how we use language, and to what purpose, over 8 million Tweets were collected over an extended period of time and mined for words starting with the prefixes anti-, pro-, pre-, post-, neo-, proto-, hyper- and contra-. Twitter was chosen because of the engaged, proactive, opinionated, agitated, and outspoken nature of the medium. The said prefixes were chosen as samples of commonly used prefixes, their potential role in contemporary linguistic creativity – combinations into neologisms.

Our investigation yielded long lists of words and facts. The data was filtered, geo-located according to the country of registration of the Twitter account, and aggregated to create values that were applied to objects, shapes and gestures. The Evil Earth System data is available via THIS LINK, as a digital map of the world, a representation of landscape through language, an opinionated Evil Earth map. The map interactively visualizes the proportion of words with given prefixes and suffixes in each country of the world, normalized by country’s population.

The overall occurrences of prefixes were also converted to percentage values that could be directly translated into visual values, such as size of font, size of square, percentage of black gradient. An example of this process is as follows:  Our research determined that the prefix anti -had the variety of 2,123 individual words, and more than 30,000 occurrences in the 8 million Tweets. Therefore, anti- was allocated the value of 100%. On the other hand, we had identified only 395 words with the prefix neo-, which is 18% in relation to anti-. This simple method of indexing was taken further and used in the construction of objects in the Evil Earth System exhibition. Not all the objects presented are visualized data, but all of them are inspired by the findings of our data mining.

In the tradition of concrete poetry of the 50’s and onward, the materiality of language (and in this case data) is utilized, both as meaning and as code. I looked towards early computer art, op art, conceptual art and the international movement that brought forth concrete/visual poetry for my historical reference points. I worked with a system of causes and effects, a tautological system of references extracting visual compositions out of data. I granted myself irrational interventions and subjective decisions as a ludic element in this exhibition-system, in contrasting the subjective with the methodological, the lyrical with the geometrical.

Objects, all reverse painting on plate glass, with some executed in the technique of “verre églomisé” (gilding with 22k gold leaf or genuine silver leaf), are arranged as a tabletop compositions, at the same time emancipated in their own materiality and elusive–dematerialized by light, transformed into invisible reflective surfaces. The shadows and reflections play as an important role as the objects themselves. It could be said that the research, the objects and this whole narrative is just a by-product, a necessary evil of the system, the method and the direction taken in the creating these light abstractions.