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Library exhibit examines big data through works of art

  • Photo of art piece in exhibit
  • Photo of exhibit

Posted on October 02, 2017

Can data become meditative and bent toward poetry? 

This question is being posed and answered by a new art exhibit located in the Exhibition Space of the Mary Idema Pew Library. 

"Reading Time Across Words and Numbers" examines big data and design thinking through a collection of works of art inspired by sets of data, such as the water level changes in a Missouri river. The exhibit will be on display through October 29. 

The collection of works was created by Heather Corcoran, a writer, designer and educator from Washington University in St. Louis. Erin Fisher, library program manager, said this is the first time that work from outside of Grand Valley is on display in Mary Idema Pew Library. 

Corcoran will speak about her work on October 11, at 6 p.m., in the library’s Multipurpose Room.

The exhibit features poems and historical and fictional excerpts from history books and literature that represent how informational, textual and visual art can record the passage of time.

The pieces are designed geometrically and require direct interaction from the viewer. For example, one poem is written in a circular pattern that requires the reader to turn their head as they read the poem.

Fisher said that this exhibit caters to a broad audience although it may present added value to those interested in the fields of art and design, English, writing, computer information systems, statistics and digital studies.

“Each piece, in very different ways, examines the passage of time through the visualization of data, but that data could be literary references, elements found in nature and other data that isn’t coming from scientific research but from other abstract references,” she said.

Fisher said she hopes that this exhibit will give viewers a moment of pause since it has the potential to lead viewers to new insights, realizations and understandings. 

“Artwork can take you out of yourself and present things in a way that it is potentially just abstract enough that you have to concentrate and you can’t just scroll through it,” Fisher said. “In order to digest the components of a work you have to spend time with it.”

- Story written by Marissa LaPorte, University Communications student writer