ArtsAPI Artist Commission: Ed Carter and David Cranmer ‘Smoke Signals’

In a world overloaded with data, it is difficult to make sense of the noise, and as arts organisations generate more data, new ways of seeing are needed.

In November 2014 we launched an open call for artists to create new work that explores the themes of networks, relationships, intermediaries and their impact on arts organisations. The artists chosen were to be given access to the prototype ArtsAPI tool and the data derived from the Social Network Analysis process that has so far been completed with seven leading arts organisations – Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Culture24, Red Eye, Blast Theory, Forma, FutureEverything, and Islington Mill.

We are thrilled to announce the commissioning of artists Ed Carter and David Cranmer, who have created a new work, Smoke Signals.

Smoke Signals takes data beyond the confines of the screen to visualise digital interaction. Turning the data of seven arts organisations into a visual and sonic experience, Smoke Signals invokes a physical presence of data streams, with each signal and sound indicating the movements of data within the contemporary online network.

Twelve smoke-ring cannons create a transient sculptural form inspired by the Polybius Square cypher. The sub-sonic frequencies used to create the rings are part of a broader evolving sound piece, with each tone and smoke ring relating to the communication activities of the ArtsAPI contributors. Using abstracted email archives as the dataset, a single central speaker affects the smoke rings where their paths cross, reflecting the activities of the contributing partners.

As such, turbulence affecting the smoke rings represents online interactions, resulting in a constantly evolving visual and sonic experience.

The inspiration behind ArtsAPI is the hypothesis that many arts organisations can generate, but can not effectively articulate or evidence, significant value through the relationships they create and sustain. With this commission, ArtsAPI steps beyond data visualisation, reports and infographics, towards work that explores the tangible presence of data.