2008 Rhizome Commission: Data Sonification


A few times each week, I drag my laptop down to Gorilla Coffee in Brooklyn to join hordes of other writers who are itching to get out of the house and looking for inspiration from the outside world. Rows of us sit on our laptops, seemingly immersed in our own worlds, though keenly aware that we aren't. It's precisely this environment that Vancouver-based artist Jack Stockholm targets with 'Eavesdropping.' One of Rhizome's 2008 commissions, 'Eavesdropping' capitalizes on our desire to be part of a group, even when we ostensibly want to be alone. By setting up what is essentially a local network, Stockholm will create an audio platform that harnesses computer noises for musical purposes. Anyone can become a composer/ conductor by uploading a 'score' to a localized 'Eavesdropping' network and inviting others to join. The resulting composition will transform what once may have seemed like ambient sound in the coffee shop into a rich musical performance. One of an increasing number of artists engaged with data sonification, Stockholm's interests are evident in earlier works, such as MIDIfier' which elevates mundane data to music by transcribing text from the web into MIDI compositions. Data and network visualization have been major themes in new media for many years; it's refreshing to have our aural impulses and behaviors get their due. Eavesdropping will be finished, along with the rest of the Rhizome Commissions, in early 2008. More information will be available on rhizome.org. - Caitlin Jones