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Materializing Data, Embodying Climate Change

Abstract digital image, resembles grey clouds or smoke over a dark background
Abstract digital image, resembles grey clouds or smoke over a dark background
Image courtesy of Tom Corby

Materializing Data is a major 3-year project led by Professor Tom Corby in conjunction with researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Birkbeck College, University of London.

Funded by: AHRC

Project summary

The visual arts do not possess an imaginary of climate change that is capable of accounting for what science has shown us of how the planet and its climate functions, i.e. a complex of atmospheres, oceans, landmasses and energy exchanges within which we are implicated.

We propose that just as we experience our climate physically through immersion in landscapes and weather, our representations and experiences of climate change might change if we encountered its data in physical forms. In our project we take climate data (geological, atmospheric, biological) off digital screens and translate it into physical objects, artworks and environments.

Data offers new ways to represent phenomena by being able to capture hidden dimensions, patterns and activities in forms that other artistic media such as moving image, sculpture or photography on their own cannot. Climate data, in particular provides insights into a range of invisible phenomena describing vast geological timescales, complex systems, atmospheres, biotics and other planetary inscriptions which require palpable expression to enable us to reflect on how we impact the environment. We propose that the richness of this material represents an unexplored scientific imaginary, denotative of hidden material forms and Earth systems, that can change both artistic and scientific approaches to the representation of our changing planet.

Our research brings artists, scientists and programmers together within a shared enquiry to ask: what aesthetic, social and material relations can be generated through transforming climate data into forms that can be touched, shared and inhabited? What creative and critical languages arise from such an approach?

Project team

Project objectives

Our project asks the following questions:

  • How can practice-based art and design research develop new languages and imaginaries of climate change, by bringing its data out into the world in physical, relational, forms?
  • How can the production of physical artworks from ‘factual data’ describe new possibilities for representing climate change?

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