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A Word On "Info Graphics"


Published June 18, 2008 at 8:26 p.m.

A few weeks back, I reviewed a show at Burlington's Firehouse Gallery called "Elusive Truths." The show, which closed last week, featured four artists, one-and-a-half of them Vermonters, all of whom use "information graphics" to explore the slippery, amorphous boundaries between data and creativity; science and art.

When I interviewed Chris Thompson, the Burlington artist who helped put the thing together, he pointed out that "Elusive Truths" wasn't designed for instant gratification. Instead, he said, it was meant to leave a viewer with tons of questions. Among them: Who controls the art world? How do we process information? What role does information play in shaping art? What role should it?

All of these absurdly theoretical questions were bouncing around inside my head on June 8, when I picked up the Sunday New York Times to discover a music-related "info graphic," entitled "Rock! Sun! Crowds! You Go Without Me," by the artist Andrew Kuo. Like John O'Connor, one of the artists who recently exhibited at the Firehouse, Kuo cheekily presents observations and cultural commentary as data — i.e., in a form that feels curiously science-like. For example: One pie chart breaks down "WHY BONNAROO SOUNDS LIKE A NIGHTMARE TO ME." A second explores "MY LIST OF DEMANDS FOR A GREAT FESTIVAL."

Later on, I Googled Kuo and turned up three supplementary nuggets. First, a blog featuring more of Kuo's music-related charts. Then, another series of 'em he did for the Times last June. And finally — appropriately? — a "chart-based review" of Kuo's work by New York Magazine. The categories Kuo was judged on: "Clever and Informative," "Clever" and "Too Complicated."

What's next? A chart-based critique of the New York piece by an artsy media watchdog?