JANUARY 23 – MARCH 7, 2015

Ever wondered where all the personal information that we feed into the Internet ends up? So do Vancouver artists Nathan McNinch and Kevin Day.

Using kinetic sculptures throughout the gallery, their works examined, in various ways, everyday information and the use of that data in common applications. A participatory installation piece takes the form of several machines that retrieve physiological information (such as height and density) from the nearby audience; in real time, the data was then continuously printed on paper, creating something similar to a polygraph using the gathered information.

The exhibition demonstrated the process by which human attributes become privatized and reduced to data and statistics, fully exploited in the information age. Can resistance be accomplished through induced obsolescence -by making the data non-functional through self-erasure, overabundance, translation, and exaggeration?

  • Kevin Day & Nathan McNinch: A Scanner Ubiquity January 23 - March 7, 2017

A Scanner Ubiquity
Interpretive Essay by Amy Modahl

Your current location is the Alternator Centre in Kelowna, British Columbia. You come here often. This is your first time here. You were born in 1960, 1985, 1996. Recently you visited Sudbury. Recently you made a call from Winfield. Yesterday you bought fresh orange juice and frozen peas. Usually you buy bread. You did not buy bread. Your most recent status update shows you toasting with friends, walking in the woods, contemplating war. You did not make a status update. What is your status at present?

I’m sorry. I did not understand your response. Please turn directly toward me when speaking so the sequence of discrete sounds you emit are distinguishable. I am processing your response. Your status will be collated with the others.

Thank you.

The messy lives of humans and their consumption can be amassed into pools of raw data then analyzed to reveal base patterns. The machine imagines these patterns will be followed. The pattern is neat, predictable. The pattern is made to appear neat and predictable and you are then measured against it. You become neat and predictable. But are you?

Kevin Day and Nathan McNinch question the machine as a mediator, not only as a communication portal constraining the range of interaction, but as a means to grind organic humanness into tidy numbers and letters and lines and lists. In their work, the machine becomes a metaphor for the absurdity of an industry collecting and mining an ever-growing mountain of human data, a gargantuan make-work project.

But from this mountain, Day and McNinch anthropomorphize the mediator as processing data into visual beauty through graceful forms and materials that gesture toward raw nature, away from the cold computer or hard science.

The concrete excretion of the machine, the paper, is no longer a simple ground. The paper becomes the medium and content. The data moves out into space and manipulates the page. Stacks reminiscent of enlarged dot-matrix printer-like paper fall loosely, uncontrolled. Lightly crumpled paper, suspended, catches the light and appears like waves, rough seas, moving. These spare abstractions are more about visceral experience and incongruity, the sensory hold often considered insignificant in a quantified world.

There is a certain grace in variation, in the unexpected. A slip of the tongue, a fall from the pattern, a break in the code, all of these supposed errors cause a blip that could be ignored. But Day and McNinch notice it. Their machines respond to and recreate the human fault with abstraction and motion. As the circular grooves are cut, the arm jumps, ever so slightly, forming a new circle, a parallel. And that circle winds around but not to the predictable beginning. Although the circle is encoded, the machine seems to decide it will create the slightest anomaly as it toils away at its prescribed task. Day and McNinch are not present.

Day and McNinch are very much present in the gallery as actors. Through their solitary machines toiling away, they are gathering, observing and in turn consuming the human flow and interaction in this space. But their data is beauty in variation. Their output is visual pleasure and metaphor.

A Scanner Ubiquity Interpretive Essay (PDF)

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