Do me a favor: Don’t think about this as an exhibition. Instead let’s call it an experience—no, let’s call it an experiment.
This experiment started for me when, as our country and our politics seemed deeply uncertain, I started studying data and statistics more closely. Now, I am not a statistician, nor a mathematician, and I’m definitely not a politician. So when I began to look at data visualizations it was easier for me to look at a graph as a drawing—an image of the US in broad strokes—than an actual description people’s lives. This artistic, adaptable way of looking at data initially felt like a shortfall, but ultimately opened up the long line of questions that propel this experiment forward:
How do the aesthetics of data affect what we believe to be true? How do we reconcile our lived experiences with data or information that doesn’t match what we know? What happens if we imagine each of the data points on the graph as people: you, me, your neighbor, my neighbor? How do we decipher the ‘truth’ from a data set? How do we make our voices heard and recorded? How do we listen better?
An eye-catching graph makes you more certain about “where the country is going.” But that graph is a beautiful simplification. It may illustrate a crisp truth. But what if that truth is messier? What if the allure of simple answers leaves out our complex humanity?
The work displayed as part of STAT is designed to be colorful, diverse and dynamic, just like the variety of opinions that can be expressed about any one topic. The details in the drawings and the objects ask you to look closely, to ponder what meaning these representations and connections may hold. The performative events allow us to practice balancing the twin acts of listening and being heard.
For the duration of STAT I invite you to be part of each phase of this experiment. Starting with the performance of SOFT DATA, we’ll investigate how we align our physical, emotional, and ideological selves by casting votes publicly. Next, I invite you to fill the ballot boxes in the gallery. Then, I will be back in Fargo collecting real-time data all across the city (the mall, college campuses, a supper club, downtown, and more) to create a local data set. I will analyze, compile, and deliver this data back to the community in the form of statistics housed in a small book, otherwise known as a zine. I thank you for joining me in this experiment.