Artist Weaves Weather Data Into Complex Baskets

natalie merbach photo
Images: Natalie Merbach

In a world of ever-increasing information flow, we can't seem to get enough of diagrams and interactive maps that help us better organize and understand our world. Artist Natalie Merbach's fascinating sculptures -- which translate ecological, astronomical and meteorological data into physically woven, basket-like structures -- will certainly delight those of us who have ever marvelled at how complex information can be beautiful (you could call it baskets for information geeks).Using materials like reed and the metered grid of basket-weaving to interpret raw data over time into three dimensions, each weave in Merbach's pieces represents one hour. Wired UK describes Merbach's unusually methodological creative process:

Miebach likes to collect the data herself, spending hours and days in the field trying to understand complex, dynamic relationships between different variables in an environment.

Keeping an eye on things like cloud cover, animal behaviour, water currents, and even less tangible factors like the smell of the air and feel of the ground below your feet, can give a clue to how hundreds of systems can interoperate in one place. "I keep describing this as a type of visual 'listening' with my peripheral vision, though I am still learning what that actually means," she said.

natalie merbach photo

In her artist statement, Miebach describes her work as a meshing of the lines between the scientific and artistic disciplines:

Central to this work is my desire to explore the role visual aesthetics play in the translation and understanding of science information. By utilizing artistic processes and everyday materials, I am questioning and expanding boundaries through which science data has been traditionally visually translated (ex: graphs, diagrams), while at the same time provoking expectations of what kind of visual vocabulary is considered to be in the domain of 'science' or 'art'.

Merbach's most recent work, "Recording and Translating Climate Change" involves the gathering of climate data using simple data-collecting devices. The collected information is compared to global and historical trends and translated into sculpture and even musical scores. In the end, Merbach's goal is not about presenting hard science, but about "convey[ing] a nuance or level of emotionality" that's usually absent -- even though emotions themselves are a kind of information that's equally worthy of attention.

Check out more of Natalie Merbach's work on her site.

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