Artwork

Overview

Greg Niemeyer is a data artist. He uses data as a primary resource. The lyrical power of data can describe how we relate to each other, and how environments deal with us. The work advocates for emotional engagement and stewardship, for welcoming the uncomputable and for appreciating the mystery of what keeps it all going.

Following is a selection of current projects, but Niemeyer got started in 1989 with photographs of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Quantopia, 2018-2019
Sketch for Quantopia, Courtest Catharine Clark Gallery, 2018

Sketch for Quantopia, Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery, 2018

Quantopia (formerly known as Sonic Web) is an acoustic portrait of the Internet in eleven movements, created by New York-based composer Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky in close collaboration with the Internet Archive in San Francisco and Greg Niemeyer. The concert presents a sonification of the history of the internet, reflecting growth, disruption, crisis and transformation across 50 years of art, technology and networked culture in the Bay Area. Along with the concert, Catharine Clark Gallery is presenting Quantopian Scrolls, starting in Januray of 2019.

Collaborators: Dj Spooky aka Paul D. Miller, Roger Antonsen, Luciana Parisi, Andi Wong, Wendy Hanamura, Brewster Kahle

Cave Bell, 2018-2019
Limestone Coast Cave, Mount Gambier: Site of data sampling and of performance

Sketch for Quantopia, Courtesy Catharine Clark Gallery, 2018

Cave Bell is a site-specific data sonification of water flows (rainfall, groundwater, sea water levels) in the form of a polyphonic bell concert. Based on the Tsar Bell project, Cave Bell is a 4 to 6 minute performance of a carillon composition for three data sets. The performer controls the rate and timing of three simultaneous data sonifications like a data DJ, and each performance is different in pace and structure, although the data sets stay the same. Staying site-specific, Niemeyer will select specific data relevant for the watersheds of the location the concert is performed in. This way, the data is embodied in the site where it was collected. Musically, the sonification is similar to the Russian Zvon bell ringing, but it's performed on a laptop instead of real bells.

Collaborators: Olya Dubatova, Melentie Pandilovski
Link to project website: http://gregniemeyer.com/cavebell.html

Ice Core Walk, 2017

The story of our planet's climate is recorded in ice over 800,000 years. The ice, over Lake Vostok in Antarctica, is 3 kilometers deep. A core sample of this mighty sheet of ice produces important geophysics data. With Ice Core Walk, participants can take an audio tour and virtually walk down the data along the ice core. Listen how the climate changed in the distant past, and how dramatically it changes now. Each step equals hundreds of years.

Graph of ice core walk showing CO2 and temperature averages over the past 800,000 years

Link to project website: http://icecorewalk.org

Collaborators

Liz Carlisle, Chris Chafe, and many others.

Supraliminal, 2017
wave synthesis graph

Comissioned by ZKM, supraliminal celebrates a wave view of the world, where things and creatures are not defined by categories, but rather by the waves that give rise to living forms. Visually, supraliminal shows waves colliding graphically. In the existing supraliminal installation, viewers watch waves collide and produce new forms. In the supraliminal web app, users can design and launch multiple waves which produce both visual and sonic effects. As the simple waves collide, they produce more complex sounds and images. The resulting network of waves is a rich audiovisual landscape to explore, and perhaps a gateway to seeing things in waves.

Link to project website: supraliminal.org
Collaborators

DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller, Stephon Alexander

A Place in the Sun, 2017
bell spectrogram

The Sun rotates on its own axis faster at its equator (approximately 24.5 earth days) and slower at its poles (38 days). Sohosonus depicts this rotation and the spectacular carousel of sunflares observed over a period several Earth years from the SOHO satellite. The accompanying music is composed from the changing radiance of the Sun using sonification and electric cello improvisation. The video shows the sun's rotation over decades, and the application allows users to spin the sun at will.

Collaborators: Chris Chafe, John Granzow

Link to Video Documentation: BAM Full Concert, A Place in the Sun (Sohosonus), June 9, 2017

gifCollider, 2016

GIF (Graphical Interchange Format) animations are the street art of the internet and the twitchings of our collective subconsious. Archive.org stores such gif animations in the millions so that future generations won't miss a single frame of the history of human consciousness as it emerged on the backlit glow of the browser nation. gifCollider, A public show of Niemeyer's attempt to digest this history ran from Oct. 25 to Oct. 28, 2016, at BAMPFA. The project was a collaboration with Olya Dubatova, Brewster Kahle, archive.org and many others. It now continues at the Magnes Museum for Jewish Art and Life exhibition "The Power of Attention" , Berkeley CA, with "Night Vision", a version of gifCollider based on Zechariah 4.1. It was on display through 2017, and will be touring to other museums in 2018.

Collaborators: Olya Dubatova, Paz Lenchantin, and many others.

Click above to see and hear gifCollider Chapter 11, with music by Greg Niemeyer and Francesco Spagnolo.

Click above to see and hear gifCollider Chapter 06, with music by Paz Lenchantin.

Myth Making
Perseus and The Graeae, by John Henry Fuseli

To find Medusa, Perseus extorted her location from her sisters. He stole their last remaining eye and traded it back for information about the location of Medusa's cave. The Greek hero then defeated her with a mirror and severed her head. Irena Haiduk writes that the first camera was Medusa's head.

What is the price of information, and to whom? What is the benefit of information, and to whom? We need new myths to help us decide what use of information is worth the cost, now, later. The Greek myths are old.

We can be new mythmakers. With myths, we help shape the way we think, and the way we think shapes our futures. Art is a way of inventing and sharing myths. Call it what you may, art, creative research, critical practice: in the end what we do matters more that what we call it. Niemeyer listens in new ways. He says the art is already there, he just needs to get out of its way. Technical and aesthetic know-how just serves to get the noise out of the way of the signal, so that only the signal remains. When we practice art, we practice reducing the noise. To be successful, we first have to master the noise inside, focus, settle. And then, sometimes, a bell comes out of the studio. Or an image, or a game. And if they work, they also reduce the noise inside those who look at the work, who listen to it.

Niemeyer's research involves programming, sound design, video work. It's not media specific. It's about asking questions and listening to the answers. "Technopoet" and "Data Artist" are the typical labels. What does the work do? In the best cases, it transports viewers to a different point of view, different state of mind. Tsar Bell is meditative. Cave Bell more so. Quantopia is reflexive, and energizing.