Making art with data

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Ocean Forest Air

This handmade project (above) visualizes Canada’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from pre-industrial 1800 and projected to 2030. The data comes from the World Resources Institute and Environment Canada. It is made from repurposes coloured yarn. Emissions are encoded in grey yarn. The project aims to create empathy with viewers for our shared carbon sinks, the oceans, forests and air. In the view above, 1800 appears on the left. There is a multitude of free flowing coloured yarn that represents the biodiversity and vast arctic sea ice. Next to this, is 1990 where greenhouse gas emissions, as represented by grey yarn, are wound around the carbon sinks. Second from the right is 2010, where you can see a change in the colours of the carbon sinks, and the growth in cumulative emissions. Finally, for 2030, on the right, the carbon sinks are blanching and almost completely occluded by Canada’s accumulated emissions. The narrow red band on 2030 shows the cumulative additional measures that Canada is introducing to reduce our emissions. While making this project, I learned that our forests are no longer acting as carbon sinks, but rather as carbon sources due to significant forest fires and pine beetle infestations. Each piece is approximately 12″ x 48″ and weighs five pounds.

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Ocean Rings

Handmade data visualization of Canada’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions data for 1800 (top left), 1990, 2010 and projected for 2030. This project uses data from Environment Canada and the World Resources Institute. This visualization is made from repurposed materials such as bedsheets, plastic straws, plastic bags, shells and silk yarn. Each ring is approximately 14″ in diameter and weighs five pounds. Greenhouse gas emissions are encoded by length of grey yarn. The bottom ring, 1800, shows a multitude of colour and biodiversity. 1990 (second from bottom) shows the cumulative emissions from 1800 to 1990 as grey yarn wrapped around, and occluding the biodiversity, as well as the introduction of ocean plastic. 2010 (second from top), shows increased accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions and increased ocean plastic. The top ring shows the projected cumulative emissions for 2030, with ocean dead zones appearing as black yarn. Ocean Rings is inspired by neck rings worn as symbols of status in some cultures.

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Anthropocene Footprints II

Handmade data visualization of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions for 1990, 2010 and 2030. This data sculpture (above) was made in 2018 using Environment Canada’s additional measures emissions data from 2017. This sculpture is made from new silk and linen yarn. Annual greenhouse gas emissions data is mapped to brightly coloured silk yarn. Additional measures that Canada is introducing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions appear in the projected emissions for 2030 as purple thread wrapped around wooden splints. The purple yarn is placed to show where our annual emissions would be if we do not introduce additional measures. The metal rings encode Canada’s per capita emissions ranking among OECD countries. In 1990, Canada ranked 5th, in 2010, we ranked fourth. 2030 does not have a ranking. This piece weighs approximately ten pounds and is approximately 72″ in height.

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Anthropocene Footprints

Handmade data visualization of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions for 1990 (left), 2010 (middle), and 2030 (right). This data sculpture (above) was made in 2017 using Environment Canada’s 2016 reference case data. The sculpture is made from repurposed materials such as baby blankets, mats, chopsticks, yarn, and napkin rings. It is inspired by the ancient Quipu or Talking Knots, which is one of the earliest forms of data visualization, going back thousands of years, to various cultures such as the Inca, who recorded information with knotted strings. In Anthropocene Footprints, I have created three ‘creatures’ with horns, tentacles, and a tail. The long tentacles are mapped to the annual emissions from the seven sectors of the Canadian economy. The longest tentacle for 2030, on the right, shows our projected emissions for the oil and gas sector. Each piece is approximately 18″ wide and varies in height from 72″ to 120″.

The view below shows the back of 1990 with a chopstick fringe and a tail. The thick tail encodes the average per person emissions in the world (ivory yarn) compared to Canada’s per person emissions (magenta yarn). In 1990, Canadians emitted roughly five times the world average. This work makes data insights accessible and memorable because people can touch and compare the emissions.

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Exhibitions & Publications

2019 Spark Carbon, Edmonton

2019 IEEEVIS Best Paper Award, Infovis for “Data Changes Everything: Challenges and Opportunities in Data Visualization Design Handoff

2019 Artist Residency and Exhibition, Canada House, Guanajuato, Mexico, Festival Cervantino

2019 IEEEVIS Arts Program Exhibition, Vancouver

2019 CEM10 Clean Energy Conference, Vancouver

2018 Canada’s Greenhouse Gas & Air Pollutant Emissions Projections Report by Environment Canada

2018 DATA EFFECT, Ottawa

2018 IEEEVIS Arts Program Exhibition, Berlin

2018 Information is Beautiful Awards, longlist