Data visualizers deal in abstractions. Bars stand in for entire populations, colors represents ideologies and vast distances are scaled to fit the width of a computer screen. Our visual and cultural understandings give these abstractions meaning—otherwise a line graph would be just a line.
Conversely, Ghana-born artist El Anatsui calls his abstract art data. In his first solo exhibition in New York, Anatsui displays more than 30 works made of metal and found wooden objects. According to the museum text, “This work has no specific orientation and illustrates the artist’s desire for his art to reflect the ever-changing condition of life. Anatsui also wishes to inspire creativity in the people charged with installing his work and says he merely provides ‘data’ for others to reenvision and manipulate.”