EAF15 Artist Profile: Noa Younse
Every day, information is collected, logged, and stored. From traffic movement to internet usage, the most minute details are captured. How this information is shared with the public, however, is an entirely different process. EAF15 artist Noa Younse, who is interested in the growing intersection between art and science, has combined his design and computer science background to produce The Ant Ensemble (2015). His piece is a line of matte-black wooden posts, positioned across a section of the park, oriented approximately in line with the grid in Manhattan.
At sundown, LED lights controlled by an Arduino board illuminate and flash in an active pattern, providing a fluidity that compliments the installation’s rigid structure. The lights’ playful nature invites viewers to think about the data transmitted in a creative and curious way. The Arduino board acts as a tiny computer that controls lights and motors, among other functions and applications. It is a micro-controller that can be cupped by a palm, and programmed to be responsive and interactive. In Younse’s work, the Arduino board has been delegated to controlling when the LED lights turn on, and how they move about the sculpture. Having originally studied design and architecture, Younse has brought his working knowledge of both subjects to The Ant Ensemble, his first independent large-scale artwork.
The LED lights, controlled by the Arduino, show the migration patterns of different animals throughout the changing seasons. During its time at the park, The Ant Ensemble will be a visual representation of the movement of these animals from fall into the winter months. By applying a visual language to the migration of these animals, Younse has mixed nature and technology to create an experience that brings curiosity to occurrences viewers might have taken for granted otherwise.
“Data is everywhere, but no one really thinks about it,” Younse says. His installation reminds us that our society is filled with information, down to the longitudinal and latitudinal lines in which we live. “You hear a lot about ‘big data’ nowadays, but no one really understands it,” he continues. “Big data” is the massive amount of information that is created, proliferated, and stored on a day-to-day basis. It covers such a large scope that its management has become a common challenge to policymakers and individuals alike. Younse’s installation draws upon these thoughts of data interpretation and representation. Introducing an artistic visual palette to the information transforms it into a tangible tool that can be used by the greater public, while also, perhaps, highlighting the absurdity inherent in creating digital systems to track naturally occurring realities.
Younse currently works at the Office for Creative Research (OCR), where he has contributed to large-scale data visualization projects. He has combined his artistic interests and coding background to create a public artwork that balances logic and creativity. With the OCR, Younse produced Ziqitza Visualization (2014), a tool that looked at data from a medical startup in Odisha, India. The interactive map visualized the various routes that ambulance cars would take over extended periods of time. The application pulses with the rise and fall of ambulance calls, creating a mystical interaction between small white dots gliding along vein-like tendrils of the area’s streets. Although beautiful, the program also plays a practical role in how it delivers an otherwise overwhelming set of data in a digestible presentation. Similarly, The Ant Ensemble creates a magical environment that also contemplates nature’s methodological patterns.