Estimates vary, but smartphone-using Americans use between 2 and 5 megabytes of data a month. When it comes to data, the first thing that comes to people's minds is usually how much it costs — how much they can get for the best price. But what if you thought of your data as a creative device instead, a way to create a new type of art?
That's exactly what Lithuanian artist Andrius Šarapovas did for his Kinetic Generative Music Installation, which translates people’s Internet browsing on a 4G network into sound.
"If we take it word by word, 'kinetic' means movement and energy, 'generative' means complexity made out of a couple of rules and also constant renewal, and 'music' is systemic variation, a consciously experienced excerpt of acoustic reality. So, the data generated by half a million people is turned into energy impulses that produce a complex acoustic variation," Šarapovas told Metal magazine.
To accomplish this idea, over 70 computer programmers, sound engineers, and electromechanics were involved in the project, which uses a unique algorithm to translate one second of browsing data into one second of music.
According to the music site Those Who Make Waves, "The installation consists of 77 segments distributed throughout the exhibition space. Each segment consists of a metal bar, a sound activator, a sound damper, a resonator, and mechatronics. The distribution of the segments in space forms 4 narrow and 11 wide directions of movement. The number of segments and their positions were in part determined by the spatial and acoustic characteristics of the exhibition space."
The machine only plays four notes — each one corresponds to the location where the data originates: north, south, east, or west Lithuania. As people walk through the installation, 77 hanging boxes play the notes produced by the natural variations in the data.
What's the point of all this? The artist had an interesting point to make to Metal magazine when he was asked this question:
"Our new times are turning us into rather interesting creatures. We multitask constantly. We are becoming more and more interpersonally alienated, all while growing closer to various smart devices. Perhaps this is because these devices adapt to us while other people may not — often you're the one who has to adapt. My inner intention was to contrast something against all of this alienation, procrastination, multitasking and constant running about. Something made out of it, that would help you stop and focus your attention on the present moment."
The exhibition was held in the TSEKH contemporary art gallery in Vilnius, Lithuania, but you can get some idea of what the experience was like in the video below.