Click on any phrase to play the video at that point.Close
What you just heard are the interactions of barometric pressure, wind and temperature readings that were recorded of Hurricane Noel in 2007. The musicians played off a three-dimensional graph of weather data like this. Every single bead, every single colored band, represents a weather element that can also be read as a musical note. I find weather extremely fascinating. Weather is an amalgam of systems that is inherently invisible to most of us. So I use sculpture and music to make it, not just visible, but also tactile and audible.
All of my work begins very simple. I extract information from a specific environment using very low-tech data collecting devices -- generally anything I can find in the hardware store. I then compare my information to the things I find on the Internet -- satellite images, weather data from weather stations as well as offshore buoys. That's both historical as well as real data. And then I compile all of these numbers on these clipboards that you see here. These clipboards are filled with numbers. And from all of these numbers, I start with only two or three variables. That begins my translation process.
My translation medium is a very simple basket. A basket is made up of horizontal and vertical elements. When I assign values to the vertical and horizontal elements, I can use the changes of those data points over time to create the form. I use natural reed, because natural reed has a lot of tension in it that I cannot fully control. That means that it is the numbers that control the form, not me. What I come up with are forms like these. These forms are completely made up of weather data or science data. Every colored bead, every colored string, represents a weather element. And together, these elements, not only construct the form, but they also reveal behavioral relationships that may not come across through a two-dimensional graph.
When you step closer, you actually see that it is indeed all made up of numbers. The vertical elements are assigned a specific hour of the day. So all the way around, you have a 24-hour timeline. But it's also used to assign a temperature range. On that grid, I can then weave the high tide readings, water temperature, air temperature and Moon phases. I also translate weather data into musical scores. And musical notation allows me a more nuanced way of translating information without compromising it.
So all of these scores are made up of weather data. Every single color, dot, every single line, is a weather element. And together, these variables construct a score. I use these scores to collaborate with musicians. This is the 1913 Trio performing one of my pieces at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Meanwhile, I use these scores as blueprints to translate into sculptural forms like this, that function still in the sense of being a three-dimensional weather visualization, but now they're embedding the visual matrix of the musical score, so it can actually be read as a musical score.
What I love about this work is that it challenges our assumptions of what kind of visual vocabulary belongs in the world of art, versus science. This piece here is read very differently depending on where you place it. You place it in an art museum, it becomes a sculpture. You place it in a science museum, it becomes a three-dimensional visualization of data. You place it in a music hall, it all of a sudden becomes a musical score. And I really like that, because the viewer is really challenged as to what visual language is part of science versus art versus music.
You can share this video by copying this HTML to your clipboard and pasting into your blog or web page.
need to get the latest Flash player.
Got an idea, question, or debate inspired by this talk? Start a TED Conversation.
Artist Nathalie Miebach takes weather data from massive storms and turns it into complex sculptures that embody the forces of nature and time. These sculptures then become musical scores for a string quartet to play.
Nathalie Miebach is a Boston-based artist who translates weather data into complex sculptures and musical scores. Full bio »