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Nathalie Miebach: Art made of storms

Nathalie Miebach: Art made of storms

(Music) 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. The other reason why I really like this is because it offers an alternative entry point into the complexity of science. And not everyone has a Ph.D. in science. So for me, that was my way into it. Thank you. (Applause)

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100 thoughts on “Nathalie Miebach: Art made of storms

  1. She sounds like she's in a hurry. I don't really enjoy listening to her… No doubt this interesting, but she's very difficult to listen to.

  2. Hmm nice way to get a truly new music composition, free of pre-learned musical patterns. As humans tend to repeat the same pattern over and over again…

  3. Kudos on the brevity of the explanation.
    Most of it was beyond me, but, creativity has certainly been displayed, whether you like or not, is a matter of taste. Given space, this could well spawn a whole new family of art forms

  4. @MultipleDeadBabies u just suck at listening. . . and also, dude, I can see that u r terrible and u seem like an overall aggravating and unpleasant person by looking at your youtube username. . .

  5. @prowled She should have made the talk shorter, perhaps. I mean, it is possible to have a great presentation in a short amount of time…

  6. Art?! are you kidding me!
    it could be interesting to teach this at school for kids to boost their creativity and get them interested in science.
    I am not going to even talk about the sculptures!
    As for the Music …considering it was their best piece to play at TED presentation i found it poor.
    I love new ideas…but somehow this story i just dont buy!

  7. @TheOriginalMadMatt
    Create, think and read…you can be silent while doing all of those things. Speaking out is an important tool for effecting change that is available to us. Whether that's literally speaking out, or figuratively through art. I'm a little lost as to what you're trying to get at with the conflicting statements.

  8. Good, but I think it would have better served the presentation and been more impressive if she told us all about her work first and then presented the music.

  9. @Choirathlete
    Of course it needs to be done that way, otherwise it will not be pleasant to our ears.
    What i meant though is that each musician tends to stick with certain patterns more or less, but when your data is that random there will be almost no repetitions, which would give you more inspirational motives for your own improvisation.

  10. The music is interesting, because one can listen to it and intuitively become familiar with the aspects of the storm, if the dimensions are known. The sculptures unfortunately, do not translate as well. Our minds are not designed to process so much detail, and the whole of them ends up looking like a garish mess. As an idea, it's an intriguing form of art, but I do not see much practical use for it.

  11. Incredible. Beautiful!
    I love this video, the concept is something I could have never imagined, the result is eerily awe inspiring, and the speaker is not a professional speaker, she is an artist. It sounds like she's speaking poetry… there's passion, and a desire to deliver the ideas fast, and purely.
    It's art, and imagination, and everything I like about TED.

  12. @jawadmahar Because we relish scientific achievement on TED. The enemy of this is arbitrariness. Connecting weather variables to inputs on various musical devices, arbitrarily scaling their ranges to come out with something that we can hear, and tweaking it so that it doesn't come out like random noise…. is arbitrary. If her experiment yielded unexpected uses, we'd be amazed!!!… but art of science is not science. period.

  13. @polopiatti
    And who are you to say it isn't a sculpture? Not sure about the score since I'm not a musician but as far as a sculpture goes, it seems to have all the basic components:
    – three-dimensional
    – created and shaped by someone

  14. @polopiatti Why is it not a sculpture or score? I am only a high school student, but I have been taking art and music classes all my life. It looks like both to me. (I can see how you would say what she had was not a score because it did not have the conventional black notes on a page, but it could be read and translated into a musical piece, so I believe it is.) Personally, I like that she is innovative enough to combine all three elements of art, music and science and not be "proper".

  15. If i recorded data for my shite pattern the model and music would probably look just as 'beautiful' and 'artistic'. Imagine if you did this for a living, what a waste.

  16. @dmg46664 ur taking science too seriously first of all…..
    secondly….TED is not only about "scientific" acheivments….it never was 🙂

  17. I'm a meteorologist and in looking at this my whole mind went "derp". Strange for someone who thinks weather data being just one thing and seeing it done in a completely different.

  18. It seems to me that her attempt at creating art from nature, merely proved that sculpturing without creativity (systematic approach) is recognized as art also, which demonstrates the meaninglessness of art as a whole.
    That being said, I think her talents could be applied to data monitoring systems where many parameters could make up a simple structure that quickly and intuitively could show status and potential problems, for a fast overview.

  19. @polopiatti
    A piece of shit is not really created and molded by the person it just naturally comes out like that. Can someone make a sculpture out of shit? Sure. Define what a sculpture is, and define what real art is. Just because you don't like the sculpture, it doesn't mean its not art.

  20. @polopiatti
    That definition sounds like something some philosopher said more than two millenia ago and it mostly seems to apply to making human/animal sculptures. Beauty is subjective and conscious messages are practically non-existent when it comes to abstract art.

  21. @jawadmahar Everybody has different incentives for coming to TED. People in my group would completely concede that the non-scientific achievements (don't mind valid soft science) are not why we come to the channel. So we have to skip 5 annoying videos to get to a good one. By complaining, we r voting that they stick to science. They raise enough money by having enough delegates, so our aims our at cross purposes. Equilibrium is found by both sides demanding loudly.

  22. @polopiatti My comment was in no way aggressive. I feel no aggression towards you. I simply quoted you and told you how it made you look. I had passion at the time of writing it because I saw your comment as very elitist. My wife is an artist. She does wonderful work. It sells and she has been commissioned, yet she has had no formal training so I'm sure you would not consider her a "proper artist". You would likely tell her she knows nothing about art as well. YOUR comment was insulting

  23. @polopiatti
    I'm highly suprised that you refer to Plato. That might be a little outdated.
    Every artist takes some sort of data and transfers those into art. This could be emotions, impressions, anything. By choosing a method of expression it is transferred into art. This is as well what Miebach does. She could do the sculptures with anything. But she chooes this way and is very focussed on the aesthetic aspect of the work. This is why this could be called art in the mind of many people.

  24. @polopiatti
    Furthermore, You don't have to agree, but please recognize that there were people like Rodin, Duchamp, Picasso, Beuys, Warhol and so on who changed the way we need to see art. Even your moms jumpers can be art if she declares it as art. The only thing that is definitly no art is a closed mind and a limitation the the ways of expressing oneself or ones reception of the world. Wheather data is a way we can see the world.

  25. @BroBroDude "0:15" is so last week. They corrected the intro levels so anyone still posting this sort of comment is just being an ignorant douche who can't be bothered to do anything original or even notice obvious changes.

  26. @BroBroDude Do you seriously look for a "0:15" link on every TED video? What happens when there isn't one… do you mutter in the corner, rocking back and forth until the intro is over? Or do you just click forward a little LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES?

    Face it, "0:15" comments are the new "first" when it comes to TED videos. They are neither useful nor clever.

  27. although i admire her dedication and what she is trying and is achieving. but seriously… someone should have told her to go outside….. and not to collect data!

  28. She fails to understand the visual language of science. A visualization in a science museum attempts to convey massive amounts of information. This thing conveys a minimal amount of information. Looking at it tells you that weather has some amount of complexity without building on or relating to anything. It makes you simply stand in awe of complexity, while in science you derive knowledge from complexity.

  29. @cutepinkbandanaman are you just a troll or are you a troll? This is her way to exemplify her art, by combining real life events and elements into her art work. Seriously, not all data have to be interpreted from well drawn graphs and from decent scientists. For one thing, the title of this video says "ART" and not "Understanding the Visual Language of Science," it would seem to me that you are the one that fails at understanding the basic concepts of this video.

  30. Ouch… That sounded like the noise of an orchestra tuning their instruments before the actual piece. I'd rather listen to the TED intro a few dozen times rather than kill my brain with that white noise again.

  31. i made a vuvuzela that goes off every time I fart- increasing the barometric pressure of my surrounding environment. Can I be on TED?

  32. @cutepinkbandanaman I am surprised at the level of negativity being expressed here about this artists work of art / science. Especially by the person who should be explaining to us why he goes by the moniker "cute pink bandana man" . I, for one, would find that explanation very illuminating, certainly more so than the drivel the "cute pink" has dished out so far.

  33. I think the musical representations of a storm is more interesting than visual sculpture but I appreciate that she has a point of view as an artist and scientist that manages to be outside of both boxes.

  34. the sculptures are very interesting but I dont need to know the data behind it, art is an expression not a mind thing for me!! cheers

  35. @cutepinkbandanaman And you fail to understand art. Art isn't about making something logical. It's about making something that you think is interesting to show. She turns the visual language of science into an aesthetic form that can be enjoyed instead of learned.

  36. Another example of how interchangeable the Fibonacci sequence is, from forming musical notes, to our finger prints, to the swirl of hurricanes and galaxies. The math and music of God. (Source)

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