Reading Against The Grain is an artistic investigation scrutinizing the impact of media on mental health. This relationship is speculated through a body of work consisting of data paintings, drawings and sculptures created with algorithms that read news and works that invent their own news, translating, expressing and delivering visual narratives of complex intangible systems.
Quintas has been developing a study about information overload, sometimes incorrect and on information that distorts the truth, influencing public opinion and social behavior and its relationship with the impact on mental health since 2018. The research has been based on large-scale data collection from social media, social networks and written communication systems by artificial intelligence. This process of work has originated digital artworks such as News Feed (2019), Keystones I,II,III,IV (2019) and Portugal In The Clouds (2021) using Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems in collaboration with data scientists and information visualization programmers. NLP refers to the field of linguistics and computer science, and more specifically to the branch of artificial intelligence that allows computers to understand text and spoken words in the same way that humans can.
The artist explores this link with science, translating semantic information into sentiment to reveal the emotional charge of news, or works that deliberately distort the truth. These mappings express large-scale representations of society that are incomprehensible and invisible to our perception.
Humans are moving at great speed from a period in which we use systems to operate information, to a phase in which systems read and operate us. This transition puts us in a constant performative mode, reducing our time to reflect on the past and memory as foundations for the future. In Reading Against The Grain, a new set of generative and algorithmic digital artworks are presented in interconnection with other physical pieces, in which databases, datasets and information flows obtain a tangible reading, establishing a dialogue between performativity and memory.
The exhibition’s title is borrowed from the technique that suggests that reading in countercurrent is an alternative and resistant understanding of a given text, examining beliefs and attitudes that are not usually evident, drawing attention to gaps, emotional bias, and contradictions. In this exhibition, the artworks were created from a countercurrent and resistant analysis of the source data, such as translation and expressing the sentiment of news stories into emotional mapping images. That is a forensic approach to information to debate the responsibility of media and platforms on our mental health.
Support: República Portuguesa – Cultura / Direcção-Geral das Artes.
Acknowledgments: the artist thanks Joan Sandoval for his long term creative coding collaboration and the scientific and technological contributions of David Rau and Nir Elbaz; CIAC – Center for Research in Art and Communication, MNAC/ Sonae Media Art Award and Sonar festival for displaying and disseminating this research.