Nathalie Miebach Weaves Data and Anecdotes into Expansive Sculptures to Raise Awareness of the Climate Crisis
For Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach, art is a way to translate scientific data into a visual language of patterns and relationships. In 2007, when she first began to make works that explored weather and climate change, she wanted to better understand the science. “Each piece began with a specific question I had and then the sculpture would attempt to answer it. Over time, I began to be more interested not in how weather instruments record weather, but how we as a species respond to it,” she tells Colossal. “That’s when I began to look at extreme weather events such as floods, storms, and fires.”
Basketweaving plays a central role in Miebach’s practice as it both physically and metaphorically weaves together materials and information. The type of data she collects is both statistical and anecdotal, combining scientific inquiry with personal experiences. “Harvey’s Twitter SOS,” for example, translates 2017 data maps about Hurricane Harvey published by The New York Times. “The inner quilt is made up of shapes that map out income distribution in Houston and uses the city’s highway system as a visual anchor. Various types of information related to Harvey are stitched onto the quilt, including Twitter messages that were sent out during the storm,” she says. Each piece contains numerous pathways, repetitions, and connections, redolent of Rube Goldberg machines in which cause and effect play a central role.
During the past three years, the artist’s work also collates Covid-19 data alongside climate information. “Spinning Towards a New Normal,” on view currently at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, translates Covid-19 infection, death, and vaccination rates for Germany, Italy, and Spain into the form of a spinning top with a plumb bob, representing the struggle of communities and economies to find stability. “We are not invincible, and neither is this planet,” she warns. “For the first time in human history, we have all experienced how vulnerable we can be as a species. The recent work I have been doing is trying to look at these broader environmental changes we are now seeing through this lens of vulnerability.”
You can see Miebach’s work in All Hands On: Basketry at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin through May 25, 2023, and Climate Action, Inspiring Change at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, through June 25, 2023. Explore more of her work on her website and follow updates on Instagram.
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Interview: A Conversation with The Tempestry Project Delves Into the Importance of Knitting Tangible Records of Climate Data
Even in the wake of major weather events like the unprecedented flooding that closed Yellowstone National Park for the first time in decades last week, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of the climate crisis. The Tempestry Project has been striving to make such large-scale shifts more accessible and relatable through data-rich tapestries, which founders Asy Connelly and Emily McNeil discuss in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.
People don’t have to come at it specifically as “this is activism,” but people can come at it tangentially. Once they see the climate history that’s happening right in their backyards, it dawns on them that this is happening even here…A lot of the IPCC reports focus on what’s going to happen in the future, and people tune that out. I wish they wouldn’t, but it’s what happens. If you connect it to their lived experience in their homes, it’s a lot more impactful for people.
In this conversation with managing editor Grace Ebert, Connelly and McNeil discuss the slow, insightful process of crafting a Tempestry, why it’s important to standardize yarn colors, and the power a single knit has to change someone’s mind.
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Creating tangible records of weather patterns has been a long-running practice for crafters and designers interested in visually documenting the effects of the climate crisis over time. Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach, of the Eindhoven, The Netherlands-based studio Raw Color, join this endeavor with their new collection of knitted goods that embed data about temperature changes, the sea’s rising levels, and emissions directly within their products’ patterns.
In each design, the duo translates data from the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, into colorful, line graphics that represent four possible outcomes for the world through the year 2100. The titular Temperature Textiles rely on warm shades, sea level uses cool blues, purples, and greens, and emissions a combination of the two to visualize the changes.
Raw Color shares more specifics about the data behind Temperature Textiles on its site, where you can also shop the collection of flat and double knits. Follow the studio on Instagram to keep up with its latest designs. (via Design Milk)
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A Trio of Visual Catalogs Celebrates the Innovative Figures Who Pioneered Modern Information Graphics
A new book set honors the lives and legacies of three figures who fundamentally altered the way we communicate and organize data still today. Information Graphic Visionaries is a catalog trio dedicated to educator and entrepreneur Emma Willard, statistician and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who all brought insight and clarity to the modern world by conveying complex information in visually compelling and convincing manners. Edited by RJ Andrews of Info We Trust with art direction by Lorenzo Fanton, the series unveils these previously overlooked histories through newly discovered graphics and prominent works paired with contextual essays and annotations.
Through a combination of atlases, wall hangings, and textbook woodcut graphics, Emma Willard: Maps of History explores how Willard invented new conceptions of time and ultimately defined chronology in the United States. Florence Nightingale: Mortality & Health Diagrams contains the nurses’ persuasive designs that ultimately sparked vital reforms to the English health care system. And the Étienne-Jules Marey volume is the first English translation of the French scientist’s seminal text on data visualization, The Graphic Method, La Méthode Graphique, which was first published in 1885.
After launching May 11, Information Graphic Visionaries is already nearing its goal on Kickstarter, but you still have time to back the project.
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By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.
But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.
Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.
That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”
Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.
A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.
Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.
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A visual insights designer at Nike by day, Gladys Orteza spends her off-hours transforming otherwise dull stock market charts into brilliant landscapes. The dips and rises of companies like Ford, Tesla, Apple, and Disney become rocky gorges and distant city skylines. Prompted by trading practices pre-pandemic, Orteza began to envision buildings and natural features when diving into Robinhood. “I remember sitting on the couch looking at one of my stock charts and nonchalantly saying to my husband that these charts look really pretty and that I should recreate them as mountains on a landscape,” she says. These visualizations soon manifested into vivid, nature-based depictions.
The Hillsboro, Oregon-based artist, who’s been sharing her landscapes on Instagram, tells Colossal that much of her inspiration comes from living in the Pacific Northwest. “One day we were driving through farmland during a sunset, and the colors of the sky was so breathtaking I had to start drawing. I then got inspired by a few old trucks that were parked on people’s properties,” she says. That experience resulted in the pastel landscape created utilizing Ford’s chart (shown below) that has a vintage vehicle driving through the foreground.
Orteza also contradicts any notion that stocks and data are impersonal by adding important pieces of herself into each artwork. The moon radiating in the background of every piece represents her daughter named Lyanna Luna, and if you look closely at the nearby bird, you’ll see the creature actually is comprised of the artist’s signature.
To be clear, Orteza doesn’t expect her mountainous scenes or starry nights to influence trading decisions. “It’s not intended to help the viewer make any business decisions or give any technical analysis. It’s visual storytelling. It’s art,” she says. (via Kottke)
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