“Art For Tomorrow” Artist Interview: Arushi Singh

Interested in learning more about the artists on display at Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery? Read about Arushi Singh and her journey, process, and hope for the future of art.

arushi singh smiling in front of yellow background

Where are you from and which school do you go to?

Northeastern. I’m studying information design and data visualization.

I’m originally from India. I moved to Boston two years ago for graduate school. I’ve actually had an interesting journey; I started as an engineer. I did my undergrad in electronic engineering, and I started designing. I worked as a UX designer and researcher at Microsoft India. I wanted to go deep into a specific field, and so I chose data visualization. At Northeastern, I have been working with a broad spectrum of work ranging from information design and data visualization. I would classify the work I have done as data art, where I am using different techniques like light painting. For this particular exhibition, I used visualization for choreography of a classical Indian dance form called khatak.

Khatak dance is known for its graceful hand movements and rhythmic footwork. I used three techniques to visualize the traces of movement. The first technique was using paint on paper, so I had traced the choreography on a canvas and broke it down to understand various aspects of the dance. The second technique was used with light tracing. In order to achieve that, I put four LED lights on my wrists and ankles, then created the visual trace of the movement. It resulted in the video which I submitted to the exhibition.

What do you do as an artist?

I would say I am a professional designer who is interested in the field of data art. I use data to understand complex phenomena. In terms of work, I’m inspired by the work of Giorgia Lupi, Zach Leiberman, and, close to home at my university, Pedro Cruz, Deitmar Offenhuber, and Mauro Martino. I look up to their work, which uses data to tell stories. For example, Deitmar’s work is about autographic visualization, which are traces that are created while the phenomena is happening. Measuring an earthquake, that’s creating a trace of phenomena. There are many different areas of data visualization that I see and that is something that fascinates me. This is something I want to continue.

How do you think your craft fits into this exhibition? What does being in this exhibition mean as an artist?

I think it’s pretty fitting, given the current circumstances. While it’s about new media and new technologies in design and art, I think it’s also about experiencing art itself. Given the current circumstances, people are at home and I think curators have to think of different ways of getting art to people. There’s an opportunity here as well because the internet allows you to expose your work to so many more people quickly, and you’re not physically bound to seeing art at a gallery. It may not be the same experience, but this is definitely a way around this crisis.

If you could say one thing about your art, what would you say?

Because my art captures dynamic movements in a static form, I would want people to be able to reflect on those traces, to reimagine and reconstruct the visualization itself. I would want people to spend time observing the movements that happened which lead to the trace. The entire trace is a result of a 40 second choreography. It’s very interesting to see what kind of movements create what kind of a trace. For an observer to be seeing that as an end product, they would be able to reverse engineer the creation and the process.

What do you think art is going to look like with rapidly developing technology? And out of this crisis?

My particular field of data visualization is a field full of potential for working at home. There are so many tools out there to play with. For example, I sometimes work with processing to create small generative art pieces. There is a lot of potential for what we can do on computers. It’s a change that we’ll see over time, but it’s definitely something that’s happening more rapidly with the virus. If you’re confined in your home, you’re limited on resources. How do you make use of your time? I’m hoping for a lot of work to come out in the field of generative art, creating art using AI, and other technologies. Even common artists who may not have the technical know-how can use these tools to be able to create work of their own.

What role do you think art plays in our life now?

I think the role is pretty much the same as it always has been. The tools might change, but it’s always the same. It may have a similar kind of impact on society. Maybe the consumption and creation process might change, but it will always be a documentation of history. Using that, we can know so much more about our generation. After creating all of this digital work during this time, we can document different perspectives. Art has an equally important role to play in society today as a documentation of culture. It will definitely be an important thread that binds us all together, especially since we’re all separated from each other. It can be something to be hopeful for. Art can be the medium that gives everyone hope.

(Interviewed by: Bao Song)