Creative Fusion – Alsino Skowronnek / Berlin
Alsino Skowronnek has been to America before, but this time it’s different. “This city has forced me to re-contextualize my knowledge about modern-day urban life as I know it from Germany.” Currently living in Glenville at The Madison, Skowronnek has been doing a lot of walking, he’s ridden public transit, and taken ride-shares around the Cleveland area—and like many visitors, he was struck by how disconnected the city seems: “To me it feels as if this city is made up not of one entity but instead of many different ‘mini-planets’ where people live somewhat in isolation and without much exposure to others.” Moving around a city with huge social disparities across class and race, Skowronnek has felt vulnerable in a way he never has before.
Naturally, these experiences are informing the work he is creating while here on his residency. Skowronnek is based in Berlin, one of three international participants in the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion Data Art Edition. He describes himself as a data designer, which he defines as someone that “comes up with hopefully new and inspiring ways of displaying data based on a specific objective. Just as a graphic designer uses typography and imagery to convey a certain message, a data designer uses data as a resource and creative element.” Like his fellow CF residents, Skowronnek will explore the intersections of art, technology, and community issues to create visual art out of environmental and health data in Cleveland. While the CF didn’t assign the subject matter specifically, the term they are bandying around is “environmental justice.”
So far Skowronnek has being trying to envision how to take his personal experiences in Cleveland into his work. He starts by asking himself, “What role does data play in such a context? How is it relevant in preserving or questioning social outcomes and how can it be used to start a conversation across these invisible borders? Which stories are being told and which remain untold? Is there a way that we can reconnect information about places with the people living there? I am not sure I have answers to any of these questions yet but this city certainly got me thinking.”
Exactly how this will manifest into visual art remains to be seen. I ask him if he considers himself an artist, and Skowronnek explains, “when working with data, I usually have a specific intention in mind of what I want to create, but I do allow myself enough room to play around and explore new ideas during the creative process…In that sense I guess in the best of cases there is an artistic element that results from that. I increasingly try to experiment with new forms of displaying geographic data and I hope that some of the stuff I do actually has an impact in the world beyond the simple visual. At the end of the day I am just a guy with a few ideas.”
Skowronnek will be showcasing the work he has completed while in Cleveland on the CIA Digital Screen at 11610 Euclid Ave starting this week.
»Breaking the pattern« is a data-driven art piece, exploring the issue of routine gun violence in the city of Cleveland. It consists of a visual representation of temporal incidence patterns of gun violence. By exposing occurrences of gun violence, the piece offers a new visual vocabulary and perspective on an issue which many people have come to accept as a deterministic reality in an unsafe urban environment in which gun violence has become the background noise and soundtrack to people’s daily lives.
The main piece is an algorithmically-generated image displaying all days in 2018, in which different forms of gun violence (i.e. shots fired, gun injuries, gun deaths) have been reported in the city, based on near real time data from the Gun Violence Archive. Each square represents a single day in 2018, starting with 1 January on the top left corner and ending on 10 November at the bottom right. Each day with reported gun violence is highlighted in a different shade of blue, according to the type of incidence, with darker hues indicating more or heavier gun violence.
The piece is on public display as a 8-minute video installation on the Cleveland Institute of Art’s digital mesh screen (11610 Euclid Ave) from November 12-29, 2018. 8 minutes is the average response time of a Cleveland police unit to a 911 call that involve »shots fired«.