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People of the Year 2015 | Laurie Frick

“Run towards your data,” is artist Laurie Frick’s mantra. Originally trained as an engineer, Frick now uses her background in tech to create large-scale mixed-media and visually stunning pieces, transforming personal data into abstract artwork. Her unique approach and ability to seamlessly navigate the intersection between the visual arts and science is gaining her well-deserved national attention in both the creative and technology industries.

Frick is pretty into self-surveillance. She has an EEG monitor to measure sleep patterns, a calorie counting app, a wireless scale and a time tracking logging system on her computer that records where she spends her time online — just to name a few. “We’re at this moment in the world where everything’s becoming tracked and measured about us. And people are a little freaked out, or they find it a little creepy or they’re worried,” Frick explains. She, on the other hand, sees it as an opportunity to understand ourselves in a really intricate way: “It’s almost like technology boosted mindfulness.”

The way she creates her “data selfies” as she sometimes jokingly calls them is this: she takes the numbers and data from her various measurement tools (data she sees as “unapproachable” on its own), and studies the algorithms and patterns. She then uses different types of colorful, textured materials like wood, leather or recycled paper, to create abstract visual representations of those patterns. “It really is a sense of self,” says Frick of the process. “You see the colors and the patterns that feel familiar [and] you can start to read or recognize things.”

Frick believes data can help us get to know ourselves in a deeply intimate way, and her goal is to present it in a way that’s consumable. “Art gets people to look a lot longer,” she explains. “It holds you, it sort of grabs an emotional part of you that a chart or a paragraph doesn’t.”

It’s that idea that was behind “FRICKbits,” her app that launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign in November of last year. “It’s not trying to be anything complicated.” The app, which was built by Austin digital project studio thirteen23, takes location data from your phone and abstracts it. “You earn small bits and clusters for the places you go all the time,” Frick says of the app, which was modeled after a series of her watercolor pattern portraits and allows you to choose a color palette “It’s a simple way for people to experiment with ‘Oh my god, I get my data back in this kind of pattern.’”

Frick has felt strongly since starting her self-surveillance work nearly five years ago that our behavioral patterns are our own, and we should reclaim them as such. “Life makes beautiful patterns, it belongs to you,” is another mantra of Frick’s. “In the future,” she says, “different companies [are] going to know a ton about you, and I thought, ‘Well alright what if you could get all that data and use it as a way to understand who you are?’” Her concepts have been well received in the art world — in addition to her recent solo exhibition this summer at the renowned Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, Frick has been widely exhibited in California and Texas and covered by outlets like The Atlantic, NPR and The Huffington Post.

It’s not just the art world that’s responding to Frick’s work. Recently, she’s started connecting with companies like Samsung and Microsoft. On a recent project with the Samsung labs mobile phones team, Frick was surprised by the company’s interest in making data collection more of a two-way street. “They were really interested in the idea of how all this data that’s gathered in the phone could be a reflection of who you are,” she says. “Samsung was really interested in finding ways to give data back to the user, but the problem they really find is ‘Well, what do we give them? A bunch of spreadsheets? It’s gonna be junk, it’s gonna be this completely unintelligible mess.’ And I said: ‘Well, give it back to them as art.’”

CREDITS

Photography by Chad Wadsworth | Hair by Jessica Casarez of Lip Service | Makeup by Dolce - Ivy Kim

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