Art and Science

'Quantify' this: Artist Laurie Frick finds the beauty in scientific calculation

'Quantify' this: Artist Laurie Frick finds the beauty in scientific calculation

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Quantify-me (room view) Courtesy of Women & Their Work
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A Month of Sleep, 2011 Courtesy of Women & Their Work
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Green Tracking Time Courtesy of Women & Their Work
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detail of Quantify-me Courtesy of Women & Their Work
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Quantify-me Courtesy of Women & Their Work
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Multimedian Laurie Frick is one of those enviable geniuses whose right side of her brain is just as brilliant as her left. You know the type — they always made the best-looking collages in elementary school and were the first to memorize their multiplication tables.

With a background in engineering and technology, she works in the space between science and art, focusing on a theme important in both disciplines — patterns.

In her latest exhibition, Quantify Me, Frick draws from neuroscience to explore the “art” of self-tracking, creating color coded charts to display all the ways we can measure ourselves, like hours slept, calories expended, daily mood, weight, food ingested and more.

On their own, the colorful, intricately built multimedia installations of Frick’s exhibition at the Women & Their Work Gallery are visually striking and intriguing. But once you realize these pieces of highly-detailed art, made from wood, cardboard, recycled paper and industrial color samples, are also informative charts created through self-surveillance, the exhibit becomes mildly mind-blowing.

All that self-surveillance may sound crazy and compulsive, but Frick based her work off what she feels is a shared need among all of us to self-monitor: “I believe there is something comforting and compelling about human metrics and realized I was not alone. Many, many people measure something about themselves every day,” she explains in her artist’s statement.

Technology is making it easier then ever to fill that need, with self-tracking sites like MoodJam, where you can post your daily mood in color. MoodJam lets you track, see visualizations, and “share your moods with others.” It’s sort of like the highly advanced version of choosing the best font color for your angsty away-message back in the days of AIM. Or there’s mercuryapp, a micro-journaling site where you can “track anything, collect data and gain insight over time.”

These sites give us a tool for quantifying something we typically consider qualitative, like mood. Quantify Me, a presentation of both art and data, is a stunning, tangible exploration of that juxtaposition. The exhibit forces us to ask questions not only of how we measure ourselves on an individual basis, but how the tools we use can shape those measurements.

“What if walls could eventually produce ambient patterns of how we’re doing, where we subtly adjust behavior in response to those measurements?” Frick asks in her statement on the Women & Their Work event page. Come see the artist herself tackle that question and others at “The Art of Self Tracking” on Wednesday, Feb. 1st at 7 p.m. at the Women & Their Work Gallery.

At the event, Frick will give a visual presentation followed by an open discussion about her work and self-tracking in general. She adds, “I’ll also talk about a ton of ways to use current gadgets to measure yourself, and how it all makes its way into my art practice."

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If you can’t make it out on Wednesday night, you can still swing by and check out the exhibit, which runs through March 10, 2012, at Women & Their Work Gallery (1710 Lavaca St.). Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.