Posted Apr 21, 2010 in Arts, Cool Shit, Tech | 0 Comments

Emotionally} Vague

Orlagh O’Brien, a graphic designer from Cork, waxes about the problems of the postmodern on her official website, arguing that “with exponentially increasing data available for every aspect of our lives, there is danger of a consequent overload and reduced quality to how we see and read both information and people.” And what’s O’Brien’s fix to this problem? Put the statistics back in art!

Okay, so O’Brien’s hypocritical solution isn’t exactly coherent, but no matter because it looks really damn cool. Her latest research project, Emotionally}Vague, attempts to visually represent how strangers’ apprehend their feelings. Traversing those murky waters between art and science, O’Brien compiled data on emotion by asking respondents to use basic images to show how they conceptualize their feelings. She then overlapped the images to build a composite of what emotions look like. In her first experiment, for instance, O’Brien asked respondents to draw on top of an outline of a body to show where and how they experience emotion. And what does a feeling look like? Well, this is anger:

And this, joy:

Apparently this is how people feel about sadness:

And, finally, fear:

In addition to these basic exercises, O’Brien also asked participants to pick what colours they most associate with emotions. The results:

Finally, O’Brien surveyed people to describe in words what prompted them to feel a given emotion. Joy, in one word spurts, looks something like this:

Whereas Anger is more like this:

Before going on, I’d just like to pause to note that “hungry” comes before both “racism” and “lying” on this list. Unsurprisingly, “cyclists” still trump “selfishness” and “discrimination.” In any case, while O’Brien’s artwork is indisputably “fact-y,” it does distill complex concepts down to their bare bones. That’s probably why, as O’Brien is quick to point out, the project has “received international interest from reputable scientists and artists.” (Still waiting on names, though).

To take O’Brien’s lead and over-simplify things a little, there was once an eggheaded loser named Science who had a liberal arts college-attending, lazy and sexually confused cousin named Arts. O’Brien’s work is like the family gathering that brings the two together, reminding them of what they have in common and how they can learn from one another. By entangling the remote pair, O’Brien has made psychology bearable and has given Art some practical use.

To find out more about the O’Brien’s work and the process behind, see the official Emotionally}Vague website.

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