Soft light, hard data.
The in-between time of the “blue moment” echoes across the snow and ice covered ground. Indirect diffused light tints the sky blue, with fewer than four hours of daylight glimpsed during the depths of winter in Finland. In higher latitudes, this “blue moment” can last hours and is the period that separates day from a deep, never-ending night. Winter months crystalize into these in-between times where residents and visitors incubate indoors while the landscape is frozen in the gloaming.
In our everyday, sunlight reaches Earth's prismatic atmosphere and is scattered directionless by gases and particles in the air. Blue light scatters more than other colours as it travels in shorter, smaller waves - this relative diffusion of shorter wavelengths paints the Finnish winter landscape and Lambert’s nine subjects in an eerie glow.
In Kenneth Lambert’s Data Blue, portraits of his fellow residents are captured by a process of digital cartography. Soft blue light shines onto the subjects, lighting the textural spaces of their face, inviting them to share their desires and secrets while peering into their own psyche through the confessional anonymity of data collection.
These repetitive mapped moments look deep into the personal details of each subject and offer to Lambert and his camera a digital portrait, reflecting the subject back through layers of technology. Here, this digital cartography takes the form of volumetric data, plotted along an invisible axis and swirled into a dot-to-dot puzzle, where the viewers are asked to do their own processing. Data Blue is laced with allusions to data anonymization - by joining the dots, a point cloud emerges to reveal a complex portrait that speaks to the concept of privacy.
Lambert’s captured data portraits represent points plotted on a graph, the in-between allowing the viewer to paint their own picture amongst the visualised hard data. Like the flickering of an image on a cinema screen, these still images and videos are given form only in our mind’s-eye, as our brain is purpose built for filling in the blanks of visual data. Artificial Intelligence processes are only now looking to approximate the human mind’s guess working abilities with Google’s Deep Mind neural network dreaming up digital hallucinatory associations devoid of meaning. There is an unknowing innocence and looming terror around AI’s inability to extrapolate inferences. AI algorithms also supercharge surveillance and threaten our privacy, yet we voluntarily navigate within this new technological context.
These fractalised data portraits, both interpolate and abstract the figure in a similar manner that data in the cloud of the internet tracks us. Our own daily data trail drifts along behind us as we search the internet, painting its own incomplete portrait of each of us into the mirror world of the web. A world of likes, discarded shopping carts, web searches and that millisecond of lingering on a photo - these are all registered by the machine. A machine we have built. The web and the cloud is our own man-machine converter and we, collectively and willingly use it billions of times a day to travel into the internet. Like-wise our GPS wanderings are registered via our aggregate route from home, to school, to work, to the market, to the spot where we pause to contemplate the growth of a root in the sidewalk, or our detour down a side street to catch a glimpse of sunlight striking a particular building before the sun dips below the horizon.
With an immeasurable amount of personal and sensitive data constantly being collected, stored and shared - the notion of anonymity is not guaranteed. Lambert offers these portraits as almost an inverse form of ‘light therapy’, adding insight and accessibly to the complex language of digital data sets. Data Blue investigates the way we peer into deep recesses of the mind and the data structures of the internet, finding intricacies and complexities in our willingness to disclose personal data.
Melissa Burnet Rice