Interview with Vishal Kumar, Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL

Interviews
By Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich
Interview with Vishal Kumar, Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL Interview with Vishal Kumar, Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL

Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL | Previously Data Scientist @Sotheby’s

 

Hi Vishal, thanks for speaking to us today, to start with, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey Katharina, thanks for chatting with me! So, firstly, I’m a Londoner: I grew up in London, I did all of my education and work here, I also live here. I’m an analyst, academic and artist who is interested in art, data, design, strategy, and culture in cities. I worked at Sotheby’s for three and a half years, but now I’m focusing on building a data science and visualization portfolio, studying my postgraduate research degree at The Bartlett, and creating data-driven digital art. You can check my work out on my website (hyperlink: www.vishalkumar.london).

 

What was your earliest memory?

I wouldn’t say it’s my earliest, but I have very vivid memories of walking up to Sacre Coeur cathedral in Paris and then strolling around Montmartre when I was about 12 years old on a school trip. I remember seeing lots of artists, musicians and performerd. At the time I didn’t realise its importance to art history, I just really liked it up there. I’ve revisited Montmartre at least four times since.

 

Who was your childhood hero?

Muhammad Ali.

 

What was the last book you read that changed your life?

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

 

Blockchain is one of the buzziest words right now, but few people really understand the potential it holds. As someone who understands it, how do you see the technology impacting art, both now, and in the future?

It’s important to mention that a blockchain is not a complicated idea, think of it as a huge distributed online database - the technical details and the computer infrastructure are the complicated parts. I would say that there are three major areas where a blockchain could impact art: digital art, provenance, and transparency. Firstly, in terms of digital art, you can issue a limited number of copies (editions) of your digital artwork on a blockchain. This is helpful for digital artists because it stops their artwork being copied and replicated for free. Secondly, in terms of provenance, it can help authenticate that a work was in fact made by an artist if a record was made on a blockchain. Lastly, in terms of transparency, because a blockchain is an open online database, you can prove that you actually bought a work of art if the transaction was recorded on that blockchain -- for example, Christie’s will pilot an encrypted registration of art transactions from the Ebsworth collection on a blockchain this November.

You can read a wonderful article by Jason Bailey from Artnome here explaining the use cases of blockchain in more detail with good case studies. Blockchain as a proof of concept is here, but it has a huge way to go in terms of the scalability of the computer infrastructure, technical execution and user experience. It hasn't even been fully proven in financial or real estate markets, let alone the art market, but that doesn't mean you still can't play around with the technology!

 

Where do mathematics/data and art intersect?

Mathematics, data and art intersect in many ways. Historically speaking, Albrecht Dürer, da Vinci, and even Descartes spoke about the idea that mathematics and engineering could help art, and more recently, the academic professors and designers of the Bauhaus school in Weimer, Germany during the 1920s really pionnered this idea. Today, we can put many of the Bauhaus ideas to life by using computers, software, code and data.

I think many of us take our computers for granted. We only use them for operational or efficiency reasons; to do work, to send emails, to run a business, to build software, etc. Yet, we can also use them in cool and artistic ways, however, in order to do so, I think I decent understanding of geometry, maths, data, and computers is needed.

One of the first projects I did combining mathematics, data and art was called Symmetry, you can read more about it here (hyperlink: https://artplusmarketing.com/making-data-art-and-collaborating-with-a-writer-39ba28386caa). I see data as a creative medium. To me, data is like paint, computer coding is my brush, and the screen is my canvas. I want to play around with data, shape it, and give it form.

 

 

 


 


Which artist/scientist inspires you the most?

There are too many! Gallelio: I always find his story fascinating and inspirational. The Bauhaus school: I find the work of the Bauhaus, particularly, Kandinsky and Paul Klee, also very inspirational. Neri Oxman: professor at the MIT Media Lab. Reza Ali, Anders Hoff, Zach Lieberman: all are digital artists using code who are my inspirations. Kim Chi and Chips: husband and wife art collective creative large-scale immersive art.


In another life, what job might you have done?

An Architect. If you hadn’t already noticed, a lot of my interests and inspiration come from architecture. It’s a subject I wanted to study for a very long time because I love the combination of art, design, engineering and mathematics.


What advice would you give to emerging artists?

I think it’s really important to articulate your story to your audience. You can’t just make art and expect people to buy it or believe the whole industry will appreciate your aesthetic without coherently and frequently articulating your story to them. Social media is really important for this: it is a very cheap, immense distribution channel, not only to push out your work, but also to tell your story. In my experience, a lot of emerging artists don’t like social media because they feel it makes them look like marketers. That’s not necessarily true. You don't need to bombard your audience like an advertiser; you can tell your story with style. David Aiu Servan-Schreiber, an artist and also friend of mine, articulates the story about his art very well. David really cares about the effect humans are having on our planet and you get a true sense of this through the aesthetic of his work and the stories he tells on his Instagram account.


What big projects have you got lined up for the future?

I’m doing several projects at the moment as an analyst and an academic, but there’s one main artistic project I’m doing. Over the next six months, I’ll be researching and applying machine learning in creative ways to make art. I’ve already generated works of art using algorithms before, but this time I want to give my works of art cognitive abilities. Let’s see what happens. You can stay on top of my work on Instagram @vishalkumar.london (hyperlink: http://instagram.com/vishalkumar.london).
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Interview with Vishal Kumar, Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL Interview with Vishal Kumar, Data Science and Visualization @The Bartlett, UCL

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