The Taste of Data, a Love Story

A Love Story

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What is essential is invisible to the eye. Vesela and Veronika know that, so they developed a brand new kind of data visualization; it works through the stomach. The two artists concern themselves with statistics which they then bake or cook.

For starters, they materialized the unemployment rate in Linz, Austria in various cakes. The more jobless there were the less marmalade they put in the batter. Other ingredients, too, relied on quantities of data such as the birth rate or percent of foreigners. To this effect, they were making the yearly state of the city tangible to the palate. (2008 must have been abominable with a batter comprised of nearly all water). 90% of what we perceive we take in through the eyes, “but it gets much more intimate when we eat,” as Vesela put it.

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The whole project came about because Vesela was in love. Very in love. She would have married him right there and then, but for some reason (that obviously doesn’t speak in his favor), he didn’t realize what a catch she is. He needed to think it over and took 9 months to do so, during which Vesela just cried and cried and cried. She was pain-stricken, but now we have reason to rejoice. Again, she is an amazing woman who didn’t want to burden her friends with her heartache. So she started to write a sort of diary to keep her emotional state within bounds. She jotted down when she had her first cup of coffee, how much she cried (0 – 4 tears), what kind of music she listened to as well as poems and quotes that reflected her mood. Purely for the sake of convenience she kept her diary digitally on a blog to which only she had access. This enabled her to follow herself on Google Analytics and to measure also how much time she spent on her diary per day.

After nine months the torture was over. A decision had been made, although it wasn’t the one she had hoped for. At that time she decided to do a masters in design and moved to Linz. She didn’t think it was possible, but there she met a man she liked much more than the first. He was into her, too (not surprising at all). So they went for it without much ado.

In spite of everything, she felt she had to do something to give the old story closure, to be done with it for once and for all. She still had all that digital, i.e. non-flammable data about her tears (that could have gotten obscene). What could she do with it? Because Vesela really wanted her story to be digested, she literally fed it to her friends.

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The process: Vesela made it into a small performance, a ritual of purification she needed to go through to clean out all the grief.  She transposed each of the 120 days on her personal Way of Sorrows into a unique muffin recipe. In a gallery one night she baked one muffin at a time, making only one muffin per recipe and giving them out to the visitors. Vesela was tranced out like a wacko. On the (very few) perfect days she had she made perfect muffins, as for the rest, the ingredients were modified: the more tears she shed, the less cocoa went in, the worse her mood, fewer eggs, the more time she spent on the blog, the greater the reduction of flour. After performing for hours she sat down with her friends in the audience and tried the muffins herself. And the discussion ensued: What happened on each day? And does sorrow always taste bad? Or just different? Taste of Data No. 1: The End.

That was 2012. Since then Taste of Data has become an ongoing project and recently won them the 2014 Gabriele Heidecker Prize. As of late, the artists have been using sausages to visualize various countries’ corruption levels. With this project, food’s potential as a mode of representation is palpable. It is common knowledge that corruption exists. But how do you measure it? Much like sausage, scientific results always have an air of mystery. Sinking your teeth in the former, you just don’t know how much horse meat or toilet paper is in the mix. Vesela and Veronika have us taste the difference.

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What is essential is invisible to the eye, yes, but you don’t only see rightly with your heart. You see best with the palette on your tongue, your nose, and your stomach.

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