In 2012 media artist Marcel Schwittlick started recording the movements of his computer mouse. He wrote a piece of software that is running in the background on the computer and records every single movement of the cursor on the screen. Everything is being recorded and saved. All movement that happened between two clicks is interpreted as a line.
With time Schwittlick had developed a framework to handle these lines in various ways. This framework contains algorithms and processes which can modify the material “cursor lines”. It’s crucial for controlling and handling this overwhelming amount of data, which exists of millions of lines. It’s an unconventional process to get an overview. "You can’t just easily print them and lay them all out on a table, to get an overview. This was a challenge for me, organizing and exploring these recordings."
In many of the compositions Schwittlick selects lines according to their entropy. He prefers lines that are not too simple and straight and not too long, absurd, curled or figurative. As a next step he narrow the selection of lines by a few more parameters. Until only a few hundred are left over from the millions of lines that were initially generated. "That's where the manual decision begins. At this point I actually render and look at them. And just chose one by gut-feeling."
By curating some of these digitally processed pieces into an exhibition, 'Feeling Data' that opened in Erratum Gallery in Berlin, Schwittlick questions the mathematical character in the aesthetics of digital art and puts these qualities in contrast to his practice of collecting and remixing cursor movements with algorithmic procedures.
"In this exhibition, I want to portrait a cycle."
In some way the capture and recording of the mouse movements can be considered a "performance". After that everything went into the digital world, formed according to Schwittlick's aesthetic conception. As a last step the movements are being transferred back onto paper, with the same bandwidth like they have been created. "For me this is an appropriate technique, it’s important that these works are not mistakenly seen as prints. They are drawings. Also because it’s not a perfect, technical reproduction. The process of drawing yields more space and freedom to influence the drawing."
The Mouse is as simple as a pen for Schwittlick, and his fascination with it is bringing up endless ideas. Earlier this year he has been working on another project, where he sent 50 drawings to friends and colleges, artists, curators and collectors all around the world.
The framework developed by Schwittlick is the code that is shared among all these compositions and drawings. It’s the code that is responsible for general filtering, handling the data, morphing lines in general. Every composition has it’s own logic, a different algorithm that arranges the lines. This algorithm is the essence of each series.
More and more aspects and processes in our lives are happening in the virtual world, and it’s important to understand them, or at least be aware of what’s happening. In general, when you buy something on Amazon for example, you are already aware of its negative consequences for the environment because of high CO2 emissions resulting from transportation. But for other processes it’s not as obvious to understand what they mean. For example data, it represents pure gold for tech companies, and yet we give it to them ‘for free’.
Schwittlick's works address the idea of understanding the consequences of our actions. With the growth of the internet this issue got a little more complex, because the virtual aspect of life got bigger. "This might be another idea of this exhibition, just being contemporary by inhabiting the natural level of complexity of our world."