My work exists at the confluence of science and art, where hard data intersects with the intangible complexities of human experience. Some artists paint likenesses of themselves as a means of understanding who they are in a complex world—I create art derived from personally recorded data. The practice I have developed allows me to aesthetically, sculpturally, and mechanically explore the representation of lived experience through numerical data. Data is the underlying topography of our lives, and my work explores how data-saturated experience can give rise to artistic objects and practices and become aesthetic/mechanical versions of memories.
My Latitude and Longitude Project, initiated June 21, 1999, records my exact position and elevation every hour using a hand-held GPS. I make maps, visualizations, and sculptures that become richer with each data point. These works refer to the original data but often evoke other landscapes and sensations, and illustrate the beauty that can be derived from careful observations of the everyday.
In my work and life, I try to simply exist, experience and record. I don’t go out of my way to fill blank areas on my maps—I go out of my way because I have never been there before and want to make physical connections with natural and cultural geography. The conscious action of self-documenting heightens my awareness of place, landscape and routine. The world is more complex than I can comprehend, but through my practice, I craft sculptural narratives that illuminate the value of place.
Stephen Cartwright was born in State College, Pennsylvania in 1972. Cartwright earned a BA in Studio Art from the University of California, Davis and an MFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art in 1998. In 2008 he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is now an associate professor in the School of Art and Design.
Cartwright has exhibited widely throughout the United States. Recent exhibitions include: Machine Wilderness – The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History; Machinations: Kinetic Sculpture in the Age of Open Source – Columbia College Chicago; (Degree) – Luminary Art Center, St. Louis; Cressman Center for Visual Art, University of Louisville. He also frequently discusses his practice at events and academic conferences, recent speaking engagements include: The Quantified Self Conference; The North American Cartographic Information Society Annual Meeting; College Art Association Annual Conference.