Rebecca Ruige Xu, Sean Hongsheng Zhai: Out of Statistics: Beyond Legal

  • ©2009, Rebecca Ruige Xu and Sean Hongsheng Zhai



    Out of Statistics: Beyond Legal


Creation Year:



Artist Statement:

    With an aesthetic approach, Out of Statistics: Beyond Legal produces a series of abstract drawings based on US crime statistics as archival-ink digital prints on rice paper. Each image represents the crime status in one of the states, with the seven most significant crime-conviction statistics of each state embedded.

    In order to bring a fine-art quality and a natural, hand-drawn feel into the data visualization, the artists developed an algorithm based on their experience and analysis of experimental drawings. The algorithm was implemented using Python programming and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). As demonstrated in the legend of this work, each type of crime is mapped to a unique drawing stroke. Images are then created using these patterns, following a set of composition rules defined by the artists. The visual style of the project is influenced by Minimalism and traditional Asian art. Rice paper was chosen as the medium because its delicate texture and translucent quality can add grace to the images.

    The images can be viewed and judged solely as abstract artworks and still serve the function of visualization. Decoding the embedded information would then become an optional and additional interesting experience that viewers may potentially find rewarding. An observant viewer may discover that the interplay of black and white reflects the density of unlawful incidents in a particular state. Darker areas of the image represent places with more crimes.

    This project attempts to raise awareness of the current social conditions in each US state. Paradoxically, it visualizes crime-related data as elegant compositions and visually pleasing images. In this way, it questions the impact of data visualization on human perception of information.