The Shape Of

By Angela Conant

The Shape Of is an interactive work that visually represents data gathered via survey. The survey is designed to mimic a kind of marketing research that  distills and capitalizes on personal information. The resulting written analysis and drawing series manifest the failure of data to elucidate the complexity of individual thought.


Referencing quantitative research methodology, this project employs systems traditionally used to gather data and to diagram information. Survey questions cross-reference respondents’ identities with definitions of truth as translated into descriptions of two-dimensional shapes.
 

Over 100 survey responses to questions like “Describe a 2-d shape that could symbolize the United States of America to you. You could say ‘circle’ or ‘square’, or describe another shape if your shape doesn't have a name,” generated a series of drawings depicting the shapes described by respondents. What follows is a written analysis of this data.

Shapes Data Analysis


Respondents answered with invented shapes, standard shapes, images and symbols. Most respondents invented shapes. Shapes with points were in numbers. There were two question marks. Circles dominated. The survey’s goal was to draw a comparison between respondents’ visualizations of a shape of truth versus a shape of truth that everyone knows.


Respondents sometimes indicated contingencies, for example: “it would have to be” or “something like”, as if there could be a wrong answer. Some respondents were literal, using known shapes or even symbols such as mathematical or grammatical symbols. Some attempted to describe images that are expressive of the illusive nature of truth.
 

At times, responses evidenced a lack of faith in the question, or a resignation to the limitations of shapes to encompass the concept of truth. Some responses included a description or justification of the thought process, a rationalization of the ultimately determined shape. Some were sassy. Some deliberately attempted to subvert the entire premise, and succeeded. In
those cases, certain answers had to be omitted from this study.

 

Respondents are using written language to convey image, which may inherently negate such data at the outset, as writing often falls short of the truths of imagination and image.  Participants were asked to respond without over-contemplating answers, so some answers are drawn from association. Others, similarly, analyze their own answers after the associative response. Some shapes are impossible, such as “an infinite line,” which presents challenges when rendered as part of analysis. Occasionally a participant responded with an objection to or acknowledgment of the impossibility of the question itself, when truth was too difficult to describe. These responses are omitted from visually rendered analysis.

Some responses used images to suggest shapes, such as “amoeba” or “spider”, which may not have been meant as literal answers, but images that stand for simpler shapes. Such answers use a kind of backwards shape-generating technique which implies an interpretive audience. Certain respondents had clearly exhausted themselves answering previous questions.


Angela Conant
May 1st, 2018

Angela Conant repeats content through paint, drawing, video and stone. Her videos incorporate sculpture and paintings and have parodied the politics of gender and media. Her practice also encompasses curating and collaborating on artist-run projects.

 

Primarily working in marble at present, Conant’s ideas continually traverse between media. Her larger-scale works in marble act as matrices for works on paper. Conant takes rubbings of her marble carvings, which yield infinite potential for a growing body work in drawing.

 

In an ongoing series of video works, she remotely collaborates with her graduate school classmate, Yasmeen Sudairy. Sudairy (who is Saudi Arabian) and Conant (as a third-generation American) make socio-political observations by straddling reality and fiction from their societal roles as perceived from a western perspective. Conant prompts, interprets and edits Yasmeen improvising dialogue in her native Arabic, emphasizing this intercultural dynamic in various fictitious scenarios (a driving lesson, a newscast, a space voyage).

 

Conant has been working in Brooklyn, NY for 15 years. She has spoken at Boston University's School of Fine Art and at New York Foundation for the Arts, and was awarded a Critical Writing residency at Recess (New York City) in 2013 and an Artist Residency at the Millay Colony (Austerlitz, NY) in 2014. In 2007, she co-founded The Gowanus Studio Space, an artist-run collaborative in Brooklyn where she served as Artistic Director until 2014. She earned a BFA in Painting from Boston University and an MFA in Art Practice from School of Visual Arts in 2013. She is currently a Visiting Professor in Pratt Institute’s Fine Arts department, and is publishing Opposite Day, an annual journal of essays and articles by artists, writers, and the creative community in reaction to the current US administration.

 

Her work has been nationally and internationally exhibited at Electronic Arts Intermix (New York City), The Elizabeth Foundation Project Space (New York City), SPRING/BREAK art show (New York City); Glasshouse Projects (Brooklyn, NY), Interstate Projects (Brooklyn, NY); the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art (Wilmington, DE), Neter (Mexico City, MX), The Sunview Luncheonette (Brooklyn, NY), ICA Baltimore (Baltimore, MD), La Mama Gallery (New York City), SARDINE (Brooklyn, NY), Galerie René Blouin (curated by Kiki Smith and Geneviéve Cadieux) (Montreal, QC) and Agency (Brooklyn, NY).