Synergistic braintap

When data sets plus DIY spawn art

By Jane A. Black

A silver and pearl bracelet by Sandra Picciano-Brand. Do you see a synchronicity of form, shape and color?

I remember the first time I heard of synchronicity. It was the name of an album by The Police that came out in 1983.

My friend Jean is cringing right now, in disbelief. How could I have reached 22 years old and not have learned about Carl Jung’s great explanation for how humans create and perceive meaning by connecting seemingly unrelated things? She may also be cringing for how I am rewording his definition of the principle, which was “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”

Anyway, the concept seemed to explain so much. Periodically, I run into one of these clusters, when everything I see or read or hear leads to something else that relates to the first thing plus something else that just happened.  The experience is a little creepy but always energizing. It makes you feel connected to everything — the subjective, the objective, the rational, the unconscious. Fascinating stuff.

In fact, it just happened while I was writing the beginning of this story. I Googled to find out when Jung wrote Synchronicity (it was 1972) and happened across his favorite related quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Just so happens that my favorite new thrift store find is an Alice in Wonderland purse (and I’ve been thinking of my life lately as very much down-the-rabbit-hole).

Wait — how did I end up writing about Lewis Carroll? I was aiming for Aaron Koblin. Well … Johnny Cash, Ralph Woolpert, Aaron Koblin and Eva Buttacavoli, actually. Here’s how all those people fit together in my little rabbit hole …

My son sent me a link to The Johnny Cash Project. I loved this collaborative-everybody’s-invited-to-join-in music video, in which anyone can digitally draw a frame and add it to the whole. Huh, I thought, what a cool site. Then I got a freelance assignment to cover Woolpert’s 100th anniversary. I watched a video about what the company has become and believe me, it’s not just surveying any more. These mapping geniuses are talking about the fourth dimension — mapping data sets over time and then combining them into visual representations. Wow, I thought, that’s interesting.

Next? I got my email reminder to read The Artful Manager blog and I clicked on the first link, which was Aaron Koblin doing a TED talk. It’s all about how he takes data and creates digital art, using it “to reflect on cultural trends and the changing relationship between humans and technology.” (Learn more on Some of his fodder is from – yup, you’ve got it – data sets that have been mapped over time. My favorite is the image of text messaging in Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve.

But there was another source of information for his work that he talked about, too. It is content generated by individuals who contribute something online according to his directions, having no idea as to how it’s going to create a whole. And just as he finished explaining his piece Ten Thousand Cents, it hits me … this must be the guy who did The Johnny Cash Project! And yes, it was – in collaboration with Chris Milk.

So … how does this lead to Dayton’s own Eva Buttacavoli, Film Dayton executive director and independent curator extraordinaire? Because Eva has agreed to set the Dayton Visual Arts Center’s 20th Annual Open Members’ show, in which hundreds of Daytonians create something, vaguely around a theme. We’ve noticed over the years that always, when the work comes in, there are these amazing synergies and synchronicities. Then someone — in this case, the lovely Ms. Buttacavoli — arranges the individual contributions, the data, into a whole. And through that person’s singular vision, an exhibition is born that reflects who we are and what we do and how we interact with
the world.

Yeah. That’s what I was getting to. Hope you’ll come looking about at DVAC’s Members’ Show, open
July 15 to August 20.

Jane A. Black is a fiber artist and the executive director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. Visit the gallery at 118 N. Jefferson St. or visit their website at Follow her on Twitter @lookingabout. She can be reached  at

Jane Black

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