Artist Talk: Turning Data into Art and Experience

Join installation artists Xena Ni and Mollie Ruskin for a discussion on turning data into art and experience this Saturday at 2p.m. at PAKKE gallery 2C at UMBRELLA. The artists will discuss their two recent installations: UMBRELLA's Transaction Denied  and DataXDesign's exhibit Tempo at Brooklyn’s New Lab.

Inspired by the anti-poverty work of Martha’s Table, the nonprofit and food pantry that called this building home, Transaction Denied is a multimedia installation that tells the story of thousands of people seeking help paying for food in DC.

Reflecting on a troubled $50 million computer upgrade to DC’s food assistance program (also known as SNAP) that left thousands without access to their benefits,Transaction Denied invites us to ask our government to do better.

Artists Xena Ni and Mollie Ruskin pair cascades of familiar objects, like receipts and manila folders, with audio of human stories lost amidst systemic failures. The result is an immersive experience that calls into question how much we scrutinize people struggling to put food on their tables, and how little we understand about how our government is failing them.

About the artists:

Xena Ni is a DC-based multimedia artist and designer transforming public services and public institutions for the public good. Xena’s art practice is shaped by her civic design work and her experience as a Chinese-American immigrant woman. She believes that public institutions should work with and for the people they serve and collaborates with government partners to redesign and launch digital components of social services like and SNAP. Her art shifts narratives about people who are underrepresented or misrepresented in American culture -- in particular people seeking social services, Asian-Americans, and elders. Her recent work includes a residency at The Sanctuaries (an arts-activism collective in DC), Futuretelling (a workshop series for envisioning scenes from your possible future life), and Tempo (a data art installation co-created with Mollie Ruskin for DataXDesign 2019 at Brooklyn’s New Lab).

Mollie Ruskin is a Brooklyn-based designer and artist who brings creativity and people-centeredness to movement building and democracy. Grounded in a family of civil servants, urban designers, and creative spirits, Mollie is a passionate gal with many passionate pursuits aimed at world betterment. By day, she is a designer and strategist working in social justice movements, government reform, and civic engagement. She was a founding member of the US Digital Service in the Obama White House and a Presidential Innovation Fellow helping to build more people-centered public services. By night, Mollie has been rekindling her art practice, using painting and multi-media installation to bring nuance and conversation to social justice issues. Alongside collaborative partner Xena Ni, Mollie’s data art piece Tempo was shown at the DataXDesign exhibit at Brooklyn’s New Lab.  She is honored to have the chance to evolve this work to explore themes of poverty, food insecurity and government responsibility here in DC.