TED Senior Fellow and Speaker, Digital Artist, Tech Innovator

Julie Freeman loves data, not just for how it helps us understand the world, but because it is so abundant, malleable and profound. Freeman uses data as a material to create art, and is particularly excited about live data — data generated from living things. Freeman’s work spans visual, audio and digital art forms and explores how science and technology changes our relationship to nature. The driving force behind her genius is the curiousness of why natural systems are so compelling. 

Often working collaboratively, Freeman experiments in transforming complex processes and data sets into sound compositions, objects and animations. For the past 15 years Freeman has been focusing on questioning the use of electronic technologies to ‘translate nature’ – whether it is through the sound of torrential rain dripping on a giant rhubarb leaf; a pair of mobile concrete speakers who lurk in galleries spewing sonic samples, by providing an interactive platform from which to view the flap, twitch and prick of dogs’ ears; or using scientific techniques to misguide an audience to manipulate their senses.

Her latest work, We Need Us, explores metadata from Zooniverse, a website that allows more than a million volunteers to help scientists classify data to help advance research in subjects like astronomy and biology. Freeman takes metadata from Zooniverse volunteers — she counts the numbers of clicks and classifications — stores it as new metadata, and looks at the rhythms of frequency. With this, she creates visual graphic forms that play back sound samples. The data gives the artwork impermanence and constant change — it’s a highly abstracted system. Unlike data visualisations, which help us understand data, Freeman’s work challenges us to experience data, to feel rather than analyse it. The project was launched at TED Rio 2014. 

Freeman’s work is held in a number of private collections and has exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Kinetica, the Barbican Centre and the Science Museum, and internationally in Brazil, Croatia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Russia and the USA.

In 2003 Freeman received a  2 year professional development fellowship worth £96,000 to develop innovative science and technology-led artworks for NESTA. 

Based in the UK, Freeman has been awarded fellowships from TED.com (Senior) and NESTA, is a Wellcome Trust Arts awardee, a board member of MzTEK.org, and heads up the Data as Culture art programme at the Open Data Institute. 

Julie Freeman introduces her project WeNeedUs at ODI 2014

Julie Freeman's interview by Bazaar Voice on Authenticity


Julie Freeman's TEDx talk