The Data Lounge Jane James

This piece of furniture is constructed from the data of the Remote Sensing Centre of the Ecosciences Precinct, and it was this data which determined the form.

The plinth documents a decade of rainfall and fractional cover data, derived from the false colour landsat 8 satellite images that make up the seat. The same fractional cover data is visualised in embroidery on the seat.

The upholstered bands of images represent the broad divisions of rainfall zones in Queensland, and the state is reflected in the form of the lounge.

The lights incorporated into the piece reference the various spectral bands utilised in analysing the images.

This is the story of the Data Lounge.

A six month Art and Science residency with a collective of artists working in the Ecosciences Precinct gave me the unique opportunity to explore the science done in the precinct, and the possibilities of an enriching collaboration with the scientists there.

I was interested in working with the remote sensing centre for a number of reasons. I have some background knowledge in spatial information systems, and this was helpful in understanding and interpreting the work of the Remote Sensing Centre. I was also immediately captured by the intrinsic beauty of the landscape captured by Landsat, and the images resulting from the work done by the centre.

I was very intrigued by the possibilities in the use of the non visible spectrum in visualising the landscape, and the aerial viewpoint of these images, in contrast to the majority of western landscape traditions. As a result of these initial ideas, I spent some time exploring the possibility of painting landscapes from these images.

Ultimately though, this felt unsatisfactory as it did not address the work of the scientists in the centre. Speaking with the scientists and looking at the website and data visualisation they produce, I was struck by the landscape-like forms that various data visualisation methods produced. This was the genesis of the data lounge, and the investigation of landscape forms derived purely from land data. It was also fitting, I felt, that the artistic outcome be a practical one - as this reflects nature of the data produced by the centre.

The Data Plinth

The plinth is made up of ten sets of stacked data layers. These ten sets each represent a single year, from 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2014.

In turn, each set has four layers, showing the percentages of bare ground, dry vegetation, green vegetation and rainfall throughout the year. The three sides of the plinth show the data layers from a location on one of the images. The different patterns in these different landscapes are clearly visible throughout the year and over the decade. These create different landscape-like forms, with the histogram formed the corners of the plinth. This references the urban landscape, and records both the 31st of December (lhs) and first of January (rhs) data for every year.


This image shows the Thomson River, near Longreach in Central Queensland. The water in the river channels appears blue, while the fringing riparian vegetation appears dark green. Dry channels and the floodplain are pale blue or white, reflecting their bare surface. The surrounding landscape is dominated by plains of Mitchell grass, which appears as various shades of purple, depending on the proportion of bare ground and dry ground cover. The Remote Sensing Centre measures and monitors ground cover across Queensland to support sustainable land management.

This aspect of the plinth shows a strong declining trend in green ground cover, visible in the centre of the piece.

South West

This image shows the Georgina River, west of Boulia in Queensland’s Channel Country. Floodwaters fill some of the many braided river channels, while the surrounding arid landscape appears in various shades of orange. The Remote Sensing Centre conducts fieldwork even in this remote part of Queensland, to calibrate the satellite imagery with conditions across the state.

Most of the interesting data trends appear in the first months of the year on this aspect of the plinth.

North East

This image shows the North Kennedy River and Princess Charlotte Bay, on Cape York in North-Eastern Queensland. The sinuous loops of the river wind through woodlands and grasslands, before reaching the mangroves and salt flats of the coast. In the southern part of the image, a dark area shows a recent fire scar. The Remote Sensing Centre has used satellite imagery to map fire scars across Queensland since 1986.

The cadence of the seasons is much more rhythmic and regular on this side of the piece, with the regular wet and dry seasons quite evident.

Imagery Technical Details

All three images were captured by Landsat 8 and are shown at 1:50 000 scale, and are orientated north in accordance with the abstracted depiction of the state in the form of the seat.

They are displayed using a combination of spectral bands - 6 (short wave infrared 1), 5 (near infrared), and 3 (visible green). The images were supplied by the United States Geological Survey.

The arrangement of the layers and their meaning.
The positions of the data sets illustrated on the upholstered section.

The seat

The ten year trend graphed data embroidered on the seat was printed to size by Robert Denham, and was then machine embroidered by Frances Mulholland, an internationally recognised textile artist based in Brisbane.

The interpretation of the ten year graphed data.

The initial concept emerges, Images from Vegcover.

Early design drawings...

Drafted plans.

Marine grade plywood was selected to build the piece as it reflects the composite layers of information found in the imagery produced by the remote sensing centre. It also possesses the structural integrity required of the design. The Centres data was transferred directly to a CAD driven Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router, ensuring that the data remained uncompromised.

Similarly, the images on the upholstery were digitally printed in Melbourne directly from files produced at the centre. These are done using natural fibre fabrics and printed with non-toxic, solvent free, water based pigment inks, in a low impact, sustainable practice.

The digital composite file for the upholstery.

The printed fabric prior to assembly.

Sewing the seat.

The construction

The manufacture and construction of the plinth.
The laser etched QR code on the furniture forms a dynamic link to the ongoing story of this piece. Its visual appearance is complimentary to the digital nature of the data within the work. It will be updated as the story and life of the piece develops. Links will be added as they become available.
“I felt entering the residency that any work undertaken needed to incorporate the data from the scientists within the precinct, and that it should be a collaborative process, with input from the scientists themselves."
“This requires both some scientific knowledge from the artist, and visual literacy on the part of the scientists. Ideally such a partnership expands the understanding of each others discipline, and I feel that this was the case in the work undertaken with the scientists of the Remote Sensing Centre. The piece incorporates their original and unaltered data, and offered the chance to explore various modes of data visualisation, consequently making visible and accessible the science produced here. It was a pleasure to work with Al, Bec and Robert throughout the process. They were very generous with both their time and knowledge, and I was continually struck by their profound sense of stewardship over the land and information that they are responsible for. I was humbled by the depth and extent of their knowledge of the state.”

From the scientists perspective...

Three scientists collaborated with Jane James on this piece, creating the first data visualisation they have ever been able to sit on. Selection of the imagery and data required both technical and aesthetic considerations.

“I’m excited by this totally unexpected way to use our data,” said Rebecca Trevithick, Senior Scientist. “We designed a website to display ground cover data, thinking it would be used by land managers and other scientists… and now it has inspired an artwork.”

“I enjoy thinking of better ways to visualise complex data,” said Robert Denham, Environmental Statistician, “but this is the first time my plots have been made three dimensional.”

“I normally use satellite imagery to map changes in land cover,” said Al Healy, Scientist. “This project allowed me to emphasise the beauty of the imagery instead.”

This artwork shows how satellite imagery is much more than a pretty picture – it provides us with a rich source of data about our landscape and how it changes over time.

For more on the work of the centre, visit


The Data Lounge has been on display in the Asia Pacific Design Lounge of the State Library of Queensland in early 2016, and was a finalist in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize at the Museum of South Australia, and was exhibited there in June 2016.


Purchased by a Brisbane philanthropist in 2015, the Data Lounge has been made available for public display since that time. It has been featured in the Asia-Pacific Design Lounge of the State Library of Queensland, a finalist in the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize and displayed at the Museum of South Australia, and has featured at StemX at the Brisbane Convention Centre. In 2018 it was displayed as part of the World Science Festival, Brisbane, alongside the documentary ‘Ground Truth’

The Data lounge now forms part of the collection of the Queensland Museum, and is on permanent display at the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, 317 Edward Street, Brisbane.

Enquiries about the piece should be addressed to the artist.

Workshop facilities, coffee and practical assistance were generously provided by Andrew Steel and Alex Bonner at Ultrafonic, Brisbane.

I would also like to thank the scientists, Al, Bec and Robert for their patience and work - without their efforts it would not have been possible.

Andy Grodecki and Gabrielle van Willigen, Senior Project officers with Science Engagement, Science Delivery Division, Department of Science, Information Technology, and Innovation for their tireless efforts.

For more information about the artist,



janejamesfineartist on Instagram

Jane James Fine Artist page on Facebook.

Created By
Jane James