October 24, 2010, 3:00 pm
Visualizing Scale at the Tate Modern
By Tim Roy
One of the most common requirements for our visualization work is to “show all the data at once”, a request made by clients who want to make certain that the audience is able to see the “whole” as well as the individual elements of which it is comprised. We often explain the challenges associated with this: the inability to provide detail or context, the potential for disorientation, and the challenges associated with a large number of data points. We have been fortunate enough to develop techniques for solving this business challenge and have been able to produce visualizations successfully presenting tremendous amounts of complex data.
It was for this reason I was drawn to a new exhibit at the Tate Modern in London: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds 2010. This installation takes the idea of representing a large number of objects to new extremes. The piece, on display at the Tate from 12 October 2010 to 2 May 2011, showcases 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds.
Juliet Bingham, Curator at the Tate Modern commented:
“Ai Weiwei’s Unilever Series commission, Sunflower Seeds, is a beautiful, poignant and thought-provoking sculpture. The thinking behind the work lies in far more than just the idea of walking on it. The precious nature of the material, the effort of production and the narrative and personal content create a powerful commentary on the human condition. Sunflower Seeds is a vast sculpture that visitors can contemplate at close range on Level 1 or look upon from the Turbine Hall bridge above. Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?”
While not a typical visualization (but then again, what is?), I was fascinated by the contrast between the scale of the overall work and the intricacy of the individual pieces. More than 1600 artisans from the Chinese city of Jingdezhen, worked to produce this collection under the supervision of Ai Weiwei. The results, while physically beautiful, also invite a far deeper intellectual inquiry about the idea of scale and presentation. The accompanying video, despite its 14 minute length, is a fascinating study in the process and context for this project.
when someone is like a genious…
Posted by jose mateus on September 29, 2011 at 11:01 am