Grace Hopper, a computer scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral, used wire to visualise very short durations of time in computing. Each wire is cut to the maximum distance that light or electricity can travel in a nanosecond, one billionth of a second. She wanted programmers to understand 'just what they're throwing away when they throw away a millisecond', and describes using them to help military commanders understand why signals take so long to relay via satellite. This lecture was given at MIT […]
1973 – Mazamet Ville Morte
In 1973, the French town of Mazamet had a population that closely matched the nationwide number of motor vehicule deaths across the previous year. A TV reporter decided to show all inhabitants lying on the floor to symbolize these deaths. Source: Marieaunet (2010) 1973 Mazamet ville morte.
1987 – All the Submarines of the United States of America
This installation from American artist Chris Burden shows the 625 submarines of the US fleet from the late 1890s to the late 1980s. The cardboard models have been suspended at different heights to look like a school of fish. Also see our other entries on single-datum physical visualizations. Sources: Found on Loren Madsen's lecture slides Art as Information – Information as Art. Wikipedia article on Chris Burden. Photo from Giorgia Valli, Grey Magazine.
2004 – Of All the People in All the World: Stats with Rice
Since around 2004 the British group of artists Stan’s Cafe is creating data landscapes all over the world by mapping each grain of rice to a person in order to convey various statistics such as city populations or deaths in the holocaust. The size and theme of the show change depending on the location. The largest one involved 104 tons of rice. Rice is weighted manually in small quantities and manually poured over piles. This labor-intensive process is part of the show. Sources: Stan's […]
2009 – How Much Sugar do you Consume?
Nutrition labels are often difficult to apprehend: when you drink a can of coke, you consume 39g of sugar, but how much is that? In order to increase consumer's awareness of how much sugar they ingest when eating and drinking, several campains have used a physical visualization using actual sugar cubes and sugar grains to represent the sugar content in food. Many examples can be found online (search for "sugar stacks" and "rethink your drink"). It is unclear when these representations […]
2009 – Marcovici's Single-Datum Visualizations
Vienna artist Michael Marcovici created two physical visualizations that convey a single numerical value. The first one shows one billion dollar - the most expensive piece of art ever made, according to him (although these were actually miniature bills). The second one called Rolex Time Sand shows an entire lifetime worth of hourglass sand. For another single-datum physical visualization see our entry Ceramic Poppies to Commemorate Fallen Soldiers in WW1, and our entry on Chris Burden's […]
2014 – 888,246 Ceramic Poppies to Commemorate Fallen Soldiers in WW1
Don't miss the major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marking one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower's famous moat over the summer. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war. The poppies will encircle the iconic landmark, creating not […]
2017 – Are you Sure you Want to Smoke?
Giacomo Flaim, a student in Communication Design at Politecnico of Milan, made a single-datum physical visualization out of 4,234 cigarette butts to convey the average annual cigarette consumption of an Italian smoker. Labels were added to indicate the reduction in life expectancy depending on the quantity smoked, from 10 minutes for a single cigarette to more than a month for the entire year. Sources: Giacomo Flaim (2017) Are you sure you want to smoke? (behance.net). Information is […]
2020 – COVID-19 Deaths as Nails
An art installation in the Cathedral of Schwäbisch Gmünd (Germany) shows COVID-19 deaths as nails hammered into wooden cubes. More nails are added as the number of deaths increase. The text down the steps says "Fürchtet euch nicht", meaning "do not be afraid". Also see our other entries on single-datum physical visualizations and on conveying deaths. Sources: Tweet from Friedrich Hart (@mxfh), Dec 9, 2020. SWR (2020) Schwäbisch Gmünd: 13.000 Nägel für Coronaopfer.