Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture “1.8” hung like a rainbow-hued spiderweb suspended between four buildings above London’s Oxford Circus last week during the city’s Lumiere London event. At first glance, the sculpture appears to be abstract, but it is actually a visual representation of data collected during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Echelman used a dataset of wave height measurements with a computer-assisted design suite to create a stunning web to dangle over one of London’s busiest intersections.
The installation’s title refers to the number of microseconds that the day of the earthquake was shortened by. Most people are not even aware that geophysical events like earthquakes actually have a measurable impact on the rotation of the Earth. “You expect a tsunami or earthquake to have a physical impact on water, but you don’t expect it to have an impact on time and the rotation of the Earth being shifted,” Echelman told Dezeen.
The 2011 quake measured a magnitude 9.0 and occurred just offshore, resulting in tsunami swells up to 40.5 meters (133 feet) high. The same earthquake is responsible for physically moving Japan’s main island, Honshu, 2.4 meters (8 feet) east.
Echelman’s art piece combines wave height data from the tsunami with Autodesk computer design software. The resulting sculpture is a network of diamond-shaped mesh, recreated in polyethylene fibers knotted by loom and by hand. At night, the sculpture becomes illuminated as part of an interactive display, which allows nearby users to control the colors via smartphone. The installation is one of several lighted art displays erected around the city as part of the art event. Echelman displayed a similar installation last month in Washington, D.C.
Images via Matthew Andrews