A symphony of color has taken to the air above Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The aerial sculpture is the work of none other than American artist Janet Echelman, who the City of Madrid commissioned to help celebrate the plaza’s 400th anniversary. Titled 1.78 Madrid, the sculpture “explores the cycle of time” and the far-reaching effects of natural phenomenon and the built environment on our lives.
Unveiled February 9 this year, 1.78 Madrid was displayed for a 10-day celebratory event that concluded yesterday. Highly engineered colorful fibers 15 times stronger than steel by weight were braided, knotted, and spliced together to create a dynamic form that constantly changes in the wind and provides a soft counterpoint to Plaza Mayor’s hard edges. At night, the sculpture was illuminated with colored lights. 1.78 Madrid is the latest addition to Echelman’s Earth Time Series that began in 2010 with works exhibited across the world.
According to project statement on Echelman’s website, the number “1.78” within the title “refers to the number of microseconds that the day was shortened when a single physical event shifted the earth’s mass, thus speeding up the planet’s rotation of one day,” however it’s not clear what specific event the “1.78” alludes to. In Echelman’s previous works titled “1.8,” the number was a reference to how the 2011 Tohoku earthquake shortened the length of the day by 1.8 microseconds. Regardless, the cycles of time and causality are explored in all her works.
“The artwork reminds us of our complex interconnectedness with larger cycles of time and the systems of our physical world,” continues the project statement. “The sculpture’s materials embody this. When any one element in the sculpture’s network moves, every other element is affected. Our surroundings affect how we feel and how we experience our lives – we are responsible for the way our cities look and function.”
Images via Janet Echelman, by João Ferrand