Space Folding at VIVID

Space Folding is inspired by Middle Eastern architecture and the Sydney city skyline. It’s a truly extraordinary light sculpture that I designed for VIVID to translate live Qantas and Qantas code-share flight data into patterns of multi-coloured light and sound. A 3-metre architectural tower wrapped with over 1600 LEDs that uses custom built software, Space Folding visualises and auralises every local flight, along with each local take off, landing and flights over Sydney.

The resulting unique multimedia experience is enhanced by a generative sound composition forged in collaboration with award winning game sound composer Peret von Sturmer.

For me, flight data is multi faceted. At the micro level it represents personal journeys and hopes for transformation. At the macro level it represents economic and cultural transformation. I’ve designed this piece of art to be an appliance. By that I mean that it is designed for repeated presentation, to be shipped around the world, and to be constructed with IKEA-like design simplicity.

In that sense the work somewhat addresses the modern curatorial conundrum of how to manage art that is built with technology that seems to go quickly out of date. To reinforce this methodology, Space Folding is built using a technology set leveraging a controller board that increases the frame rate of the display but where the data is exchanged via application protocols that can be switched out. It takes an open data set from the internet and visualises and sonifys the data. The stream is designed to be received on any smart device.

I have been working professionally with data visualisation and large data sets for a number of years. This work is really an experiment is visualising complex data in a way that resonates with the physical body. I’m asking whether we sense a data set through our body and what is the difference in experience between Cartesian and spatial presentation of data to the body? And I’ve purposely used a data set that is quite transformational – flight data.

We’re invested when we travel: whether we’re going on holiday or if it’s to see a family member or do business. Transport data is also a key indicator of underlying social, cultural, political and economic change. I find the data fascinating and I love making accessible to a broad audience.

Technology influences my artistic practice at an everyday level. I am the Managing Director of Holly Sydney. We are a cutting edge digital agency and are heavily invested in innovating interactive experiences and the future of public space. So I think about new technology every day, read speculative fiction for inspiration about where tech is going and follow various strands of research as varied as solutions for the Mars One voyage to advances in nano-biology and natural language programming.

Occasionally we get to drive the industry with work such as the light controller we built for the City of Sydney Earth v Sky installation in Glebe. Mostly recently we delivered many of the interactive experiences and touch screens to the First World War galleries at the Australian War Memorial so I thought a lot about spatial storytelling through terrain mapping and surveillance photography of the Gallipoli peninsula.

Space Folding is on show at VIVID Sydney at First Fleet Park corner of George and Albert Circular Quay and sponsored by Qantas. The project has also been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts.

About the author
Zina Kaye is an artist and Managing Director of digital agency firm Holly