14 September - 23 September 2012
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Prism was a data-driven installation, and one of the flagship works of London Design Festival 2012. It presented an alternative view of London, exposing intangible dataflows in the capital. It was a lens into a second city, one that is made from infrastructural data feeds and exchanges. Prism drew from a multitude of live data sources, including transport updates, traffic webcams and environmental data, and presents them in real time as a living patchwork of systems and processes.
As machine languages and processes start to permeate the city, we must re-examine our urban landscape as a new and unexplored terrain. The installation is an investigation into the virtual life of the city, and our own often ambiguous relationship with the data that controls our lives.
Each panel of the sculpture presented a different live feed, from transport information from TFL, environmental data from CASA, to live energy usage from Carbon Culture. The feeds were visualised by a network of over 30 volunteer coders, using a toolkit developed by Matt Pearson for the project.
Prism was installed in the tallest tower of the V&A by Millimetre, a space opened to the public for the first time for the installation. Visitors were guided up a tight spiral staircase into the exhibition space, and then up onto the roof of the tower for a spectacular view over London. This juxtaposition allowed visitors to see both the physical and virtual views of the city, stacked on top of one another.