That most enigmatic and curious of numbers, pi, is the inspiration behind a vast new artwork by artists Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher, an artwork they want to become the “largest geographic art installation in the world.” Called Pi Project, it will take the form of a series of seemingly endless sculptures spanning over years. It’s all based on pi’s numerical sequence, and the sculptures will be tracked online as they are bought by collectors.
The data—the geolocations, the sculptures’ individual numbers, and their specific positions—will be visualized in an interactive world map updated in real time. It will connect collectors and the sculptures to form a massive, ever-evolving artwork. Each year new sculptures will be made and tracked, as the project grows and grows.
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The artists will be creating hand-cast individual sculptures from white gypsum cement as they work their way through Pi’s near-boundless digits. And the fact that pi is such a vast number is what makes it the ideal foundation upon which to base such an undertaking.
“It has both a mystical and paradoxical quality stemming from the fact that pi, a transfinite number, is seemingly without end,” Klapper tells Creators. “Current computer models are past the 20 trillion digit mark without any signs of recurrence or predictability. A curious trick for a number that never reaches 3.15.”
The project is part of ongoing series called Real Numbers, for which the artists give abstract mathematics physical, sculptural form. It has seen them create sculptures based on the Fibonacci Sequence, the golden ratio, and an infinite series of hand-bound books about infinity.
“The idea was to take abstract numbers and give them solid form,” notes Klapper. “These numbers have been used long before we even knew they existed. Modern analysis shows that these sets can be found within the structures and compositions of great works of art and architecture spanning thousands of years. We were interested in following in that tradition but in a more blunt and literal manner.”
The concrete, minimalist style of the number sculptures takes inspiration from Brutalist architecture. The online geo-tagged map will follow a minimalist aesthetic, too, juxtaposed with the data, which will grow in complexity, connections, and intricacy as the years go by.
“In the age of big data, humans have access to unfathomable amounts of information at any given time. How this information is digested and visualized shapes how we imagine the world around us,” notes Klapper. “People see information, especially within a digital context, as ephemeral bits and fragments. We are awash in a sea of information. Adding physical form to these datum creates a physical connection to something that otherwise goes unnoticed. We see it as a chance to add a layer of depth to what we already know.”
The pair plan on the project going on for decades, too, releasing new pi sculptures each year, and updating the map with new data. As this happens, people can see the network expand, its interconnections extending and elaborating. Also part of the fun, note the artists, of it taking place over numerous decades, is how future data viz technology might be incorporated into the project, technology we might not even be aware of yet. Years from now it might also become a VR piece or an AR public artwork in a town square.
“We love the idea of an intangible made tangible and vice versa,” says Klapper. “We wanted to take an abstract concept (pi) and create a concrete object (real numbers). [So] we are creating a set of endless sculptures and forming a project that grows and connects them into a single massive installation. People all over the world are tied together through networks and social media. We live in a time where a project like this is able to exist. With access to technology that allows anyone in the world to see and interact with the project data, we are able to create tangible connections out of a thought experiment. We are installation artists. With the Pi Project we were looking for a way to broaden the idea of what that might mean. If we continuously expand and connect an infinite set of sculptures would we be able to create the largest installation in the world?”