Ice- Traffic

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


The Breathing City project is an ongoing art and science trans-disciplinary research collaboration since 2005 between an urban meteorologist (Professor Dr Janet Barlow, University of Reading), a composer / sound artist (Holger Zschenderlein, University of Brighton), two designers (Patrick Letschka, University of Brighton; Christopher Rose, Rhode Island School of Design, USA) and a data programmer (Dr Thor Magnusson, University of Brighton). The Breathing City group is interested in developing a shared language in research, and in creating public spaces that promote exchange between different specialist areas of knowledge engaging experts and non-experts alike reaching beyond the usual peer group and boundaries of traditional science communication. The Royal Society of Science invited The Breathing City project to exhibit the large scale Ice - Traffic installation as one of the key exhibits for their 350th Anniversary Special Event, opened by Her Majesty the Queen, and the subsequent Festival of Science + Arts in 25th June – 4th July 2010, which attracted more than 30,000 visitors. Following several experimentation phases, this led to the conceptual development of the installation of Ice-Traffic, created by the interest in how to create a meaningful and evocative encounter space informed by scientific data stemming from complex dynamic systems within urban climate research. One of the key challenges was to overcome the dichotomy of intellectual investigation and intuitive experiential enquiry by developing conceptually a representation model that enables a sympathetic engagement of all faculties and to experience phenomena from many different angles within a knowledge building process. Further, it could be argued that the understanding of complex events or processes, involves a unique interaction of sensory, aesthetic, analytical and rational faculties. The conceptual design of Ice – Traffic involved experimentations with diverse and unusual combination of an ephemeral material like ‘ice’ with processed audio-visual media interacting with two different, however, related scientific data sets. The oldest long-range temperature record know as the Central England Temperature record, CET; 239 years from 1772, supplied by The Met Office, interacting with live data feeds of current airflow turbulences and temperatures from instruments mounted on the BT Tower in the City of London - supplied by Professor Dr. Janet Barlow who researches as lead investigator through the EPSRC funded Advanced Climate Technology Urban Atmospheric Laboratory (ACTUAL; aspects of urban boundary-layer meteorology. Ice-Traffic dynamically combines moving images of urban traffic projected onto a two-ton and seven-foot high block of ice surrounded by a multi-channel soundscape, all influenced by the data through innovative computer coding in real time. Imbalances within the data sets triggered disturbances or ‘tipping’ points i.e. the sudden ‘flipping’ from one state to another in the visual displays and surrounding soundscape, reflecting the unpredictable and dynamic nature of interlocking climate data. Bombarded with the light of very fast moving time-lapsed images of urban traffic and the body-heat of the observers, the ice mass began its slow and inevitable accelerating meltdown. The installation of Ice-Traffic is intended to be an embodied representation of a dynamic urban climate model (energy transfer due to melting ice), which invites the observer to witness and question what is known, what can be calculated and what remains seemingly unpredictable. New perceptions and new questions arise, prompting further thinking around the language of scientific processes and the interfacing of arts and science, and how they can be explored through dialogue across disciplines. The installation becomes a kind of ‘knowledge negotiation' or ‘encounter space’ linking scientific data with artistic process to explore relationships between natural phenomena and urban environments. A human-scale experience, provoking intuitive, analytical or aesthetic responses to science relating to environmental issues like sustainability and climate (impact) and further, by taking the ubiquitous climate subject as the basis for exploring ideas about experience, mediation and representation. Supporters: The Royal Society, University of Brighton, University of Reading, Lighthouse Brighton; Sponsors: IBM (UK), Halcrow (UK), The Met Office, QED Productions, Genelec (UK), Apple (UK) and The Southbank Centre.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2010
Eventexhibition - Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London
Duration: 25 Jun 2010 → …


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