Flagscape

Flagscape is a Virtual Reality artwork that constructs a surreal world of economic exchange between nations, based on United Nations data and explores data-navigation techniques.

Flagscape is a Virtual Reality artwork that constructs a surreal world of economic exchange between nations, based on United Nations data and explores data-navigation techniques.

The work deploys “data bodies,” which represent exports such as metal ores and fossil fuels that move through space and impart complexities of economic relations. Viewers move through the procedurally-generated datascape rather than acting upon the data elements, inverting the common paradigm of legible and controlled data access.

 

Details

The code constructs data from several databases at runtime including population, carbon emissions per capita, military personnel per capita and a United Nations database on resource extraction. All of these get combined to construct the Flagscape data bodies. Each one represents a single datum, linked to a specific country.

The only stationary data body is a population model for each country, which scales to the relative value for each country and resembles a 3D person using a revolve around a central axis. The code positions these forms at their appropriate 3D world location, such that China and India — the largest two population bodies — act as waypoints as their forms dwarf all others.

A moshed flag skins every data body, acting as a glitched representation that subverts its own national identity. Underneath the flag is a complex set of relations of exchange that exceeds nationhood. For example, resource-extraction machines are made in one country that then get purchased by another to extract the very resources that make those machines.

Flagscape reminds us that our borders are imaginary and in this idealized 3D space, there are no delineations of territory, only lines that guide trade between countries, forms magically gliding along an invisible path. What the database cannot tell us is how exactly the complex power relations move resources from one nation to another. Meanwhile, carbon emissions, the only untethered data body in Flagscape, which affects the entire planet spin out of control into the distance only to get endlessly respawned

The primary acoustic element triggers when you navigate close to a population body. That country’s national anthem plays, filling your ears with a wash of drums, horns and militaristic melodies that flow into a state of sameness.

moshed Brazil Flag

Year

2018

Medium

Virtual Reality

Related Works

Exhibitions

Reality Remix: Prototype Play, Ravensbourne and Siobhan Davies Studios, London, July 2018

Credits & Thanks

AHRC and EPSRC, Next Generation Immersive Experiences Grant (2018)

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