‘Interconnected’ Turns Airport Data Into Public Art

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Why This Matters: “Interconnected,” a new public artwork at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, is one of the largest digital artworks in the world.
This data sculpture is part of "Interconnected," the new public artwork by Refik Anadol at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
This data sculpture is part of “Interconnected,” the new public artwork by Refik Anadol at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

One of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s latest public artworks gives new meaning to the term “big data.”

“Interconnected,” an installation of abstract form, color and simulated texture, debuted in July as one of the largest public art digital visualizations in the world as part of Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) Concourse A Expansion – Phase I.

The artwork, created by groundbreaking artist Refik Anadol, uses custom-designed software, more than 2,000 square feet of original, high-definition art content displayed on cutting-edge technology and 850 linear feet of programmable LED lights embedded in the concourse façade to transform the hidden troves of airport operations data into a dramatically choreographed panorama of moving lights.

The installation is visible both inside and outside the terminal, meaning it can be enjoyed by literally every car, van and bus that comes to the terminal for departures or arrivals. It was commissioned by ASC and the Public Art Commission in partnership with the City of Charlotte and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

What you’re seeing.

“Interconnected” features a data sculpture, two data paintings and exterior fins with programmable ribbons that change colors in response to the artwork. The sculpture, which stretches 1,152 square feet, is located by a moving walkway.

The combined artwork is organized into three distinct visual chapters: “Fluid Structures,” “Impossible Materials” and “Data Poems.”

Its “ever-changing images are colorful and textured,” wrote WFAE of the installation. “You want to reach out and touch them. Some remind you of mountain ranges or cloud formations. Others are animated shapes – like spheres or cubes.”

Data constantly changes the artwork.

Data from airport arrivals and depatures are what drives this "Interconnected" digital painting.
Data from airport arrivals and depatures are what drives this “Interconnected” digital painting.

Its forms and colors correspond to the ebb and flow of the airport data management systems responsible for tracking airplane arrivals and departures, vehicular traffic, parking deck occupancy and baggage handling.

That means, “if you flew in or out of Charlotte back in the spring (or even if you just parked and picked someone up), you’re in it right now,” as the sculpture reflects airport data in 90-day periods, The Charlotte Observer explained.

Airport activity dictates the sculpture’s density and its movement. It’s more active during busier hours and calmer late at night, when fewer people are traveling.

“Along with the unique forms and motions of each chapter, variations in texture and color within each chapter add an additional layer of real-time response to the data,” Anadol said. “The artwork is constantly changing and evolving as it responds to the ever-changing flow of data, creating a living snapshot of the invisible patterns that surrounds us as we travel to, from and within Charlotte Douglas International Airport.”

Who dreams up something like this?

Artist Refik Anadol in front of the data sculpture that is part of "Interconnected," the new public artwork at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Artist Refik Anadol in front of the data sculpture that is part of “Interconnected,” the new public artwork at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

It comes from the mind of Anadol, a digital media artist from Istanbul, Turkey and residing in Los Angeles. A primary focus of his site-specific audio/visual installations, which have been seen across the world, is the relationship between technology and physical space.

“Interconnected” is an examination of how our experience of space is changing now that smart phones, tablets and other digital objects permeate our everyday lives.

“Tying digital art and air travel together offered a natural way to show ‘how the world is connected to each other’ while tapping into the natural emotions of travel, from hellos to goodbyes,” Anadol told Charlotte Business Journal.

You can learn more about it directly from the artist.

Anadol will discuss his new artwork, his transcendent career and how data and technology are shaping the future of art and architecture at “The Poetics of Data: A Conversation with Refik Anadol,” from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17 at UNC Charlotte Center City (320 E. 9th St.).

The free ASC event is sponsored by Willis Towers Watson, Rodgers/Turner, NanoLumens, Cenero and the Turkish Cultural Foundation. The event is in partnership with the UNC Charlotte College of Art + Architecture.

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