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Art Installation, Big As A Warehouse, Turns Data Into A Trippy Other World [Video]

Cyber punks, swoon: The show is meant to express what it’s like to be consumed by digital code.

Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan has unveiled a massive new digital-art and sonic installation by Japanese artist and composer Ryoji Ikeda. Projected onto a screen that bisects the Armory’s vaulting exhibition hall, the transfinite morphs a continuous stream of scientific data into pulsing, abstract images and druggy sounds that could replace Floyd on the midnight laser-show circuit. The idea: to create a physical sense of what it’s like to be subsumed by digital code.


The Armory released this brief film of the installation process, which unfortunately doesn’t do a very good job of conveying the experience:

More descriptive if, at moments, unbearably dizzying is this home vid from a visitor:

And here’s the actual video that’s being projected:

The installation is composed of two parts. The first part throws barcode-like black and white strips across the floor and up a 45-foot-tall-by-60-foot-wide screen. The strips reflect a real-time binary analysis of an accompanying soundscape. The second part projects all sorts of data — drawn from the human genome sequence, NASA, and elsewhere — on the backside of the screen. There are also nine small screens mounted on short plinths that let visitors play around with endlessly scrolling data.

The Armory’s press release calls the transfinite “a meditation on the concept of infinity.” ?Transfinite,? for the record takes its name from the mathematical notion of transfinite numbers, which are bigger than finite numbers, but not absolute infinity. Head hurting yet? Ours too. But that’s kinda? the point. To plebes like us, the digital world is a vast, incomprehensible universe that also happens to exert frightening control over our daily lives. Here, Ikeda makes it tangible — and maybe even a little beautiful.

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.