What if you could see how people felt by looking at a former Olympics venue? In June, artist Jennifer Wen Ma and lighting designer Zheng Jianwei turned the "Water Cube," used for swimming events in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, into an art project based on Sina Weibo and the I Ching. Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube, profiled by The Creators Project here, uses the cube's lighting to simulate an extremely low-resolution screen, much as we've seen in other projects. From there, a team of specialists figured out a system that would illustrate each day through a combination of divination and data mining.
First, an I Ching expert figured out the "nature" of each day — such as water, fire, or heaven. These were given overall colors or patterns; water, for example, is a rippling dark blue. From there, a computer program scraped emoji from Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, then looked for trends like an overwhelming happiness or sadness. These emotions changed how the day's patterns or colors displayed. If a day was classed as heaven, it would be represented by an expanding and contracting circle. "A sad day gives us very slow movement, a happy day gives us faster movement," says technology director Guillermo Acevedo. "In another animation the emotional content might determine the overall color."
"I'm very careful choosing public art, because I feel like if it's public art, it should in some way service the public without losing the conceptual core," says Jennifer Wen Ma. "As artists, we have a social responsibility and that extends to every person ... I thought [the Water Cube is] actually a beautiful analogy for how we are all cells in this society, but we're interconnected." A full interview with Acevedo, along with more images, can be found at The Creators Project.