Prism: A Real-life CityDashboard

I was at the V&A earlier today to see Prism, a new installation by digital artist Keiichi Matsuda which is part of the London Design Festival.

Prism uses data from UCL CASA’s CityDashboard and other London open data sources, to visualise London in a novel way. The exhibit, which consists of triangular sails joined together in an irregular pattern, and lit from within, slowly pulses and evolves as the data that the patterns and colours are showing, changes. The visualisations are derived from fast-changing weather, travel and other London data sources. There is no key at all so you have to use your imagination to hypothesise what each panel is showing – although a couple have TfL roundels and bike share bikes on them, hinting at their purpose. Prism’s shape and positioning makes it look slightly organic, as it appears to about to burst through the floor and into the gallery space below.

Seeing Prism is a bit of a mission – it requires first going to the sixth floor of the V&A – not immediately obvious to find – then signing a disclaimer, ascending – in small groups of just 6 – a tiny spiral staircase. You then move across a narrow ledge, before finally you enter the darkened room. Prism is suspended in the middle, allowing a 360-degree inspection, and also a glimpse of the galleries beneath. Another spiral staircase, in one corner, then allows visitors to get a different, surprise view.

If you want to see Prism you need to book a timed ticket (free) in advance, and be aware it’s only on for the next 10 days. If you don’t manage to get a ticket, you can still see a glimpse of the base of Prism, as it is suspended over one of the galleries on the sixth floor of the museum.

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