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Ola Bednarczuk sees the city from a different angle with Prism, an installation for the London Design Festival by Keiichi Matsuda.
At the very top of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), concealed within the cupola of the 160-year-old building, something is watching the comings and goings of the city and recording its movements. From its unique vantage point, this seemingly living, seeing organism is witness to the tiniest details of urban life.
It’s called Prism, and it was designed by London and Tokyo-based designer, filmmaker and artist Keiichi Matsuda. Commissioned for the London Design Festival, Prism continues Matsuda’s work in the field of augmented reality, where the digital world is layered over the physical.
Data is gathered from across the city and projected onto a large sculptural form of semi-translucent washi paper within an aluminium frame. The result is a “live patchwork” of the city, says Matsuda, presenting an ever-shifting visual record of information – how many Boris bikes are in use at any given time, traffic updates, air pollution levels, wind speed, even how much energy is being used at 10 Downing Street. On each of the sculpture’s 50 panels is a vision of the real city seen through a digital lens.
It’s a poetic and surprising glimpse into the hidden virtual side of London, into the ebbs and flows of the city and the data that makes it tick. Matsuda opens up a world that is constantly around us, but which we are rarely able to see.
The experience is made even more dramatic when, as the exhibition’s grand finale, visitors ascend a spiral staircase to the highest point of the V&A – usually closed to the public – where 360 degree views of the sprawling city below help to put it all into its greater context.
Prism is on display at the V&A Museum till Sunday 23 September.
London Design Festival