Calling the Pi Project ambitious is an understatement.
Officially launched on March 14th, 2017 (Pi day), the project aspires to be the largest art installation in the world, and with over 250 individual sculptures across 5 continents, it is well on its way. The brainchild of Brooklyn, NY based visual artists Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher, the Pi Project is a component of Real Numbers, a wider series exploring the physical expression of mathematical concepts. Recognized by the 2017 Information is Beautiful Awards, the project itself transcends fields and sits at the interaction of sculpture, data visualization, mathematics, and new media.
After designing and casting each digit of Pi as a white gypsum cement sculpture, Klapper and Gallagher rely on project participants, or ‘collectors’ to represent the international scope of their installation. Collectors from around the world receive their digit of Pi alongside a certificate of authenticity noting the number and its place within the greater sequence.
With the release of the new 2018 set of digits to coincide with the Pi Project’s 2nd anniversary, along with sculptures now on sale at the Whitney Museum, a new cohort of global Pi collectors joins the community of those from the inaugural year. That community element is central to the project. With the stated goal of “connecting the world through art,” every year the installation will grow, adding digits in sequence and intertwining individuals across the world. The growing and interconnected universe of the installation is then represented using an interactive map.
As each set of sculptures is released and sent to new Pi collectors, the sculptures are mapped digitally. Each point on the map represents three distinct elements, the geolocation of the sculpture, the digit itself, and the digit’s place within the greater sequence. This allows the artists to present the unified installation, mapping the sequence as it grows and spans the globe.
The mapping process is automated and uses spatial analytics to properly represent project data as envisioned by Chris and Patrick. They maintain a Google Doc to which they add new collectors and digits in the sequence. This doc is set up to sync back to the map automatically, approximately every 15 minutes. The map then uses a connect with lines analysis to automatically connect each subsequent digit to the last, creating the map’s distinct spider web design. The spreadsheet also tracks the set (or year) of each sculpture. This data powers a filtering widget which allows viewers to visualize the expansion of the project as it grows year over year.
The digital map is central to Pi Project. It's what really brings the whole project together and expresses the vastness of this famous transcendental number. We wanted a way to connect all the individual sculptures in a way that people can see and explore for themselves. The interactive map was the perfect aligning of several aspects of our creative focus.
- Chris Klapper
Though separated by distance (perhaps thousands of miles as in the case of the 9 in the #56 spot in the sequence, located in Meguro-ku, a ward in Tokyo, and the 7 in the #57 slot back in the project’s hometown of Brooklyn), these sculptures, and through them their collectors, are forever adjacent in a way that transcends space, brought together in celebration of this most curious number.
For Klapper and Gallagher, the project is ongoing, to span decades in their quest towards creating the largest art installation in the world. They have a lot of work ahead of them but plenty of room to grow as pi has recently been calculated out to 22,459,157,718,361 digits.
The Pi Project is also a part of CARTO's Ambassador Program, a group ranging from super-users to citizen cartographers, who create Location Intelligence applications in the open with a purpose. Learn more about our Ambassador Program and other community Initiatives today.