Data Flow (River Lea)

v1.0 by: Michael Takeo Magruder with Drew Baker, 2019

An interactive new media art installation that is generated from blending live environmental data and personal memories of the River Lea.

Installation Documentation:

About the Artwork:

Data Flow (River Lea) is an interactive new media art installation that is generated from blending live environmental data and personal memories of the River Lea. The work uses these two distinct sources of raw information to reimagine the river as a 3D virtual environment that, like its real-world counterpart, is both unpredictable and ever-changing.

The artwork's physical form is constructed from four main elements: a digital projection of the virtual river mapped onto a low white plinth; an accompanying data screen displaying participant submissions; a video camera that tracks spectator interactions with the projection; and a sound system that renders the work's algorithmic soundscape. The virtual river consists of an underlying 'bed' that almost imperceptivity shifts over time and multiple currents of flowing 'water' that mimic the dynamics of actual waterways. Running through this flow are 37 floating 'streams' of memories created from images and accompanying texts submitted by workshop participants from the Lea Valley recollecting their personal experiences and associations of rivers. The scale, movement, and speed of these streams are controlled by environmental data (depth, direction, and flow rate) collected in real time by 38 monitoring stations placed at different points along the River Lea. Each stream represents the intersection of two stations. When water levels are high in a particular section of the Lea, the images in the corresponding memory stream will appear larger and closer to the surface. Likewise, in sections where the water flow is moving quickly, so too are the corresponding memory streams. Furthermore, the flow is affected by the movement of visitors around the installation; 'ripples' appear in the digital water as people interact with the artwork and are tracked by the video camera. The virtual environment is constantly in flux as it cycles every 240 seconds through a simulated day and night sequence, responds to the behaviour of the real river and the interaction of visitors, and incorporates new memories as more images and texts are added to the project's digital archive. The result is an ephemeral experience that is as 'live' and fleeting as the River Lea itself.

Source Data:

• real-time environmental data from the River Lea collected and published by the UK Environment Agency

• digitised personal memories about rivers (images and accompanying texts) produced by workshop participants from the Lea Valley through the Museum of London's Curating London programme

Digital Media Documentation:

In Collaboration with:

Drew Baker [ Unity3D programming ]

With Thanks to:

Thomas Ardill and Kate Sumnall [ curation ] . Emily Durant and Marko Resurreccion [ production ] . Kathryn Davis, Sarah Dhanjal, Zeynep Kussan, Kevin Mathieson, Aisling Serrant, and Matthew Williams [ workshops ] . Rhiannon Looseley [ administration ] . Foteini Aravani [ acquisition ]

Supported by:

Data Flow (River Lea) is a 2019 commission by Museum of London for its Secret Rivers exhibition. The project is part of the Museum's Curating London programme funded by Arts Council England.

Artwork Requirements:

Site-configurable new media installation constructed from: real-time virtual environment (Unity3D) and soundscape (Flash) rendered by a high-specification Windows 10 64bit computer, 1080p projection and stereo audio systems, high-definition webcam (for interactive tracking), LED screen and low specification Windows 10 64bit computer (for displaying participant submissions).

Video Documentation:

© TAKEO 2019