This March 14, 2017, one particularly numerically oriented artist duo decided to celebrate π Day (3/14) by launching an unlimited edition artwork. The PI Project, by Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher, has already begun and will continue indefinitely. Because if you can’t sell the sky in the real world, why not sell π to the art world?
“PI continues to re-emerge in the most radically complex formulas of modern mathematical theories, including topology and quantum mechanics,” says Chris Klapper. “Current computer models are past the 20 trillion digit mark without any signs of recurrence or predictability—a curious trick for a number that never reaches 3.15.”
Concretely, the Brooklyn-based artists have hand cast from white gypsum cement a series of debossed block sculptures, somewhat reminiscent of the circular number keys on a vintage typewriter. Each numeral sold comes complete with a certificate of authenticity showing the position of the circled digit in the transfinite π sequence. Individual pieces can be purchased and shipped to anywhere in the world. While these digital purchases are duly tracked, a data visualization map pinpoints three discrete data elements of each art piece: the individual numeral, its specific position in the π sequence, its geo-location on the world map. And as the mapping software used to visualize this data is rather more sophisticated, we can imagine its potential configurations as time goes by, depending on how much data is actually collected, stored and integrated and for each piece of π sold.
So far, according to the PI Project map, more than 30 number sculptures have already been sold and shipped to collectors on the East Coast of the United States and in Colorado, Australia, Poland, Germany, Italy, England… and the artists plan on continuing the project for decades to come.
“Each year we will create a new set of PI number sculptures and update the data mapping with different variables, so viewers can see how the connections grow between the years,” Klapper continues. “Data visualization technology is growing exponentially beyond anyone’s ability to imagine, so we have no idea how future technologies will carry this project—it may occupy a virtual reality space or even a large public space in the form of an augmented reality piece…”
The PI Project is a subset of the artist couple’s umbrella project #dataatadata, “a play on words of the abstract surrealist movement Dadaism, updated to the modern information age”, initiated in 2014.