A World We Made Up

A World We Made Up is an fabric and light installation that invited people to think about how the web both frees us from and constrains us by where we come from. It displayed a crowdsourced collage map made of thousands of submissions of digital drawings of people’s “homes”. The project was developed during a year-long fellowship with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and grew out of discussions with local activists about the need for spaces to imagine alternate geographies. The subject matter of housing, evoking both aspiration and limitation, was a way to examine the space between digital and physical landscapes — specifically how virtual representations mirror and echo the inequities and separations of the real world and how the imagined and actual, the private and public intersect.

Over 5,000 drawings were collected (on a custom website I made) through more than a year of community events, online promotion and through online worker economies. The collected drawings were clustered by geography and image similarity (I used a variation on KNN to pre-bucket the images). The installation is printed on sheer fabric, meant to evoke the ways a screen is a ghostly shadow of the real world, and rotating lights provide varying shadow and opacity. The installation is accompanied by an iPad where users to contribute their own drawings and examine where each house in the drawing comes from.

I also developed a version of this installation focusing on drawings from Asia for the Asian Arts Institute in Philadelphia. The themes of manufacturing, repetition, housing and the American dream tie into how Asian economies have played an outsized role in the technology industry, and was part of an exhibit exploring equity in Asian labor.

The final installation includes drawings from Chennai, India / Oujda, Morocco Nanjing, China / Kowloon, Hong Kong / Hanoi, Vietnam / Verona, Italy / London, England / Belgrade, Serbia / Vincennes, France / Caxias, Portugal / Athens, Greece / Sofia, Bulgaria / Buenos Aires, Argentina / Lapu lapu, Philippines / Fort Lauderdale, USA / Grand Rapids, USA / St. Paul, USA and hundreds of other cities.

Shown at: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Mint Museum, American Institute of Architects from 2017-2018