How We Die


This project was developed in collaboration with Steven Sanchez for the Data Through Design 2018 exhibition.

Each year around 50,000 people die in New York City. Most of them from heart disease or cancer, others from diabetes or murder. But the causes of death remain varied and changing, and affect different populations differently. They are also growing or declining through time, and our methods for collecting, classifying, and reporting death are changing as well.

For this exhibition we proposed to make sense of this varied terrain through a dynamic and ethereal sculpture. With a topographic installation we sought to represent the leading causes of death in New York City, and their evolution from 2007 to 2014. Cycling through different configurations, the sculpture would morph and transform to display how these same causes of death affect the different ethnic groups as well as the different genders.

Topography of death

Topography of death 2

Above are the drawings from the original proposal.

However, after visiting the site our proposal had to go through a radical redesign due to installation restrictions. Instead of building a hanging sculpture, we now needed to create a topographic piece that would sit on a pedestal, and thus we needed to change the internal mechanics of the sculpture. Ultimately, these last minute changes led to an unfinished piece that still managed to be somewhat captivating.

The following images document the quick design and assemblage of this last iteration.

Hand sketch of updated proposal

A quick sketch with the modified proposal.

Testing the connections 1

Testing the connections 2

Testing the code and all the connections.

Putting it all together 1

Putting it all together 2

Putting it all together.

The final piece 1

The final piece 2

And the final piece. These last two photos are by Sam Hyatt.

Lots and lots of thanks to Natasa Papadi and the people organizing the exhibition for their enormous help in putting this piece together.

Built with Arduino.

Contact at email, Github & Twitter | made with Jekyll & Tachyons | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0