Creating circles of concern

shape memory alloy robotics

Colures & Complications Data Diagram

Colures & Complications is a proposed public art clock that displays climate information around a meridian. Co–designed with Gabriela Semeco, the design was proposed to the San Jose Climate Clock Initiative, a collaborative public art project to make an iconic landmark measuring climate change and influencing public behavior. The SJ Climate Clock initiative was a collaborative effort between ZERO1, City of San Jose, Montalvo Arts Center and San Jose State University.


Colures & Complications Concept

Our submission concept grew from the idea that clocks and watches are instruments that measure the rotation of the earth. They are our intimate reminder of the earth's rotation. Because of this connection, and because climate data changes over time, we use the clock/earth connection to display present and historical climate data along the meridian (longitude) that the physical clock is located on.

The amount of climate data can be overwhelming. Instead of attempting to include the whole of the earth's climate data, we consider a network of public art clocks that display data for their local areas as well as climate data for the meridian that they are located on. In this way, we display a slice of the earth's data around the meridian that the clock is located. Meridians traverse poles and equator, land and sea, first and third world, cities, forests, and deserts. The hope is that these clocks could create circles of concern instead of asking visitors to comprehend the whole of the earth's climate data.

We extend the celestial term, colure, typically reserved for special meridians, to our treatment of meridians in this series. These clocks are designed as interactive public art pieces roughly six meters in diameter. They represent slices of the earth along the colure that the clock is located. On the circumference is an elevation model of the earth's surface along the meridian. Visitors can view the contours through a large, adjustable magnifying lens attached to the fixed clock center. When the lens is focused, ruled concentric stainless steel rings inside the spinning outer rings independently slide to reveal data pertaining ot the climate, ecology, and social and economic conditions of the location under focus.

detail of interaction with the clock

Detail of Interaction

While the interactive outer ring uses data to tell the climate story of the locations on the colure, complications on the fixed center prioritize climate issues local to where the clock is located. Clocks placed along the same colure have similar outer rings, but no two clock faces are the same.

Interesting data synergies can develop between locations on a colure. For example, the disappearing Aral Sea which lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, considered by many scientists to be the worst man-made ecological disaster in history, has interesting data similarities to the Tulare Basin in California’s Central Valley. All are on the same colure as San Jose.

In contrast with the Doomsday Clock and other climate change narratives, Colures and Complications emphasizes active, physical interaction with the data. The tangibility of the interface promotes exploration, connections, connectedness, and relationships between phenomena at different scales.


Zero1 Biennial 2008, San Jose


Colures & Complications: Bridging Data and Experience Representing Climate Change: Ecology, Media and the Arts at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University, UK, 2008.


elevation view

Far Elevation View


Elevation Showing Outer Rings for Colure Data and Inner Complications for Local Data. Click for Detail.

night view showing albedo

Night View Showing Albedo

concept in 3D

3D Concept

abstract future concept

Abstract Future Concept