Whithervanes are weathervanes for the twenty-first century, tracking and measuring the “climate of fear” on the internet. Installed on three rooftops in Miami, these 4ft-high, internet-connected sculptures inspired by the story of Chicken Little, come to Locust from the Detroit-based hybrid design studio rootoftwo, headed by Cezanne Charles and John Marshall.
Whithervanes consists of three headless chicken sculptures, sited on rooftops in the Design District, MiMO, and Downtown, all networked via the Internet of things and programmed to run away from the fear “in the air” at any given moment. Their software looks for predetermined keywords related to fear (e.g. natural disaster, economic collapse, war, etc.) in newsfeeds from Reuters.
When fear is encountered, the chickens respond by rotating at increasing speeds and are illuminated in different colors based on the Homeland Security threat level warnings. The passers-by and the general public is invited to influence the direction and color of the sculptures by adding to or decreasing the ambient fear in the system by Tweeting #keepcalm or #skyfalling to the @Whithervanes account, or by visiting http://www.whithervanes.com.
The initials for the “Neurotic Early Warning System” are, of course, a nod to the cardinal directions, and the cartoonish 21st-century weathervanes add a bit of humor to the real fact that contemporary media, policy and political frameworks utilize fear as a persuasive method. Whithervanes playfully remind us that how we react to the fear-mongering in the data stream that infiltrates our lives is up to us, we can keep calm or Chicken Little it.
The U.S. premiere of Whithervanes in Miami is made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
rootoftwo (Cezanne Charles + John Marshall) is a research and practice-driven hybrid design studio formed in 1998. rootoftwo work to create a condition where we can perceive ourselves, the here and now, and the future differently. rootoftwo makes social objects, experiences, and works for the public realm - typically at the scale of devices, furniture or small buildings. Their projects are designed to disrupt and reframe systems, networks and infrastructure.
Whithervanes has been made possible by Creative Foundation for Folkestone Triennial 2014 (UK); John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design; University of Michigan Office of Research; brightly Interactive LLC; EES Design, LLC; YetiWeurks Engineering, LLC.; Pulsar Light of Cambridge Ltd.; Design Core Detroit UNESCO Detroit City of Design Initiative; Cite du Design (Saint-Etienne, FR); Centre des Arts (Enghien-les-bains, FR). Also: Phil Vander Veen and Travis Martin.
Additional support in Miami from Invizio, sensible technology management. Special thanks to: 5555 Biscayne SkyeStudios of 1035 North Miami Avenue for hosting Whithervanes at their Miami locations and to the Miami Design District.
This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida.