See Things Differently is an interactive sculpture within the UK pavilion of the Dubai Expo 2020, by artist in residence Nicola Anthony.

A piece which explores the urgency of climate change and sustainability, and looks towards a world united. The hourglass shape represents the past and present, positioned on it’s side it references a tipping point of pivotal change: now is the time to make a difference.

The sculpture is created using a collection of washed-up items found at beaches in both Dubai and the UK, recycled to form the hourglass shape, and suspended within a slender steel framework.

The team was brought in to collaborate with Nicola to make her vision come to life. Sourcing the relevant type of lighting equipment and lighting controls that allowed her to be free in her placement of the lighting within but also create the interactive element which was key to the overall piece.

The challenge was to instruct and install the lighting within an extremely tight timeframe. The team project managed the piece with local manufacturers to allow for the freedom of the artistic vision whilst also creating a layer of light which informed the interactive element of the design but also becoming part of the sculpture within.

In contrast to the organic recycled forms of the hourglass, the lighting within is made up of 500 individual fibre optic points. These became the ‘grains of time’ flowing from the past into the future. Converging at the neck of the hourglass – the moment between the past and the future – they highlight our present as a crucial point of change.

The lighting responds to data collected from social media using the hashtag #COP26. The artist used AI tools to analyse the sentiment of online discussions. The artwork then uses colour to translate the sentiment of the global dialogue. Positive data leads to a shift in coloured light from white to colours within the blue and green spectrum whilst difficult and anxious data moves into the red and amber spectrum. The sculpture can be seen shifting dramatically from one end of the colour spectrum to the other, reflecting a conversation which is complex, challenging and divisive.

The volume of discussion also influences the lighting, heavy social traffic leads to pulsing light and movement, showing an enormous influx of posts around the COP26 conference weeks.

Each illuminated point symbolically represents one voice within a global conversation, indicating the importance of listening to diverse voices and the reality that individually we will all experience climate change in different ways. Standing back you view a cloud of points of light, and from the sculpture’s end these align to form the round shape of a globe. Here you can see things differently: the individuals have come together, showing the power of collaboration and knowledge sharing in solving the climate crisis.

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