London Dig

Interactive digital plasma screen array
3 x 2 metres
by Simon Biggs. A Little Pig Production, UK, 2006.
Commissioned by Allen and Overy LLB, London

London Dig is composed of four 42 inch plasma screens arranged in a rectangular array of two by two screens, creating a larger single image. The imagery displayed on the screens derives from numerous bird's eye views of the City of London, centred on the location of the building in which the work is located, Allen and Overy's world headquarters in Spitalfields, City of London. The site of the building is an historically loaded one, located near to one of the original Roman gates into the City of London, over the plague pits where those that died during the Great Plague were buried en masse and within the extent of the Great Fire of London. The building is also located at the site of the birth place of Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarianist, philosopher and penal reformer. Imagery documenting the 2000 year history of the city is employed, including maps from the Roman period through to contemporary times, data visualisations of the City in various forms, flight data from local airports including radar visualisations and photographs from space (image credits below). The work is also interactive. A video camera located above the plasma array tracks all activity in the room in which the work is installed. This acquired data is then used to manipulate the imagery displayed on the screens. People passing or standing before the screens cause the surface of the imagery to buckle and distort, depending on their movement characteristics. The effect is akin to an earthquake disprupting the overhead and fragmenting visualisations of the city. Most of the time the tesselated and disrupted view of the city is composed of many different visualisations at the same time. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the imagery evolves so as to converge on a single coherent visualisation, before this is lost again in the visual chaos.
Software development by Simon Biggs and Josh Nimoy. Project assistants, Michael Hohl and Sue Hawksley.

Installation managed by ADi, London. Lighting: Visual Energy, London. Cameras and optics: Alrad, UK. Network systems: Cisco.

Project architects: Foster and Partners. Project engineers: Arup. Project designers: Pringle Brandon.


Image credits for London Dig

David Baxendell
Bodleian Library
City of London
Steve Coast and Tom Carden
European Space Agency
Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA
Historic Cities Research Project, Jewish National & University library
Museum of London
Julian Priest
Science & Society Picture Library
Jeremy Wood
John Woodward
Yale Library