Pentagram partner and data artist Giorgia Lupi is behind a new sculpture unveiled at the New York Botanical Garden this week that shows the impact of food production and consumption on the planet. Titled Around The World's Table, it represents the major food groups we consume, their share in the global diet, and their carbon footprint.
Made up of 100 partially submerged sculptures in New York Botanical Garden's historic reflecting pool, the immersive installation prompts us to consider what we eat and where it comes from. This is data visualisation at its most creative, with Lupi taking a closer look at food traditions around the world and what that means for all of us. It's in actual fact the first data sculpture of its kind by the Pentagram Partner. "Our starting point for this project was to illuminate what we eat and where it comes from, with the aim of cultivating a deeper understanding of the potential and maybe even surprising impacts of food choices," she says. "Ultimately, we want to spark questions. Where does our food come from? And how do our choices affect the planet—now, and in the future?"
Using the basin of the pool as a metaphor for the world, the size of the installation reflects the percentage of the world's habitable land used for agriculture, which is roughly 50%. The colour, height, placement, and features of the sculptures then visually represent data from 2019 on global food production and consumption gathered from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization and Our World in Data—an open-source knowledge-sharing platform for scholars and researchers. "We have an opportunity to tell nuanced and complex human stories with data," Lupi continues. "The parameters we chose to represent in the sculpture allowed us to offer multiple visual narratives for the visitor to interrogate and inquire on their own terms."
Lupi, whose work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and has been exhibited in museums around the world, is a pioneer of data humanism, an approach she defines as "transforming the abstract world of data into something that can be seen, felt, and tangibly connected to human behaviour".
The new sculpture has been launched at a time when the United Nations has warned of a global food shortage and is designed to get us all thinking about the environmental impact of our food choices. It will be on view at New York Botanical Gardens until 11 September.