Where data and art meet in a perfect prism

Creeping through secret corridors of the V&A, up winding concrete staircases and marvelling at a stunning London vista. Seems like a dream. Actually it was the V&A tour of The Prism, an installation by Keiichi Matsuda.

The Prism was part of the London Design Festival. A free tour, departing every half hour, for one week only. A tour which was almost impossible to book. Not because it was sold out, more a result of the crazy V&A booking system. Online you could only book two tickets (there were three of us), you couldn’t book in person and the phone line wouldn’t connect.

So on the advice of the amazingly helpful girl at the V&A ticket desk (she was seriously helpful and nice) we went to the corner of one of the sixth floor ceramic galleries and begged to be allowed on a tour. Success.

Up a concrete spiral staircase and past the dome we went. We came to a dark, cathedral like room, which is where we found The Prism. Made out of paper and so vast that I could only take a photo of the tip, each facet was projected with a different data stream from around London. One showed the current state of the stock market (it was a frowny face), another was the current number of Borris Bikes currently in use (the blue side on the right in the picture above) and my favourite was the side showing the amount of energy currently being used in 10 Downing Street. All being streamed live from across London, which meant that every tour would have a unique view of the Prism. A fantastic combination of data and art.

And it was sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, I tend to love anything by Veuve Clicquot.

The second half of the tour was unexpected. Up another spiral staircase we went (wrought iron this time), and found ourselves on the roof of the V&A. Lucky for us it was a clear sunny day, so we had uninterrupted views across London while standing atop one of the greatest art and design collections in the world. Perfect.

I loved the contrast of these two views of London, one real and one binary. Twins that, in 2012, can’t really be separated.