Rootoftwo create headless weather vanes that represent fear levels

Search results:

Headless rooftop chickens by Rootoftwo respond to internet panic levels

Detroit studio Rootoftwo has installed weather vanes shaped like headless chickens on five buildings in Folkestone, England, which spin around and change colour in response to fear levels on the internet rather than the climate (+ slideshow).

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

Created as part of the ongoing Folkestone Triennial, the Whithervanes were designed by Rootoftwo to subvert the traditional weather vanes used by farmers to track the direction of the prevailing weather, by transforming them into devices that react to activity in online news feeds.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

"We wanted to make weather vanes for the information age – devices that indicate the rhythm of news information and make us aware of our ability to make decisions in spite of it," said designers John Marshall and Cezanne Charles.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

Whereas standard weather vanes are often shaped like cockerels crowing, with letters indicating the points of the compass, the Whithervanes are shaped like four-foot-tall headless chickens, made from polyurethane foam and coated in polyester resin.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

"If you look at a traditional weather vane it has the cardinal directions of North, East, South, and West on it – from the right perspective it spells out N-E-W-S," the designers pointed out.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles
Photograph by Thierry Bal

"Our Whithervanes are a Neurotic-Early-Worrying-System that questions where we are going, since collectively we seem to be running around like headless chickens," they said.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles
Photograph by Thierry Bal

Each of the Whithervanes is controlled by a Raspberry Pi miniature computer that gathers reports uploaded to the internet from around the world by international news agency Reuters.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

The news reports are scanned for keywords used by the Department of Homeland Security to identify possible terror threats on social media. The computer then establishes the GPS coordinates of the event and its direction and distance from Folkestone.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

The chickens rotate to face away from the source of the story, while coloured lighting and the number of spins they make corresponds to the five threat levels used by the American National Terrorism Advisory System.

vWhithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

Also included in the keywords are threats suggested during workshops with residents of the town, which ranged from race riots and gastro-tourists to unemployment and dog poo.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

Other factors affecting the behaviour of the Whithervanes include marketing data used for targeting junk mail in the specific neighbourhoods where the chickens are located, which elevates the importance of events likely to affect that area.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

Tweeting dedicated hashtags or clicking a button on the project's website enables the public to interact with the artwork, either raising or reducing the current fear level.

Whithervanes by John Marshall and Cezanne Charles

"The chickens are like a blinking light on the dashboard of your car – they are there to let you know that something, somewhere is not quite as it should be and it needs your attention," said the designers, who plan to make the system available next year as an open-source kit that can be adapted for different locations and types of data.

Other installations created for the Folkestone Triennial include a three-dimensional bamboo lattice on top of a railway viaduct and a colourful combined lighthouse and beach hut. The event is ongoing until 2 November.