Artist Creates Stunning Data Visualization of the Afghan War Diaries
World Premier of Wall of War: A Massive Graphic Installation That Explores the Meaning and Scope of the 2010 WikiLeaks Data Release
“The scale and intense complexity of Wall of War is intended to have a visceral effect on the viewer." Dylan Halpern, Artist
Richmond, VA – Julian Assange’s release of more than 91,000 secret reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010 created an international scandal. They became known as the Iraq and Afghanistan War Diaries. The reports targeted the United States military, focusing on the internal numbers of people killed, wounded, and detained in thousands of military actions.
Wall of War is a massive graphic installation, 89’ long and 10’ high, that creates a visual representation of the 463,000 incidents catalogued in the diaries. Usually, these types of wartime reports are held secret for decades. Artist Dylan Halpern, the Virginia Commonwealth University senior who created the installation, became intrigued with the diaries because of the open way that the data was released. He found the accessibility of the content to be fertile ground to explore data visualization and the meaning of the content itself. Out of a deep respect for national security concerns, the data visualization uses only the redacted data set.
Wall of War is a more than a commentary on America’s Global Wars on Terror. It is a critique of the state of data visualization and information graphics today. “A traditional reductionist approach might not adequately reflect the severity, scope, and importance of this data. Because of this, I have chosen a detailed and expansive representation,” says Mr. Halpern. Color gradients move from red (summer) to blue (winter). The intention of the piece is to reflect the feeling of what data on war should be.
The artist hopes that the project will serve as a reminder to the great sacrifices and losses that happened as a result of these conflicts, and the risks generated by releasing this data to the public. “The scale and intense complexity of Wall of War is intended to have a visceral effect on the viewer,” says Mr. Halpern. “It has an element of poignancy. The data interpreted include deaths from air strikes and IED, but also mundane events like depositing a project file.
Wall of War opens on Friday, December 5, from 5 to 9 p.m. at 423 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia. The installation will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 6. The installation is free, open to all audiences, and suitable for children.
The installation was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. The interactive portions of Wall of War were funded through a generous grant from the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation. The installation is available to museums and galleries around the US. The project files will be licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license, meaning anyone is free to use the files for personal, education, or non-profit design purposes.
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- Contact Information
- Dylan Halpern
- Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Art
- (1) 703-504-8868
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