Passengers this week began flying in and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport's $200 million expansion of Concourse A. As they stroll to nine new gates, travelers pass what's billed as the nation's largest data-driven digital public art installation.
The piece is called "Interconnected." It uses data from airport systems to create ebbing and flowing abstract forms on three high-definition digital screens. One is a 140-foot-long panel beside a moving walkway. Two others are large rectangular panels around the corner in the concourse's entry atrium.
Interconnected's creator is Turkish-born artist Refik Anadol, who lives and works in Los Angeles. We studied the giant screens during the concourse's grand opening last week.
"So what we are watching right now, for example, is a multimillion particles, each particle representing every single operation that the airport has been doing [the] last 90 days," Anadol said.
Operations like flight arrivals and departures, baggage movements, and airport parking, all translated into millions of pixels.
"And that's the most, for me and for many people hopefully, will be the inspiration - the freshness of seeing this invisible world of data transforming itself every single day into something else."
So, will we ever see the same thing twice?
"Never," he said. "That's the idea."
The ever-changing images are colorful and textured. You want to reach out and touch them. Some remind you of mountain ranges or cloud formations. Others are animated shapes - like spheres or cubes. Anadol says he wants it to be a playful experience, even though it's generated from a mountain of data using custom software written in his 11-person studio.
"So we have to use one of the world's fastest computers to be able to run this project," Anadol said.
At the grand opening, people were already taking notice, including Charlotte city council member Greg Phipps.
"It doesn't matter if your plane is delayed ... you just watch that thing, right?" Phipps said.
City aviation director Brent Cagle said you won't be able to miss it.
"Go that way, towards the end of the concourse, and if you still can't find it, don't admit it. Just say it was great," he said, laughing.
"Interconnected" is one of many new public artworks being added as Charlotte Douglas expands. The installation cost $2.9 million, paid from airport user and vendor fees.
Charlotte's Public Art Commission chose Anadol for the project, which was managed by the Arts & Science Council.
Anadol will be back in Charlotte to talk about his work Sept. 17 at UNC Charlotte Center City.
Watch a video interview with artist Refik Anadol produced by the airport, including scenes from the "Interconnected" screens.