Japanese Earthquake Seismogram Sculpture Created by Luke Jerram

Dry statistics and flat printouts do little to convey the awesome destructive power of earthquakes. British multimedia artist Luke Jerram has found a way to bring data to life, as it were, and by doing so express not only the measured progress of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake over 9 terrifying minutes but also display the pure esthetic beauty of nature's fury in action. 

Jerram's intent was to crystallize the earthquake into a form that allowed onlookers to contemplate the event itself while reflecting upon its lingering effects. The appearance of the sculpture is, in a nutshell, a three-dimensional representation of the 2D seismograph data recorded at the time of the earthquake.

Computer aided design software was employed by Jerram to rotate the raw seismographic data, thus transforming the 2D printout into a 360-degree, 3D construct. The next step was to take that 3D sculpture from the computer screen and reproduce it in actuality.

Jerram (below, left) accomplished this via the use of rapid prototyping technology, a technique developed in the late 1980s and used mainly by industries to form models of newly designed components.

RPT can involve a range of slightly different processes depending on the material used to create the model. In the case of Jerram's Japanese earthquake seismogram sculpture, it's likely he employed either Stereolithography (SLA) or Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM).

The former produces products from quick-drying thermoplastics while the latter creates items composed of laminated paper. Both processes involve building up the model, layer by layer, as the RPT software reads and translates the raw data describing the object.

The end result is an ethereally beautiful artwork measuring 30cm (12”) long and 20cm (8”) wide. This short video presents Jerram's Japanese earthquake seismogram sculpture from the point of view of a visitor conducting a visual inspection:

This so-called “data visualization sculpture” is one of several such sculptures recently created by Jerram in his ongoing exploration of how data is read, represented and interpreted. It can be viewed at the upcoming Terra show being presented at the Jerwood Space in London.

Following the Terra show, Jerram will take up a position in residence at the Museum of Glass in Washington DC. Although glass is not normally used as a medium for rapid prototyping technology, Jerram is hoping to fine-tune the process so that the Japanese earthquake seismogram sculpture can be recreated in glass and offered to the public as a limited edition artwork. For further details, visit Luke Jerram's website (via StaceyThinx)