San Francisco, Austin & New York City

Pi In The Sky

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter… and so much more. Pi In The Sky plays upon the American colloquialism pie in the sky, a catch phrase for impossible thinking. Pi In The Sky lives at the nexus of science, technology, engineering, art and math.

The Installation

The skywriting installation in partnership with AirSign USA creates the first 314 characters of Pi’s infinite and non-repeating sequence in a 100+ mile arc over entire regions. Each number is roughly a quarter-mile wide and is imaged by a team of five synchronized airplanes flying at 10,000 feet elevation. The radically accessible ephemeral installation lasts approximately an hour-and-a-half and represented the largest ephemeral art installation in history.

Pi In The Sky plays upon the 20th century American colloquialism pie in the sky, a catch phrase for impossible thinking. Ideas labeled as such are deemed worthless, unachievable. By skywriting an oversized chunk of Pi’s numeric sequence high over our heads, ITA proves that impossible ideas not only can happen, they do.

However, the textured meanings of the artwork run much deeper. Pi is a mathematical constant. Some say it represents a universal truth, a common understanding that rises above language, borders, affiliations and beliefs. By flying Pi overhead and encouraging a simultaneous lifting of our collective gaze, the artwork establishes a momentary shared focal point, a prevailing and unfurling truth upon which we all can unite.

Yet Pi is vexing. The attributes that define Pi are drenched in poetic ambiguity. Pi is both an irrational and a transcendental number. It is a mathematical constant, unknowable and unseeable due to it’s infinite and random nature.

Pi In The Sky

Locations

  • Pi In The Sky was first flown over the entire San Francisco Bay Area as an official artwork of the 2012 ZERO1 International Art & Technology Biennial.
  • The second version was flown over Austin, Texas as part of the 2013 SXSW conference.
  • The third iteration was on July 12, 2014 over New York City reaching millions of people.
  • A fourth installation on International Pi Day,  March 14, 2015 (3.1415!) is in progress. The international location is yet to be announced.

Response

During its initial first installation, social media posts from teachers around the San Francisco Bay Area came crashing in.  Students captivated by the installation during recess remained engaged back in the classroom. One teacher reported students writing the numbers of Pi on their arms. Enterprising teachers reworked the day’s curriculum to include Pi, providing a national model for curriculum possible across K-12 and higher educational environments.

Big brains took the bait, too. ITA received the following email from a scientist currently with Google[x]: “I remember the memorable day on Xerox PARC’s Patio overlooking the bay, when this took a happy 30 minutes out of everyone’s post-lunch workday, until somebody had figured it out… It triggered wonderfully stimulating speculations in the process :-)”

Check out the #piinthesky crowdsourced response on twitter.