In early April, three odd-looking weathervanes appeared on several rooftops scattered across Miami’s downtown, design district and upper eastside MiMO neighborhood. Rather than the typical metal cutout chicken, each building sports a four-foot tall white, plastic 3D rendering of a headless chicken.
The large, cartoonish-looking bird torso spins and glows different colors depending on the power of the invisible force it has been set up to measure: public fear from the online news cycle.
It’s all part of an art installation called “Whithervanes: A Neurotic Early Worrying System” created by the Detroit-based design studio rootoftwo cofounded by Cezanne Charles and John Marshall. The duo is working with Locust Projects, a non-profit that curates unconventional exhibition and the project has received backing from the Knight Foundation. The project’s description – “Neurotic Early Warning System” – sets up some obvious wordplay: the classic directional abbreviations (North, East, West, South), as well as a reference to the current events that fuel its movement.
The installation will remain aloft until July 2018. The goal is to give the public a way to “think about the troubling currents that are currently blowing us around,” says Charles in a related video about the work, “It may not be the weather per say, but its definitely the climate of fear on the internet.”
To do that, rootoftwo built a program that monitors Reuter’s news feed. The system can determine where around the world each story breaks, and counts the number of potentially alarming terms in the text by searching against a list of Homeland Security watchwords previously identified by documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.