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Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
Seeing With Fresh Eyes
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Edward Tufte e-books
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Visual and Statistical Thinking $5
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Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $9
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Seeing with Fresh Eyes:
Meaning, Space, Data, Truth
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Escaping Flatland sculptures

Escaping Flatland 1-10 (1997-2003) by Edward Tufte is a series of 10 stainless-steel sculptures. Each piece is 12 feet high and weighs 4,200 pounds. In the series of 10, Escaping Flatland 1, 2, 3, and 4 have a triangular closed footprint; Escaping Flatland 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 have an open, linear footprint.

The 2 images below reflect the play of dappled light coming through the trees and reflected by the stainless steel surface. Dappled light occurs not because tree leaves have ellipitical holes but rather because the leaves combine to make tiny pinhole cameras that project the image of the sun's surface onto the steel. Thus every circle is an image of the sun; it is said that if there is a very large sunspot on the sun, then that spot will show up within each sun projected onto the surface. This effect is commonly seen during an eclipse of the sun, when dozens of images of the eclipsed sun are seen around trees. The dapples also sway and move about the projection surface as the wind moves the leaves.

The more general point is that if you put a good projection plane that intercepts some interesting light, you'll see some wonderful things.

Below, these 3 images show surface light coming off the stainless steel sculpture.The surface borrows light from the sky, grass, and trees to make these beautiful painted color fields.

Various edge effects, including edge fluting, are visible if you stare for a while at any color edge.The same effects can be seen looking out an airplane window at atmospheric strata, as the edge between strata shifts and glows.

The third image down would make a beautiful (although unchanging) color field painting. The vertical white line in that image is the narrow (2.5 inches) edge of a stainless steel plate.

Since the surface borrows the changing light, the stainless steel sculptures are always changing with the time of day, the clouds, the environment, and the location of the viewer relative to piece and the environmental light.

A variety of experiments were conducted at the beginning of the construction of the Escaping Flatland series to determine the grinding methods that would produce the best borrowed light.

-- Edward Tufte

Response to Escaping Flatland 1-10

-- Edward Tufte

Response to Escaping Flatland 1-10

-- Edward Tufte

Below is the installation video of Escaping Flatland.

This video is also available on YouTube and Vimeo

-- Edward Tufte

Question. What is the process that Edward Tufte developed to produce his creations?

ET answer on April 15, 2011: A rough-and-ready answer is that I pay little attention to process. I just go to a studio each day and try to make something intelligent and elegant.

There are coherent long-run plans ("Finish the book in the next 3 years." "Work on sculpture for the next few years, and also continue with the one-day courses and do pro-bono consulting." "Show art in New York City." "Find more open space land."), but otherwise I mostly find my way from day-to-day at the studios.

The staff, whose 5 senior members who have worked with me for a total of about 75 person-years, have developed their own management procedures which I tinker with rarely. Timing of events is mostly determined by the obvious: "Pay taxes on April 15," "Print enough books for a year-long reserve," "Do staff bonuses in late December." "Get ready for the museum show before it opens.").

In general I only want to hear about results, not process. I trust my long-time staff to behave effectively and honestly in their processes, so I limit my attention to results.

Managing a business and a production process seems largely common sense to me, and I don't see why high-level business executives should be paid their enormous salaries for doing the obvious.

-- Bryant (email)

> What is the process that Edward Tufte developed to produce his creations?

My observation has been that he gathers in some number of inspirational objects, makes editorial selections informed by his studies and experience, selecting objects to carry his themes and departures. Then, in an almost step function, a few get launched into large scale production through a series of manipulations and then scale models. There is also an essential continuity of it: all parts of this process are happening all the time. Everything you see going in is evaporated away until a critical reduction remains and life springs forth of its own accord.

His inspirations range from sticks to geopolitics, but are moderately influenced by math and the local Connecticut steel history and his love for animals. His studies range from statistics to art history and French. His experience is best summarized, currently, through his page on Wikipedia. He also enlists colleagues to talk through some ideas. His colleagues have included a backhoe operator, political scientists, an office manager, a welder, a carpenter, a typographer, a forester, artists, columnists, a cartoonist. The list is quite long and these people may have influenced more of his thinking that anything else, though it would be rather resistant to any form of citation beside acknowledgements in his books.

-- Niels Olson (email)

Threads relevant to sculpture:
Ace and Porta do multimedia
Bird Series
Aluminum and stainless steel; many, many pieces moving in the air.
Bouquet sculpture series--and Walking, Seeing, Constructing
Beginning of Bouquet series (now 7); along with theoretical statement beginning the volume 5 project.
Buddha with Bird Nest: sculpture
Complex sculptural shapes
Dear Leader I: landscape sculpture May 2006
Narrative piece about some mysterious porcelain objects in a stainless steel perspective box.
Dog sculpture (Porta the Portuguese Water Dog)
ET Modern
ET museum/gallery in the Chelsea Art District in New York 2010-2013.
ET show at George Champion Modern Shop
ET gallery show in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Feynman Diagrams, Edward Tufte sculptures and exhibits
The Conceptual and Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams. Art show + 16 page essay.
Flame Theater
Georgia O'Keeffe and Escaping Flatland
Hogpen Hill #1: sculpture installed August 2006
First major piece (24 feet light, stainless steel) installed in new 122 acre sculpture park underway in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Ironstone artworks, torqued steel
Magritte's Smile
Masks Quartet, 2011
bronze casting
Megaliths, Continuous and Silent, Stuctures of Unknown Significance
Stone+air artworks. Scuplture, megaliths
Millstone sculpture series
Massive industrial pieces sorting out circles and light. Redesigning and repurposing scrap from nuclear power plant.
Multiplicity in visual experiences (ET presentation for a museum show)
Nine reviews of ET's Aldrich Museum sculpture show
ET museum show in Connecticut 2009-2010

Paradox sculptures
Petals 1-3
Aluminum hyperbolic paraboloids in the landscape reflect light and shadow. The pieces move with the contour of the land.
Philosophical Diamond Signs
Philosophical alerts, imperatives, and thoughts about the path past and future.
Rocket Science
~32 feet (10 m) high and ~72 feet (22 m) long, and is constructed from ~48,000 pounds (22,000 kg) of rusting scrap steel
Rocket Science #2 (Lunar Lander)
Rocket Science 3: Airstream Interplanetary Explorer
Sculpture Forgings
Steel forging mounted on wood base. Blacksmithing video.
Sculpture: Negative space studies
Three table pieces; strong positive elements create active negative volumes (the air) to torque. Movies.
Seeing Around: New ET essay published
Skewed Machine
Spring Arcs, an ET landscape sculpture
Four solid stainless steel arcs in the landscape. Long thread, many photographs on meaning, construction, viewing of the piece.
Stainless steel images: anisotropic calligraphy
Big series of engraved 3D anisomorphic images that move with light.
Steel sculptures
Rough, thick, rusting steel, with surface images in the steel's patina.
Table sculptures
About a dozen major table pieces in wood, steel, stainless steel.
The Drawing Center fax show: ET exhibits
The Twigs: Landscape artworks made from steel and air
The beautiful Twig. Steel, 32 feet high, with accompanying thread on reading the piece and the complexities of modeling large 3D objects.
Theater Museum artworks
Tong Bird of Paradise
Towers: a new memorial for 9/11
Visual complexities of light, shadow, perpsective. Perforated stainless steel.
ZZ Smile (Zerlina's Smile)

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