...Ma poi, che cos’è un nome?
Physical Installation for the Milan Triennale Museum
On October 2018, the CDEC Foundation —the most important non-profit, independent institution working on the documentation of the history of the Italian Jewish community— organized a exhibition to present the results of the Italian census of August 22nd, 1938, which has been the first direct discriminatory act carried against the Jews on a national scale by the fascist regimen.
My team at Accurat and I, created a data wallpaper, visualizing data from the 1938 census as an art installation in the main hall of the Triennale Design Museum, in Milan.
For decades, the census documents related to the city of Milan have been considered completely lost, until 2007, when they’ve been found in the deposits of the Municipality and later transferred to the Cittadella degli Archivi in 2013.
In the last three years, the Department of Historical Studies of the University of Milan with the advice of the CDEC Foundation, conducted a deep research on the archived documents, crafting an extremely rich dataset.
At Accurat, we have been asked to translate this work into an original visual narrative in the main hall of the Triennale Design Museum, where surveyed names, data and personal information took a visual shape to recall people’s lives and stories, forever marked by the 1938 census, quantifying the magnitude of the act and at the same time highlighting singular stories and life experiences.
This large visual installation (filling an entire wall 20 meters long and 5 meters tall) tells the story of the Jews who were surveyed in Milan on August 22, 1938. We translated names and lives of these people into their "data portraits": micro-illustrations based on information from the dataset of the Jews surveyed in 1938, subsequent procedures of race verification, and the database of the victims of the Shoah in Italy.
Working side by side with the team at the CDED foundation and understanding the depth of their research, we decided to highlight the names of the 10,591 Jews who have been counted in the census and shape the entire visualization around each name, as a representation of how, once recorded in 1938, the lives of these human beings have never been the same again.
Each data-portrait thus runs around, above and beyond each name depicting their stories and destinies.
From a long distance, names become almost indistinguishable generating a pattern which gives the visitor an unexpected but essential point of view based on people’s professions.
Since portraits are arranged in columns and sorted from left to right by age, color areas appear clearly, and it’s easy to identify groups of people: students are predominant in the left side of the wall, retired people dominate the right section while a complex mix of activities populates the middle part of the artifact.
A secondary wall - measuring 3.5 meters per 20 meters - presents an overview of the parameters distribution and explains the structure of the archive. The visual legend displays all the information and instructions to read the main wall and it is enriched with statistics and details about the dataset creating a different, more analytic approach to the exhibition.