In this very particular moment in our history, I wanted to be able to embody humanity in its entirety; to be able to crystallize the infinitely large in complex objects. The terrestrial globe had this magical power to finally render the Earth visualizable and tangible, so we could hold it in our hands.”
With this visualization in mind, French artist and designer Mathieu Lehanneur created a collection of sculptures “State of the world”, a freeze-frame of all the living humans today in over 140 different countries. The 3d-printed sculptures are a collection of anodized aluminium works depicting the three-dimensional population pyramids of each country. Past, present and future are brought together in this stunning display of black spun population pyramids.
Mathieu Lehanneur’s multidisciplinary approach to design and projects that blend architecture, product design, craft and technology come together in this project, which defies traditional definitions of ‘art’ and ‘science’. Ranked as one of the “100 World top designers and influencers” by Wallpaper, Lehanneur’s work has been exhibited in private and public collections across the world, including the Museum of Modern Art. He has also spoken at the TED global conference in 2009 where he shared his vision. Lehanneur loves working with nature- air, light and water are some of his favourite materials. He is also known for works that examine the relationship between the living world and objects, which is explored through ‘State of the World’.
The concept for these sculptures, displayed at the Design Miami/Basel exhibition was born from the fragility and sense of transience that the 2020 global pandemic has brought the world. Based on the idea of how the past, present and future intersect, the sculpture depicts our connection to each other, even when everything feels distant. As Lehanneur said-“State of the World is also a way to remind you that you are still alive and you are part of a story bigger than you.”
State of the world depicts 140 individual sculptures, each representing an individual country. The birth rate, life expectancy and history of that country are represented through the unique form of the sculpture, with each grove representing an age between one and hundred. The sculptures, though similar in appearance, are each unique. They follow the trend of being bottom-heavy and tapering towards the top to show the dwindling number of individuals in society who live over a hundred years. Lehanneur’s sculptures are completed by one silver sculpture representing population data for the entire Earth, which is also much wider at the base than the top, showing how young the majority of the world population is.
The 3-d printed sculptures have an astonishing degree of accuracy. Lehanneur specifically chose this material because of its precision. Carefully mashed, every single dimension is essential as it represents millions of years.
The data, which Lehanneur retrieved from a United Nations database, was originally represented through a mathematical graph, which he then converted to a work of art. The idea was to make visible the people who inhabit the same planet. Through this mode of representation, the sculptures make accessible the demographic age and population data that was previously highly technical. “I wanted to change the two-dimensional statistics into a three-dimensional object – like a spinning object,” he says.
While this is an unorthodox idea, this series is really a continuation of his series ‘Age of the world’, a collection created in 2009, which depicts the age of the world in various countries through ceramic urns. The dimensions for the original were only 60 cm high x 60 cm wide, with the circumference of each level dictated by the number of people that age in the respective country.
Lehanneur chose to continue this series in 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was a ‘turning point in the history of humanity ‘. The unprecedented damage that forced the entire world to experience the same catastrophe was rare, and with the world opening up, he felt it was the right time to display the sculptures.
- Lehanneur, M., 2021. Mathieu Lehanneur | State of the World, Sculptures. [online] Mathieu Lehanneur. Available at: <https://www.mathieulehanneur.fr/project/state-of-the-world-sculptures-297> [Accessed 8 November 2021].