Quipu subway map photo
Quipu Knotted nylon, 30"x40" 2002

This sculpture is, as with the original quipus, constructed of many strands of coloured string. This quipu takes the form of a map of the New York City subway system, as of the end of 2001. As such it reflects, and is a meditation on, the World Trade Center attack of that year.

The sculpture is also an experiment in the representation of information, using the Incan method of information storage and transmission. Little is known about the quipus [1] but it seems that they were used for much more than the numerical data that has so far been decoded. In this sculpture I show the encoding of geographic information in a rather unconventional quipu. Each line is reflected by its original colour in the (four borough) MTA map.. Each terminus is represented by a multiple overhand knot and every other station by a single overhand knot- two of the knots used in original quipus. Connections link the respective stations' knots.

  1. Ascher, Marcia "Mathematics of the Incas: Code of the quipu" 1981
  2. Urton, Gary "The social life of numbers: A Quechua ontology of numbers" 1997
Other works inspired by the NYC subway system are Subway Lifecycle (a computer animation), and Metrosphere.

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Andrew Senior