Cecil Balmond was selected as the winning artist to create an artwork for the Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage, Alaska. The art committee wanted an intriguing art piece that also addressed an aspect of the fallen hero for officers who had lost their lives in the carrying out of their duties. The Crime Lab works with enforcement officers in the region to assist in detection work and advanced forensic technology.
Snow Words is an abstract time piece embodying a code. The secret to the artwork is based on repeat motifs that in turn are spaced out in an aperiodic sequence. The spacing of the lights, with its gaps and solids, draws inspiration from prime numbers - part of the fabric of the Universe.
Located in the lobby of the Crime Detection Laboratory, Snow Words is suspended between a glazed skylight and the mirrored floor that it reflects into. Measuring 9m high, when viewed from above the tower of light looks as though it is emerging from the ground. The artwork features 24 aluminium tubes and 206 lights encased in acrylic. LED strips are skilfully placed inside through laser cut slots from which a bar of light takes shape, floating within the enclosure.
Moving far beyond a simple ‘switch on and off’ mechanism, each of the 24 tubes is programmed independently to allow the sculpture to continuously react to its environment. Uniquely calibrated to suit the extreme lighting conditions of Alaska, the lights are ever changing - glowing bright, pulsating and fading. Snow Words was built using local materials in Alaska and completed in 2012.