This was possibly one of the most ambitious and challenging self-initiated projects of my life. The completion of it cost me countless resources, numerous college credits, sweat, tears and blood (quite literally) and roughly two years of my life.
In January of 2017, we set on a mission to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Dice Mosaic.
The project culminated in the form of an artwork, called ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’, an ode to Srinivas Ramanujan.
The artwork spans across 100 sq. ft. and has been made up of 40,000 dice.
Below is a documentation of these two years that the project took to complete. Hope you can find a couple of useful things reading about my experiences.
‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ is an ode to the world renowned Indian Mathematician, Srinivas Ramanujan.
His contributions to the field of mathematics are indispensable and he was single-handedly responsible for putting India on the world map for mathematical academic study.
Our artwork aims to show Ramanajun captive by the infinity and the infinity captive of Ramanujan.
We strive to honour his lifelong achievements through this Guinness award winning artwork made up of 40,000 dice and spanning across 100 sq. ft. in area.
‘The man who knew infinity’, as he was popularly known by, is our attempt to celebrate Ramanujan’s accomplishments and his gift to the world of mathematics.
You can view the video below to view a quick time lapse of the making of the mosaic.
Our journey started way back in January 2017 when we (Nitish Chopra and Yashvi Vasundhara) were offered to make a wall mural for a board-game cafe in Bengaluru.
After a few sessions of brainstorming we landed across the concept of Dice Mosaics – an artwork made by using pieces of dice as individual pixels. The different numbered faces of the dice – by the virtue of their varying proportion of black and white – offered the ability to create shades of grey; and therefore an image could be rendered in gray scale by using a huge number of dice.
The idea of an artwork made using dice – for a board game cafe – fitted perfectly.
Also, from the very beginning we were clear the mosaic had to be larger than life because it had to be a wall mural before it was a mosaic.
It was utter chance that we landed across the idea to check if a Guinness Record could be made using such a thing; it would bring a lot of publicity to the cafe and the idea itself was full of luster to be executed. But it was sheer destiny that a similar record had already been made and the remaining road became slightly smoother for us as the approval rate to ‘break records’ was higher than those to ‘make new records’.
Not to say the path ahead was all that easy. It took us about 6 weeks to finally get the Guinness approval.
Anyhow, the cafe owner eventually withdrew his support due to his economic limitations.
But we solemnly felt that this was something worth being done; for us, the nation and the pride of bringing another Guinness for it.
So we set on the journey to do it.
The first step was to find interested collaborators who’d be willing to fund the attempt and host the final artwork in their premises. To us it seemed like a deal of mutual benefit. They get to own and flaunt an aspiring Guinness World Record breaking artwork of a grand magnitude with the prospects of getting their own name on the record certificate in the return of some financial help.
So we put together a video proposal that was broadcast-ed to a whole host of people, institutions and organisations to get them on board.
But sadly after hearing no replies to our knocks on multiple avenues, we decided to go solo by starting a crowd funding campaign on Ketto.
Luckily our campaign got an amazing response and we managed to gather about half our total monetary requirements. So with some money to start off with and a decision to invest personal funds to fill in for the remaining amount – we started sourcing all the material.
Meanwhile, we managed to get in talks with the Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL), who were magnanimous enough to agree to host our artwork in their premises.
Then we started ideating for visuals that would sit well in the context of the Bangalore Airport. After going through some options we narrowed down on Srinivas Ramanujan – the man who knew infinity – as the broader theme. His contributions to mathematics have no match and it made sense to pay him an ode through a mosaic made out dice – an element that stands as a symbol of probability and therefore mathematics.
The next step was generating digital mockups to exhibit the final feel of the eventual mosaic.
A program was built using processing to do this.
Once the visuals and the mockups had been finalised with the airport authorities, we set into execution mode.
The first step was building the frame for the artwork. This was an extremely crucial stage as the frame has to be able to hold the weight of 40,000 dice which were estimated to weigh around 200 kgs.
While planning for the frame we had to also think about the eventual mounting too cause the facilities for the mounting had to be incorporated in the frame itself.
So we began by building the structural drawings for the frame.
The initial plan came back with feedback from the engineering team at BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd.) as being “impractical to hold the weight” – the edges of the ply would rapture.
So another plan was drafted with added beams at the edges for extra reinforcement. Additional details were provided about the mounting methods which were missing in the last plan.
Once these were approved by the BIAL authorities we got into construction and fabrication of the frame.
This was done by Padamchitt Saxena in the in-house workshop at Srishti.
What followed next was months of hard work – finding quality vendors for the dice and working hands on to place each dice individually. The entire execution was carried out inside the premises of Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Bengaluru.
Multiple adhesives were considered, however we narrowed to using ‘Araldite’, it was a bit on the expensive side, but it worked like a charm. Once it dried, it was practically impossible to pull out a dice from the base without damaging the ply underneath.
You can view the youtube video above for a timelapse of the execution.
The next step was getting a certified architect to measure the mosaic for us. This was one of the Guinness guidelines, among other formalities and regulations that had to be followed.
For this we took the help of Ranjani Balasubraminain – a public space design faculty at our collegeand a certified architect.
The next stage was one of the most challenging and risky ones. The entire execution was started and completed on the fourth floor of our college area. There was a general idea as to how it might be moved out of the college, but as the project moved forward we started realising that it would be a harder job than initially thought.
The primary challenge was to make sure the lowering of the mosaic is done in a manner hat is safe for the mosaic, the building and the people doing it.
The mosaic was first thoroughly packed in layers of corrugated sheets and bubble wrap. Then the entire column of wall was dressed in protective material so the wall is protected while the mosaic is being lowered. Finally a team of men manually lowered using nothing but ropes and then bare brute strength.
It was truly an inspiring sight to see everyone available around offering hands while this was being done as they saw us in need.
This strength in unity is one of the primary things that our college stands for. And it was plain spellbinding to see it in action.
The mosaic was then carried to the airport in a truck where a team of BIAL engineers were ready to mount it.
But a roadblock hit us again as our initial mounting plan did not sync up with the material of the wall at the site.
But lucky for us the engineering team came up with another plan on the spot, made custom mounts for us and helped with the mounting.
Finally a couple of weeks after we submitted the compiled evidence to the Guinness authorities, they verified our submissions and crowned us with the title. 🙂
Our certificates were couriered to us from the head Guinness office in UK, which was consequently mounted along the artwork itself.
As the last and final step, all the donors to our crowd funding campaign were sent respective gifts, as promised initially – as a mark of successful completion of the project.
The gifts ranged from post cards, to medals and participation certificates.
After thoughts and Reflection…
I’ve already said it before and I cannot emphasise enough – this was one of the most challenging and ambitious projects of my life.
My partner and I used to dream, almost fantasize, about the thought of holding the certificate in our hands and seeing our names on it.
So when it indeed did happen – it truly was surreal.
But such is the human nature – the mind begins to question, criticise and critique it – each joy, each pride and each achievement – almost as soon as we get it.
So there was a stage when I was questioning all this hard work and looking at from the perspective of the bigger things in life. And when one looks at it like that, it does indeed feel small and shallow. It’s true….
But that’s precisely what life is about.
Not every mountain you bring down would be worthy of being shattered.
But sometimes you regardless do it to prepare yourself for the one that actually is.
And that’s how it was. Of course I realise that the mosaic eventually wasn’t the greatest thing in existence. But to bring it where it was, I learnt a great many things about doing things in ground reality – managing and negotiating with people, tackling challenges that you never prepared for and simply being persistent and consistent for doing something that stands against all odds.
And in the end that’s precisely what I’m happy and proud about. 🙂