Knife Nation

with Debbie Davies, 2015


Knife Nation is a physical visualisation of crime data in selected regions of England, produced in collaboration with artist Debbie Davies.

The pieces are based on a dataset from the UK Office for National Statistics on knife crime in 2013, (technically, crimes involving a knife or sharp object), which includes stabbings and threatened stabbings.

The area of each flag is determined by the number of crimes per 100,000 population per region, while the red cross in the centre is made up of tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual red stitches - each one corresponding to a single crime that took place that year.

Each flag represents the data from one of five different English regions. From left to right, these are: Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Greater Manchester and London. London had so many knife crimes – over 10,000 – that its flag is entirely red.

The fifth region, Surrey, had the lowest crime rate and so the smallest flag. It also the smallest absolute number of crimes involving a knife – only 43 crimes in 2013.

Debbie made the flags by hand then, after several tests, added the stitches using a sewing machine. The width and length of each stitch and the number of stitches per red bar had to be precisely calculated.

The data did not allow us to form complete rows of stitches, so we decided to aim for an approximate number of stitches per flag then unpick them to get to the correct number, leaving the thread ends to dangle freely.

The pieces were exhibited at Spektrum in Berlin in November 2015, as part of a show featuring data-driven artworks from students from the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe, where I was a course instructor at the time.