Whatismissing.net–Maya Lin’s Final Memorial

Whatismissing.net is the collaborative interactive component of designer and artist Maya Lin’s What is Missing? project. Previously the project featured installation pieces at specific scientific and educational institutions. These pieces arranged a plethora of sights and sounds of extinct and endangered from animals across the world, presenting the chirps, squawks of creatures already lost and those we are quickly losing. Her website expands greatly on her multimedia installations, while retaining her sleek and modern design style. Lin, the designer of the Vietnam War Memorial as well as others, has called this her last memorial—and given the stream of extinctions brought on by humans (some call this period the sixth mass extinction, and the only one incurred by humans)—it’s not hard to see why. A project of this undertaking can last lifetimes.

While a project with this strident of an ecological message can seem heavy-handed, Lin’s incredible panache at bringing so many facts together in a streamlined, attractive package prevents the audience from being inundated with depressing details. The home page of Whatismissing.net is especially impressive; colored dots rove around against a black screen until they make a spotted map of the world. Clicking on a dot brings the user to a region specific example of extinction or endangerment, often using the sounds of the creature in question with high-definition video. The user can also alter the dots by clicking a button down in the legend to rearrange to dots to form a timeline of extinctions.

Whatismissing.net recalls the great web documentary boom in the early and mid 2000s—when artists, filmmakers, and coders utilized the expansive freedom of the Internet to tell incredible stories in equally incredible ways. Like the works that movement produced, Lin’s project weaves a beautiful stream of information and art; an active, ever-growing catalogue that is as much a history lesson and ecological warning as it is a data portal.

Screengrabs from Whatismissing.net