This is a prototype of Taxatron, an interactive sculpture that displays biodiversity data. The purple silk represents a timeline from 1750 to 2000. It displays the number of new species discovered per year in any particular grouping of organisms (called "taxa").
In this video, we can see the number of new turtles (testudines), birds (aves), and rodents (rodentia) discovered per year since Linnaeus first described species in 1750.
The display is made of a 8-yard piece of silk chiffon, attached to 15 stepping motors. Onboard microcontrollers control the animation, while a computer attached via USB directs the action.