THE MOVING AIR
A Cultural-environmental Paradigm
Exhibition Design: Catty Dan Zhang
Research Assistants and Gallery Installation:
Pedro Pinera and Rick Luu, UNCC
The Moving Air exhibition features multimedia investigations utilizing airflow as a material freely available in the environment. Developed at the convergence of computation, natural physics and architecture, it attempts to explore the cultural, social, and environmental uptakes of technological investigations of ephemeral and invisible factors that create emotional impacts. A matter fills up spaces between our eyes and the visible forms of the built environment, Leonardo da Vinci describes in his Notebook the visual function of clouds when he suggests that “they are useful in filling up the gaps around figures, on the wall, to situate them in space just like angels and birds”. To expand this imaginary and static use of air into designing with its spatial functions in real time, the series of works on display hacks scientific toolkits that are available, and misuses concepts of cultural objects. Titled “Medium Matters”, “FANS”, “VENTS”, and “MASKS”, four projects appear as oversized glasses, fans looking like umbrellas, umbrella that rains, and extra-large mask (for 2). Presented in forms of horizontal planes of assembled modules, volumes of articulated air currents, illuminated screens with projected visuals, 2D prints, as well as artifacts, this exhibition invites playful interactions between visitors and the altered atmosphere within the gallery.
The Moving Air explores a cultural-environmental paradigm with readymade products and daily life scenarios. An attempt to challenge the temporal and atmospheric dimensions in architecture, it showcases a practice of translating fixed object into synergistic systems that create profound, weird, useless, yet poetic spatial interactions. The exhibition design itself is at the same time a reconfiguration of one of the featured projects VENTS (2018). Undulating along the central axis of the 2,200 square feet gallery is a lightweight aluminum frame supporting a canopy of kinetic umbrella modules. Designed as an ephemeral monument of an environmental catastrophe, this canopy produces a “rain” of air puffs subtly felt on the skin with a visual pattern of color LED. Light, sound and air movements fluctuate according to the drastically changing wind speed of the Hurricane Florence which took place in North and South Carolinas during September 2018. The physical paths relating air movements at separate locations, where “vents” are typically understood as part in mechanical terms, are replaced with data transmission, translating environmental condition elsewhere into multisensorial experience. This site-specific installation was constructed using salvaged aluminum tubing and channels from old signage frames found around the School of Architecture at UNC Charlotte, and was assembled onsite in the Wurster Gallery at UC Berkeley in seven days. The air chambers attached to the umbrella modules are situated right above average human height, illuminating softly a series robotic instruments on display right underneath the canopy.
The Moving Air was selected through the open call for the inaugural Emerging Designers Competition organized by UC Berkeley in October 2019. It is on view Jan21 - Feb 25, 2020.