There Must Be Something In The Water

“There must be something in the water” is an interactive multimedia installation work that is produced by ten different artists: Rosa Park, Jeannette Angel, David Kadish, Tim Smith, Dylan Ranney, Jon Corbett, Alex Eastman, Hanss Lujan, Kenneth Newby, and Dr. Aleksandra Dulic (Art Director). It was exhibited at the FINA Art Gallery at UBC Okanagan in Canada.

This collaborative work is the result of seminar discussions and presentations around ideas of nature, culture and technology in relation to the human self. It explores the ecology of interactions between nature and technology using a unique composition of sound, image, animation, shadow and object woven together in an augmented environment that represents the world in which we cohabitate and participate.

The installation is arranged such that the participant can either engage with the interactive pond or approach the spit machine and set a chain of immersive audiovisual gestures in motion in the form of moving animations and sound.
As a meditation on nature and technology, the work invites visitors to engage in the metaphor of an exchangeable vending machine system. Imaging and imagining the mind as an interface between nature and culture, the events of a quasi Rube Goldberg machine transform spit into spirit. Visitors walk into the immersive environment of the gallery as a virtual character in the analogue TV monitor starts talking through a disembodied set of lips on a hanging television, urging the participant to “spit in the cup.”

Participants can deposit their spit into a cup and drop it into a mouth-shaped receptacle so that a conveyor belt can take it to the wall and transfer it to the digital plane. Through an attention-grabbing sequence of sounds, movements and animations projected on the walls in the gallery space, participants are guided around the room to finally witness their bodily fluid transferred once again into the physical realm as bubbles bursting from the wall.

The spit is metaphorical of the participant’s contribution to the real world ecology and their everyday surroundings.
We can see a number of beautiful animations by Tim Smith and Rosa Park, as well as rewarding physical displays and objects built by Dylan Logan with an interactive system created by David Kadish, yet below the bubble machine there is still a remnant sludge that oozes into the pond at the end of the sequence — a metaphor for the overlooked excess in our lives that damages not only the spirit of nature, but also the individual spirits of those who discard it.

The rippling surface of the pond is projected onto a salt-covered floor surface, which when disturbed by footsteps or a hand gesture, causes the face of a spirit to rise from the depths of the water, at times inscrutably staring at the participant and at other times, struggling under the surface of the pond. As the participant moves away from the edge of the pond, the surface returns to the subtle dynamic of the rippling pond. Around the pond there are painted silhouettes of bull rushes, tall grasses, piles of smooth grey stones and an ominous leafless tree. In the grasses, an animated spirit dances playfully. The pond allows participants to reflect on how their gestures and actions work against their desires as they obscure the image they wanted to reveal. This suggests a potential for an embodied awareness of a larger theme of the work: human and technological presence in a natural ecosystem. The viewer is not asked to only participate in a predefined narration but also to explore and realize in time, in space and in matter, the potential of events embedded in the work. In realizing the work, the viewer is invited to experience a reciprocal interaction, and a gentle suggestion that it might bode well to take care.

This project explores the relationship between technology, humans and nature through an immersive environment that provides an engaging interplay among image, sound and body.

Text by: Rosa Park, Jeannette Angel, Dylan Logan, Kenneth Newby, and Aleksandra Dulic.