After finishing up my quota of Saturday reading, I felt like socializing with friends and strangers and so I jumped into my car and headed toward Chung King Court in China Town, downtown Los Angeles. While I love doing things on a whim, my excursion to China Town was a planned one. My friend Matt Harmon who is a student at SCIARC (Southern California Institute of Architecture) had sent me an invite to an art installation opening called "Rain Field" over at Fringe Exhibitions in China Town by Jake Lee-High.
By the time I arrived at Chung King Court, I had inhaled a very healthy dose of ash and smoke that had been infesting the air in southern California due to the Sylmar and Yorba Linda wild fires. The galleries are all lined next to each other, but if you wander a few feet away, you will run into restaurants, and stores selling Chinese junk jewelry and souvenirs - touristy, commercial stuff. I entered gallery 504 and was immediately enveloped in darkness, humidity, and a very earthy, raw smell. The room was completely empty, except for a 12 feet by 12 feet black platform on the floor which was lined by a foamy plastic material. Underneath the foam the platform was lined with 117 piezoelectric metal points. A piezoelectric material expands and contracts as you apply a voltage across it. The platform was doused in suspended subdued lighting from the ceiling. I felt as if I was in some Ray Bradbury sci-fi novel or on some alien technology in a distant part of our galaxy ready to be teleported back to Earth.
The idea of this installation was to give the audience a feeling of the dynamics of a weather system. There were UV cameras and fans installed high up in the corners of the various walls that detected the motion of a person while he/she would be walking on the platform. This motion would cause the piezoelectronics to respond which would in turn create sounds of rain droplets, slight rumble of clouds and the humidity that I felt in the air when I walked in. I talked to Jake Lee-High and he explained to me that the inspiration for this project was his childhood memory of watching rain storms in Virginia. He wanted to recreate that experience, and I think he did a marvelous job.
I think there were too many people standing on the platform, and too many people surrounding it to completely enjoy the experience of what Jake had created. But then again it was opening night and you couldn't possibly ask people to go inside one at a time. I think it will be a marvelous idea to go to the gallery on a weeknight when there is no one about and just walk slowly on the platform or sit and meditate and enjoy the idiosyncrasies of the simulated weather systems.
Here are the details on the exhibition: