STROOM_ is an interactive work that re-creates the appearance of a water source with the use of only artificial materials like plastic and laser light. The work aims to cast doubt on the way we perceive and give name tot the world around us by raising the question: can light mutate into water? When is water water, when is light light, and where does light become water?
This work was made in collaboration with Kiran van Hall and Iris de Vries and was exhibited under the name NO SWIMMING ALLOWED at V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam from June 9th - 13th 2021.
The installation showcases a “mutated” form of light. By doing this, we question the mutation itself: did we actually mutate the light by breaking it inside the roofing panel or did we just mutate your perception of what the light is? We chose a waterfall as a metaphor for our mutation. A contradiction is found in the shift of materiality from light to water. A contradiction can also be found in the transition from mostly artificial, construction materials (laser-light, plastic sheets, styrofoam) into a natural concept (a waterfall, or stream). Furthermore, electronics and water are well known to be a difficult combination, which supports the contradictory nature of our work.
For the actual structure of the work, we decided on using construction materials as they are. By using these uncut materials, we aim to steer visitors into finding a duality in our work by recognising the components as part of the installation as well as semi-finished materials that they might find at a construction store. This enables the visitor to experience a Gestalt switch, supporting the binary characteristic of mutation: the installation is perceived either as a pile of construction materials, or as a water source, but never both at the same time or something in the in-between.
When visitors enter the installation, the work will already be turned on. The sound of flowing water (created by the wind and fog blowing underneath the plastic sheeting on the floor) is the first thing that the visitors will notice. This will, unconsciously, steer the mind of the visitor towards the notion of water. Further entering the area, the water stream of the work will become visible. The visitor is invited by a symbolic sign to take off their shoes and walk over the plastic sheeting, figuratively “dipping their toes into the water”. Inside the space, the visitor will also be able to see the waterfall.
The act of the interaction will further help in implying the notion of water by triggering the familiarity of paddling through a water source. This notion is supported by the feeling of the bare feet touching the plastic, also implying the perception of a fluid. Furthermore, the interaction emphasises the contrast between interacting with a natural source as opposed to interacting with our artificial source.
Finally, by allowing the user to be part of our work by interacting with our artificial water source, we want to let them perceive our work as a work resembling water. This raises our question: did we actually mutate the light into water, or did we just mutate your perception of what the light is?
The final installation consists out of the following components:
A large polycarbonate roofing panel from 1 by 2 meters is used to mimic the form of a waterfall. We chose to use a dual channel roofing panel because the narrow strips force the light to concentrate inside the channel rather than distributing through the whole space. This optically results in a flowing movement, which could be associated with water. The polycarbonate material was chosen because of the effect it has on the laser light that tries to pass through, which is caused by its refractive index of 1.59. This refraction causes the light to form circles at the bottom of the roofing panel, creating the illusion of ripples on a water surface. The roofing panel is lifted from the floor by a styrofoam stand to create space for a fan and fogger.
We used 5 green lasers (532nm), from which 4 with kaleidoscope attachments, that are pointing through the roofing panel to create the idea of flowing water through the waterfall. A LED light is placed underneath the waterfall and projects light underneath the plastic sheeting to give the fog also a green colour. Opting for the colour green was a conscious choice because this resonates with the GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein), which is commonly used as a marker in scientific research that involves genetic modification.
To imitate (both the sight and sound from) the water stream after the waterfall, we used a large piece of 0,007mm thick plastic sheeting of 4 by 5 meters* that covers the full floor area of the installation. A fan and fogger machine are placed at the beginning of the stream and are used to blow wind and fog underneath the sheeting. The movement of the plastic that is caused by the wind and fog results in the illusion and sound of water streaming from the end of the waterfall to the end of the space. The fog makes sure that the “ripples” caused by the lasers are visible and move along with the movement of the plastic sheeting.
* The size of the plastic sheet can be altered to fit the size of the space the installation is in.