When you enter into the Rain Room at the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum (LACMA), you are overwhelmed by a sense of calm and serenity produce by the steady drops of water. As you move through the room, you magically remain untouched by the drops of water, but they continue to fall on all sides. You stick your hand out in front of you, but the rain seems as if it anticipates your motion and avoids contact with your skin.
The Rain Room, created and engineered by artists Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, co-founders of the London-based art collective rAndom International has sold out exhibits at museums around the world. The Rain Room debuted at the London Barbican Center in 2012, but truly achieved “insta-fame” when it traveled to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2013. Only 7 people are allowed into the exhibit at one time, but it was estimated that over 1,000 people visited a day in the 11-week MoMA EXPO, sometimes waiting in line for 8 hours. Then, the exhibit was installed at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, China and currently is on display at the LACMA in Los Angeles.
Last week during spring break, I had the unexpected privilege to attend a Q&A session with Koch and Ortkrass facilitated by LACMA CEO Michael Govan. After the presentation, I was able to experience the rain room for myself. After hearing the artists speak about their work, I had to stop myself from running into the exhibit – walking through the room was scary yet comfortable. It’s hard to describe the sensation of being surrounded by water without it touching you, so here’s a video that previews the experience (accompanied by a little explanation of creator Hannes Koch.)
The exhibit is housed in a 2,500 square foot room lit by a singular spotlight. Sensors and body mapping cameras allow visitors to move through the water untouched by the perpetually falling drops. Random International designed the room to be a self-contained system: it uses (and reuses) approximately 528 gallons of water throughout the entirety of the exhibit. This water is filtered through the LACMA’s main filtration system and is tested by sanitation professionals on a weekly basis to prevent potential health risks.
The creative minds behind the exhibit met during their college years in London, bonding over the California Light and Space movement, which took place during the 1960s. They soon collaborated in their artwork, focusing on architecturally innovative projects which cause the viewer to get outside of their comfort zone. They are eminent creators, whose desire to discover how technology, especially digital technology, impacts human behavior and social interactions.
Koch and Ortkrass spoke at length about the importance of the interactive relationship of the viewer with the art. The art installation allows the viewer to control the rain with their body movement, an interesting spin on integrating elements of nature with technology. They expected people to be scared to enter the room at first, but then become more trusting with time. What they did not expect was the “Instagram-ability” of their piece – it has been tagged on Instagram almost 40,000 times! To see how people reacted and posed for the pictures is a part of the modern nature of the piece; it’s a part of the world where people constantly pose, share, and comment on art and humanity through the screens of their cell phones.
Listening to the artists talk about their artwork, it was easy to identify Barron and Harrington’s core characteristics of creativity, especially their attraction to complexity and challenges (Barron et al.). The rain room began as a desire to observe the calming feeling of a rainstorm without the uncomfortable feeling of getting wet. Then, they wondered how this jolting experience would cause people to react. And so, their pursuit began.
At the end of the session, they previewed some of the future projects that Random International is working on. As co-founders of the art collective, they have collaborated in a way to inspire a greater cohort of individuals – they challenge the individual norm and inspire future creativity (Bennis 78). Similar to great technological advances of the past, like Apple, Random International excels in their creativity alongside the success of the technology available to them. Their studio prioritizes creativity through innovation and collaboration. They discussed their future plans to implement the rain room into an entire house or to even expand further outside of museum walls. Their perspective of the relationship of humans with technology sets them apart from many other creatives, who have strayed away from integrating science with their art. Their ability to examine and manipulate social behavior in scientific and artistic settings will be important in a world where technology is becoming an integral part of the human experience.
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