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Here There Be Monsters

  • M&A Courtyard 1619 Silver Lake Blvd Los Angeles, CA, 90026 United States (map)

The entire exhibition courtyard is flooded with rainwater captured from the roof of M&A’s building using a catchment system installed by volunteers for this installation. The water recirculates from pool to pool and conceals a unique and subtly responsive submerged system of jets. A hyperboloid-shaped bamboo foot bridge that resembles a fraying warped tube spans the aquatic habitat. The design results from the collaborative effort of infranatural and LEVITAS along with numerous volunteers from the community.

The installation explores the challenges of synchronizing the aesthetics and intrinsic characteristics of natural materials with a built environment completed with the latest computer aided design tools and embedded control system technologies. The environment is designed to challenge visitors with its subtle interactivity that references our universal fears and the more specific threats endemic today, which include the heightened surveillance of the private sector, the increased computational control of daily life, and the poisoning of our environment.

Three types of monsters inhabit the water garden. Their artificial intelligence derives stimulation from visitors’ fear of the unknown, of being alone, and of themselves. A surveillance network watches and analyses visitors' motions, actions, and reactions around the water. Infranatural has designed all the systems to be self-learning and modifying so the installation will grow within its simulated environment. Simultaneously, the bamboo-woven bridge dries and hardens and tropical aquatic plants begin to flourish in the chemical-free water. The entire environment evolves over the course of the exhibition. A chaordic system is created that simultaneously strives towards chaos and order. A principle that is as basic as survival of the fittest is inherent in the hybrid vigor of this ecosystem, which is dependent not only on the basic resources of rain and sun but also upon the attention and interest of the visitor. Visitors are invited to come back regularly to see what has thrived and what has shriveled.

On most evenings, an eerie fog obscures the bridge and rolls across the artificial pond, illuminated by submersible full-spectrum LED lights provided and finessed by Jimu Okumura.

Infranatural invited workshop LEVITAS to design the bamboo bridge for the installation. The bridge began with a simple structural diagram drawn by Bruce Danziger, resembling a propped cantilever. With the help of Moritz Freund and Shuchi Hsu, LEVITAS further developed the diagram to create a curved and partially cut-away tube functioning as the primary stage from which visitors can interact with the water and its creatures. The bamboo bridge is a walkthrough structure that transports, guides, and protects the visitor during her experience with the monsters.

After careful evaluation of the bridge during continual structural analysis, 150 individually cut pieces of bamboo were harvested from the L.A. County Arboretum. With the great help of M&A and volunteers, construction of the bridge took only 20 days to complete.

The temporary nature of the water installation prompted a raw, low-tech design approach to the bamboo bridge. Every piece of bamboo used was freshly-cut, green and untreated, allowing for natural wear and decay over the lifetime of the bridge. To further simplify the process, cable zip ties were selected as the primary connective material, as opposed to traditional rope ties. Unlike the conventional design/construction process, the shape of the bridge adapts to the nature of the bamboo culms and is liberated from the templates built by the CAD model. During the span of its lifetime, the woven bridge remains in a constant state of flux, due to the inherent natural drying process of bamboo and its exposure to environmental forces.

infranatural is a technology art and design collaboration between Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess. The installation design for Here There Be Monsters has grown naturally from their desire to integrate leading-edge hardware and software systems with natural and eco-effective materials. Their designs are frequently biomimetic and organized using charodic principles. Their overall goal is to push the boundaries of the experience of a designed environment by engaging the public in an original way to participate in the growth and dialog of the site using water as a medium.

workshop LEVITAS is an international design collaboration between structural engineer Bruce Danziger (USA, a long-time Ove Arup team member), and emerging architects Moritz Freund(Germany) and Shu-Chi Hsu (Taiwan). LEVITAS stands for lightness. In contrast to conventional architecture based on gravity, the design team wants to manifest precisely the essence of the physical world, which are light, chaos and ephemera. The collaboration explores innovative structures and spatial design, which makes the heaviest material float and exposes the most solid properties of the weakest.

Earlier Event: September 6
Show & Tell
Later Event: July 22