Each year, during the hot summer months, cityscapes are transformed by fountains and jets of water. This year, two such artistic settings have been created as Digital Water Games in Karlsruhe: »RainDance« and the »3D WATER MATRIX« combine various creative approaches with modern technology. Together, they create a living water feature scene for the modern city, where recreation, amazement at the possibilities of water and pleasure in one’s own experiences are all condensed together.
In addition the ZKM shows the interactive installation »Liquid Views – Narcissus’ Virtual Mirror (1992)«, in which digital effects deform a videoprojection of the viewer like a water mirror.
»RainDance« is an interactive sound installation by American artist Paul DeMarinis, where water is experienced as the transmitter of sound vibrations. A series of patented computer-controlled modulation nozzles fastened to a scaffold shoot out streams of water as rain. The installation will be in place at the Karlsruhe Marketplace until 24 September.
The monumental »3D WATER MATRIX« in the ZKM_Foyer alternately shows »waterworks« by Shiro Takatani (Japan) and Christian Partos (Sweden). It heralds the beginning of a new generation of digital water technology. As you enter the black cube of the installation, a theatrical atmosphere unfolds before the spectator’s eyes: Accompanied by mechanical sounds, as if drawn in the air by a ghostly hand, figures and patterns appear in the middle of the darkened room and linger for a moment before evolving to be replaced by surprising new shapes. The »3D WATER MATRIX« will be shown in the ZKM_Foyer until 4 September.
Liquid Views, by Monika Fleischmann & Wolfgang Strauss, is a simulation of water in which the viewer’s reflection is portrayed as in real water. A finger tip on the touch-sensitive screen releases waves and causes the self-portrait to dissolve. The interactive installation translates the parable of Narcissus in a visual and intellectual reflection of the relation of image and effigy. A horizontal screen shows the simulation of a blue shimmering water surface on which the viewers see their own reflection. The artificial nature is steered by artificial intelligence. Accompanied by dripping and gurgling sounds the realistic appearance of simulated water draws the observer to touch the screen so that the image blurs. The more demanding the touch, the more the reflexion disappears. If the waves calm down, the virtual reflexion seems untouched.
Water Games and new media
The history of fountain architecture ranges from simple water wells to mediaeval allegorical waterspouts, or from technically elaborate Renaissance and Baroque water productions (e.g. the water theatre and cascade installation at Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel) to the thermal springs enjoyed in the 19th century spa culture. Now, digital technology is the natural progression in the artistic use of water. From a computer, every water drop is controlled individually, allowing the creation of pictures and sounds. Programmed water drops become pixels, fountains become real 3D video and water games become a new art form: Ephemeral water films, water writing, water music, water paintings, walk-through and interactive water sculptures, and water architectures produce entirely new kinds of experiences.
In the current digital culture, more than ever, water fascinates us as an aesthetic material and medium: Both voluminous and surface-forming, as fine microscopic droplets, viscous and shimmering, it encodes a plurality of symbols. Its symbolism of change, re-creation, motion, variability and cleansing has been artistically expressed for centuries. A technical, innovative control of water can in turn be discerned as a thread throughout cultural history, as a narrative of progress from the aqueducts of the Roman culture to water-saving innovations in sanitation. This summer, following the huge success of the campaign The City is the Star 2015 – Art at the Construction Site in Karlsruhe, artistic director of the Digital Water Games, Peter Weibel, wants to make art once again accessible to the public for free. In two temporary technically and artistically advanced walk-through water installations, citizens and visitors of Karlsruhe can experience the possibilities of international water art. His curatorial idea, realised in cooperation with the Marketing Council of the City of Karlsruhe, combines new trends in digital art with the living urban water culture of the city: Karlsruhe has not only 204 fountains, of which 46 offer fresh drinking water, but also a Museum of Water and Fountains, dedicated to the cultural history of wells and fountains. Also based in Karlsruhe is the European Well and Fountain Society, whose members are dedicated to the preservation of wells and fountains in the city.
3D WATER MATRIX
- ST\LL – Shiro Takatani (J)
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice – Christian Partos (SE)
- Original idea: Shiro Takatani, Richard Castelli
- Concept: Richard Castelli
- Project Director: Juan Carretero
- Technical Manager: Francis Carretero (Lumiartechnia)
- 3D Water Matrix software developers: Joan Chaumont & Pierre Laborde
- ST\LL software developer: Ken Furudate
- Light Consultant: Ulf Langheinrich
- Production: Epidemic
- Commissioned by Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, Paris