by Jerry ElengicalJun 26, 2021
In a fully immersive experience, which calls upon the senses of sound, smell, sight and touch, the artist-duo AA Murakami presents Silent Fall which is currently on view at Burlington Gardens in London. The production and presentation of the installation is supported by Superblue, an enterprise dedicated to supporting artists creating immersive and spaces, and making such experiences accessible to viewers globally while also supporting the artists in their commercial endeavours. Superblue was first launched in Miami, with a permanent 50,000 sqft space which houses works of James Turrell and teamLAB, with a recent launch in Manhattan featuring the work of DRIFT.
AA Murakami, short for Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, is the name by which Studio Swine call themselves, as their artist persona demands. The artists are based between Tokyo and London and their practice emphasises the dissolution of boundaries between technology and nature. In Silent Fall, the artists created an environment which encourages the viewer to engage with the space around them, and in this process contemplate our relationship with Mother Nature herself. The exhibit will be on view till the summer of 2022. The artists talk to STIR about their concept and process.
As mentioned earlier, the immersive installation attempts to blur the boundaries between technology and nature, and in order to do this, the artists have worked to create what they call Ephemeral Technology. They tell us about their motivations to develop this saying, “Silent Fall employs novel technologies, developed by AA Murakami with engineers, programmers and chemists. The most prevalent devices in our lives - flat-screens, projections, and LED arrays – are designed for the eyes. Rather than adapting existing technologies, the artist engineers bespoke systems to create tactile experiences that engage all the human senses. We refer to the results of these material experiments as Ephemeral Tech. Tech art, which is primarily screen-based, lacks texture: it’s an ocular play of light and illusion. In contrast, AA Murakami is concerned with material. Previous works have mobilised organic materials such as hair, sea plastic and ebonite. In large-scale atmospheric sculptures, the artist’s unfixed fabrics may exist as liquid, gas, solid or plasma; or shift ethereally between states… In the exhibition space, the control of code is handed over to the ecosystem: the physics, turbulence, fluid dynamics, entropy and gravity which change from moment to moment as bodies pass through. Ephemeral Tech creates hybrid eco-technological matter, dissolving the boundaries between digital and natural forces”.
AA Murakami employs the olfactory senses to simulate moments in the midst of nature. Smell is strongly connected to memory, and is a stimulant which can quickly recall and relate visuals, feelings and stories. Silent Fall releases bubbles filled with aroma which acts as a library of scents that recreate the sensation of walking through a forest. The artists worked with perfumer Paul Schütze who created a scent journey which takes a viewer through aromas of fresh foliage, woody bark, tree sap, earth and pine. Some of the scents used are vetiver, patchouli, cedar, pink pepper and oak moss. The artists distributed the scents within the space of the experiential art installation, in order to encourage the viewer to move about the area and engage with the various sensations at play.
As someone who lives in the forests of the Western Ghats in the subcontinent of India, it was very interesting to me that the artists chose to reconstruct the experience of walking in the woods. Of the many natural environments to recreate, they specifically chose to work with the forest. The artists tell us, “The forest occupies a special place in the human psyche, one of shelter and protection and also one that can get you lost. The forest is full of sensory stimulation as well, with different scents, sounds, and light. We were interested in the idea that in the future how lost forests might be achieved, if this temporary installation which is industrial and indoors and which doesn't look like a forest can in some uncanny way smell or feel like one”. This is noteworthy in my mind, as it moves me to think about the world we might live in when there are no forests left. As much as technology might simulate natural environments, it cannot imitate the endless surprises, mysteries, complex interconnectedness and delicate balance of the real thing. Silent Fall is a reminder to each viewer that the forest, in all its magnificence, is to be cherished and protected in the face of corporation driven adversity. Forests are the lungs of our planet, needing as much care and love as our own in order to keep us all breathing.