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Orproject’s sculptural installation Khoral is attentive to the human threat to marine life

Khoral by Orproject, made with biodegradable paper, takes viewers a step closer to flourishing marine life that now faces the dire consequences of ocean pollution.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Oct 17, 2021

Nature has kept the human tribe ensnared with its wonders, and unflinchingly continues to do so. The stay-at-home orders last year, which in a certain part of the world have still managed to shape the everyday lives, was a rare moment when the flora and fauna thrived with a renewed energy. The restrain on the part of the humans, even if it was strategically imposed due to the pandemic, offered an opportunity to see how the life, besides the human, successfully survives while maintaining the balance of ecosystems. The Orproject-led sculptural installation Khoral hinges on the autogenic behaviour of corals – they change their environment by changing themselves.

Khoral made with paper | Orproject | STIRworld
Khoral made with paper Image: Courtesy of Orproject

Speaking to STIR, Rajat Sodhi of the Orproject, briefly walks us through the etymology of the term Khoral, “Khôra is a philosophical term described by Plato in Timaeus as a receptacle, space, or an interval. It is neither being nor nonbeing but an interval between in which the forms were originally held.” Khoral, therefore, creates an in-between space where the humans and the nature are cognizant of each other’s presence, yet the former remains a step away from encroaching a territory that does not belong to it. This idea to not transgress is realised with the Khoral sculptures which at once start to decolour if the visitors are in their close proximity than expected. As the corals turn white as they die, the fading colour of the sculpture hints at the threat human poses to the marine life.

The colourful coral reefs found under the ocean is the primary source of enacting balance between a variety of oceanic lives. In recent years, the exponential rise in acidification and ocean pollution has caused a slow decay of the coral reefs that remains to be irreplaceable. It is predicted that close to 90% of the world’s coral reefs, in the next decades, would face the dire consequences of an unhealthy marine environment. The “collective loss” triggered the Orproject to bring attention to the marine life that has been pushed to the fringes of neglect and despair.

The doubly-curved mesh morphology of the installation mimics the growth of coral polyps | Orproject | STIRworld
The doubly-curved mesh morphology of the installation mimics the growth of coral polyps Image: Courtesy of Orproject

The Orproject with their work has made a consistent emphasis on the green environment, even well before the pandemic hit the doors of our homes. Once faced with the challenges that the pandemic has posed, the important learning would be to brace ourselves and “embrace change”, in case of yet another impending public health crisis as a consequence of this pandemic. Sodhi expounds on the possibilities for biomimetic architecture, “In our installations, we invent ways of building organic forms and doing so by using as little material as possible. We aim to make architecture that is inherently sustainable, earth-regenerative and earth-restorative instead of an architecture that is earth-exploitative and earth-extractive.”

Khoral loses colour if the viewers run too close to it | Orproject | STIRworld
Khoral loses colour if the viewers run too close to it Image: Courtesy of Orproject

Sodhi in the conversation explicitly unfolds the multifaceted layers of ideation and execution process that make the artwork, before it could be showcased for public viewing. “The form is generated from a differential line algorithm based on a set of rules and starting conditions that change over each iteration. Working simultaneously on a set of case curves, the algorithm helps generate a doubly-curved mesh morphology that mimics the growth of coral polyps. Later, this mesh was rationalised to suit the scale and developed as a set of thin paper strips which were serially joined with each other. Finally, the base of the installation was designed with an integrated lighting system which gives the three forms ‘life’, the lights fading and blooming in closely syncopated rhythms.”

Khoral’s form is generated from a differential line algorithm | Orproject | STIRworld
Khoral’s form is generated from a differential line algorithm Image: Courtesy of Orproject

“Paper is a reusable, biodegradable and renewable resource. By precision cutting and bending it, we can create beautiful forms that are both delicate and structurally strong at the same time. We also extended our learning from the paper installation to recycled aluminum to see how we can build with aluminum parts, bend them and connect them without using any screws and without adding extra materials. For our next installation, we hope to take these ideas further.”

Visitors can peek into the interstitial spaces of the installation and feel the reef breathing, as per Rajat Sodhi of Orproject | Khoral | Orproject | STIRworld
Visitors can peek into the interstitial spaces of the installation and feel the reef breathing, as per Rajat Sodhi of Orproject Image: Courtesy of Orproject

The three-independent coral-like structures very much interact with each other as if offering a sense of nurturing which thereby largely give shape to this coral reef. “The visitors are welcomed to move around the space”, according to Sodhi, and to “negotiate intimacy with the piece by understanding how close they can get to it before the Khôral bleaches. They can peek into the interstitial spaces and feel the reef breathing.” The installations pave the way for discussion on the relationship of harmony between ecology and visitors. Irrespective of the location of humans - closer to the coast or the hinterlands - the installations are an invitation to view the human and marine life as part of the large ecosystem, where the former is indeed a problem to the latter, yet could offer a solution to it.

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