“We see an object that seems familiar. Is it a flower? A carnivorous plant? A beast? …This imaginary creature makes us curious about the world around us and how as a whole, it can react to what we do. Don’t forget! We’re also part of the system; what we do has implications for the whole. “ from: LIGHT BOOK: Amsterdam Light Festival 2016-2017. P82-83.
The strange golden object sitting (or is it growing?…waiting?) just in front of the Hof Tuin garden and the Hermitage Museum is known as ‘Flowering Phantasm”. It was created and installed by studioMODO/Clay Odom for the 2016-2017 Amsterdam Light Festival. The project explores this year’s theme of “BioMimicry” through the lens of Odom's current research into ephemeral effects and the production of new contexts as well as uncanny and sublime experiences generated through formal interventions.
As in nature, “Flowering Phantasm” uses Light, Material, Form, and Color to attract and to hide as it exists simultaneously as both an alien intervention and a sensitive respondent to it’s environment. Through contemporary, conceptual and technical approaches to design and making, these fundamental elements are further enhanced and transformed. More explicitly, the project explores the systematic intertwining of these basic elements enacted through engagement with its context which are most resonantly experienced as responses to change in time of day, its physical and cultural surroundings, and most importantly to the people who come across it. The installation explores and critically challenges notions of interactivity through formal, material and temporal manipulations. Ultimately, the work uses advanced design, fabrication and embedded technologies to produce an object and experience which emanates from and critically engages and challenges its surroundings and the people who happen upon it.
“We, humans, are making more and more appliances, vehicles and buildings that ‘emulate’ nature,” says Aart van Bolhuis, member of the artistic team at Amsterdam Light Festival. “Buildings whose “skin” change according to the weather conditions; cars that can parallel park themselves; robots that copy the behaviour of their owners. Flowering Phantasm shows us that we’re connected with nature in many ways.”
Flowering Phantasm is designed to be an intervention into to contemporary space which may or may not be from the present. The object is at first a purely visual experience. People see and are drawn through this visual provocation to experience an object that seems familiar without being referenced directly to anything in the world. The work is called flowering phantasm because it is active, familiar and elusive simultaneously. The project’s scale and form as well as its materials are those which people might find approachable while the pieces themselves are not directly tied to any particular reference. The project, like a flower in bloom, invites people to come to it and asks their engagement, but it also elusive, a phantasm, that defies exact references and remains partially inaccessible. Even its reflective surface allows it to blend in with its surroundings while it is clearly something new and alien.
This kind of uncanny experience is one which resonates with questions of contemporary design’s ability to engage with the contexts in which it operates. Here the project is situated at the entry to the Hof Tuin Garden near the Hermitage Museum. This location is charged by its relationship between landscape and the city and through its cultural importance.
To engage the contextual richness of the surrounding area of Amsterdam, the form of the object takes on characteristics of nature through is bulbous shape and through its surface which is made up of almost 400 individual surface ‘petals’. On one side of the object, these petals are covered in over 3000feet of led fiber ‘hairs’. This exterior surface is supported by a robust aluminum armature which was waterjet cut using digital fabrication techniques. Finally, the aluminum frame supports a computer controlled array of lights as well as a system of Arduino controlled blowers which inflate and deflate exterior fabric petals. The outer material also begins to resonate more deeply with its cultural and physical contexts. The gold finish critically resonates with the tradition of gold details on buildings which are found throughout Amsterdam. Simultaneously the ‘hairs’ and biological resonances fit with the context of the garden in which the project is set while also containing references to traditions of textile crafts. Ultimately the totality of elements which operate both heterogeneously and in unity generate invitations for speculation and wonder while seeking deeper connections with the environment and context.