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Mesmerizing art for an era of drought, heat waves, and climate crisis

New work from Daniel Rozin, whose “Mirrors” have captivated audiences for decades, asks viewers to see themselves in our rapidly changing planet.

This week, scientists from Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and the NOAA published a paper in the influential journal Nature Communications matter-of-factly discussing the possibility of “solar geoengineering,” or dimming the sun to slow the melt of global ice and the mass extinction of species on Earth. “The idea is simple,” wrote the researchers behind a separate Harvard project that will test one such sun-dimming technology this year. “Spray a bunch of particles into the stratosphere, and they will cool the planet by reflecting some of the Sun’s rays back into space.” Thanks to us, the star that has nurtured life on Earth for millions of years is now a big liability.

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[Image: courtesy bitforms gallery]
It’s hard to say if that’s why videos of Sol, the artist Daniel Rozin‘s show at New York’s bitforms gallery, look almost ominous. The show, which includes three pieces from 2019, builds on Rozin’s past interactive work; each piece is in the vein of his “Mirror” works, which are made up of a dense collection of 3D cameras and motors that sense the bodies of visitors and reflect their form back to them as they move around the art.

In one piece, Cracked Mud, shards of brown ceramic arranged to look like a drying riverbed ripple around a glowing orb of light.

Another, called Sunset Mirror, is a digital screen showing a time-lapse of a sunset. Visitors control the speed of the sun’s arc by moving around the piece.

The third piece, called Fabric Mirror, is a cascade of fabrics in gold and deep red, folded and pinned into a complex drapery that shimmers and rearranges itself as visitors walk by. The gold, origami-esque shapes seem to reference the Space Age. They look like the thermal panels that NASA uses to insulate satellites and other spacecraft–or perhaps rows of solar panels set up in the desert. Behind the drapery, 400 motors control their shivering movement, which “radiates like liquid gold or the reflection of a setting sun,” bitforms’ curators write in a press release.

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Rozin, whose work we’ve covered here on Co.Design several times, has been exhibiting at bitforms for almost 20 years. In that time, he’s designed “Mirrors” out of a wild assortment of materials, from wooden dowels to Troll figures to trash collected from New York streets. But Sol feel more pointed–it directly connects the bodies of viewers to the atmospheric phenomena like drought and heat waves.

In an era when millions of people are wondering what they can do to slow down climate catastrophe, Sol gives us an answer: For starters, look in the mirror.

You can see Sol at bitforms until March 17.

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About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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