Throughout the human mastery of science, we have gained the knowledge that now allows us to invent and recreate natural interactions in wholly artificial environments. Philip Beesley, an artist, architect and scientist has developed an exhibition called Sibyl, blurring the line between art, nature and science. An environment of interactive sculptures that use digital systems, computational computing as well as innovative material science to compose an interactive artificial world.
Sybil, is just one display of a series that expresses the theory of Hylozoism, which states that everything is alive. Beesley has given life to his sculptures in many ways using sensors, actuators, lights and even chemicals to interact with observers. He wishes to bring a glimpse of future architecture that will interact with its human creators at previously unexplored levels.
His sculptures have a wide range of aesthetic features. Some look like stalagmites, others like crystalline structures, some like cocoons and other like spider webs. They hang from the ceiling as if they were decorating a cave while also stretching down to arm's length so visitors can interact and feel immersed in the artificial landscape. This magical cave is actually a space that was once used as a prison and reformatory, which lends a gruesome backdrop to contrast the delicate feel and look of Beesley’s creation.
Each section of the display is equipped with different sensors. Capacitive sensors allow the sculptures to react to the slightest touch. Some vibrate on contact, others use actuators to curl up and relax to mimic natural plant motions like the famous touch-me-not. Sculptures with infrared sensors sense people at close proximity and react with synchronized movement or mesmerizing light displays.
A central computer acts like the brain that handles all of the sensory information and choreographs the wave-like motion and lighting of the entire display.
Beesley also engages observers using chemical interactions, as well. Glass flasks, found within ornaments, give off fragrances that entice crowds towards them while others are filled with bile-like ooze that bring about contrasting emotions. Other flasks are filled with other chemicals like sodium hydroxide that slowly capture carbon and provide a visual effect as the liquid collects a foggy white precipitate. Beesley also tries to recreates the functions of a living cell using copper sulphate and potassium ferricyanide that react and result in a ”beautiful kind of blooming delicate copper felt- a skin that very slowly builds itself”. He hopes to incorporate more of these skin-forming materials in the future but admits it will get messy.
Beesley says that half of the entertainment comes from simply observing how people react within this interactive alien environment. While some visitors are willing to touch and risk being startled, other simply look on the delicate sculptures. He says overall, the display has shown the viewing crowd captivated, “You see a remarkable kind of care with the work – almost a stewardship emerges within the people. They teach each other to behave”.
Perhaps it is this lack of caring or interaction with, which has led us to accept the destruction of some of the world most delicate natural structures and ecosystems.This display is currently showing at the 18th Biennale of Sydney in Australia. Sybil will be open to the public until the 16th of September of this year (2012). You can find more information of other Phillip Beesley installations at phillipbeesleyarchitect.com.
(All images courtesy of Philip Beesley)