Conceptual, architectural and social activism references
The H2O project plays on different levels of conceptual parallels. First of all the water – which is not there. There is no water passing through the aqueduct, today just one of the many archaeological remains of the Roman Empire, and there is no water in the plastic bottles that fill the H2O structure, raising awareness about the environmental alarm linked to the scarcity of drinking water as a vital resource on a global level.
A second conceptual level is that linked to the architectural reference. H2O takes the “typical” shape of the Roman aqueducts, not only to visually reference the imperial aqueduct featured in the park where the installation will be presented (Parco Sangalli, Rome, hosting a section of the Acquedotto Alessandrino. H2O’s conceptual connection with the Roman aqueduct also extends over the axis of time: the aqueduct has resisted for over 2000 years, even in the constantly changing urban context – and the plastic bottles that make H2O, if not properly recycled, will remain in circulation for a very long time too, which can even exceed 1000 years.
There is also a parallel socio-political activism vision, which compares the power shown by the Roman Empire, often consolidated through the construction of imposing architectural megastructures, and that of the water and beverage corporations. Big brands in the drink industry tend to monopolize and control the market hence the water resources, and to consolidate their power over consumers by flooding us with advertising, constantly new lines of products, and the overload of plastic that comes with it.
The interactive elements (LED lights and sound environment controlled by coded software interacting with Arduino and infrared and radio sensors) shift the conceptual reading from architecture to society, focusing in particular on the responsibility of the human race and all individuals for the planetary degradation caused by the negative impact plastic has on the environment.
The sound / light interactivity aspects of the installation also play and behave accordingly to this conceptual basis, as well as on the aesthetic side. In the state of quiet (absence of interacting audience) H2O will “breathe” with a slow pulse of white light, thanks to LEDs positioned inside the structure, producing a green-blue luminous aura due to the color of the bottles. During the “quiet” state of H2O, the sound environment created by the installation will evoke the sound of quiet and smoothly flowing waters.
In the presence of interacting visitors, instead, the light of the structure will start to pulse quickly (random strobe mode), and the sound environment will quickly build up layers layers of digital sounds that evoke the violent action of water (storms, tsunamis, sounds generated by the impact of large volumes of water).
This radical change of state is the real key alarm to raise awareness on the dangers that come with indiscriminate and irresponsible use and waste of plastic, a real problem that constitutes a serious planetary danger, bringing instability to the global Earth’s environment.
Structure and tech
The H2O structure is made of 20 cubic meters of used plastic bottles, caged in a metal structure shaped as a section of a roman aqueduct with three arches, with a broken arch attached. The main metal structure is made of angular metal bars that used to be unused rusty shelves at Officine Zero. Our team recovered, clean, cut and repainted the bars in order to be reused for the H2O project.
The size of the installation, in its final version after many changes over time, is 10 meters long, 3.20 meters tall, and 1.20 meters wide. Each of the three archways passages is 2.5 meters tall in its tallest point, and easily allows the passage of more than a visitor at the time, being 1.20 meters wide and 1.20 meters deep.
The interactive visual elements of the installation are provided by 102.5 meters of LED strips (that’s 21 separate 5-meters LED strips) controlled by a set of Arduino motherboards. More details on the Arduino setup will be published soon at our blog.
The LED setup has been designed to perform two states: a quiet state with all LED strips synced to slowly “breath” a fade-in/fade-out white light, and a chaos state triggered by the presence and interaction of visitors, where all the LED strips will behave independently from each other, producing chaotic, random RGB strobo patterns.
Last (but not least) interactive element of the installation is its sound environment, that in the “quiet state” will consists of the sound of quiet waters, while in the”chaos state” will produce the sound of digitally manipulated sounds of raging waters.
The “burners roots” of the H2O Project
Read more about why H2O is a Burning Man project, learn which Burning Man principles the project is inspired too, and discover how much burners love to build stuff all around the world.