INSIDE  - OUT (2013)

Spatial intervention by Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec

Undoing architecture - making space

Inside - Out is a spatial intervention based on a series of weather responsive installations entitled Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors, which I have been developing since 2006. The series investigates the relationship between weather conditions and the built architecture in an urban environment. Each work addresses a single weather element of the immediate surroundings of a building in relation to its interior.

In the installations Virtual Hole - Rain (2006), Virtual Hole - Wind 1:1 (2011) and Virtual Hole - Sun 1:1 (2011), weather phenomena such as rain, wind, and sunlight are detected through digital sensors and are recreated within the exhibition space through transformations of the received data. Every time a raindrop falls, the sun shines or the wind blows against the roof sensors, a water droplet, a ray of light or a gust of winds is being synthesized indoors correspondingly. I call this process “undoing architecture”.

The work Inside – Out is an integration of the three previous installations into a single intervention, creating a setting where external rain, wind and sunlight are simultaneously synthesized indoors, establishing a tactile presence of weather inside.

Virtual Holes - Undoing Architecture

The series Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors is based on the initial impulse to explore the dynamics between solid architecture and technological advances as means of modernisation on the one hand, and our sensitivity towards our surrounding ephemeral natural phenomena on the other. The increasing quality of urban life has underwent steady improvements through architectural and technological innovations, minimizing and neutralizing the effects of natural cycles of day and night, seasons, and the influence of the weather on human productivity and mobility. The improvements in comfort, however, have diminished our awareness and sensitivity towards the immaterial environmental elements that are influencing our everyday life.

Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors, as a whole, addresses this situation of our sheltered daily life by enabling the outside weather elements trickle through, and annihilates the protective function of architecture. Architecture is, in this case, being undone as the works convert the ephemeral and evanescent weather phenomena outside into significant and poetic events inside, heightening our perception towards our immediate environment. This transformation aims to further amplify the visitors' realization towards the transient and invisible aspects of reality beyond weather phenomena. It is suggesting a way of sensing and understanding our environment as a space in which constant imperceptible processes occur, influencing our surrounding ambience in significant yet subtle ways.

Inside - Out

A combination of the previous installations, Inside – Out not only shares similarities with Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors where rain, wind and sunlight are recreated indoors with the same processes. Functioning beyond a mere summation of the three weather elements in the building, their perceived interdependence implies a larger meteorological ecology which fills the interior and transforms the conventions of how one experiences the indoor space. This artificial yet physical “intrusion” of outside elements can be seen as an act of “making room” in order to establish another inhabitable and experiential space within the interior. Tracing the etymological origin of the English word "room" to its Germanic roots - the verb "raumen" - one finds its definition in the Deustches Wortebuch (1854) which reads, “to create a space, that is, a clearing in a wood, for the purpose of cultivation or settlement.” This derivation is a reminder that the concept of space and emptiness is exclusively human-made, which is something not characteristically found or discovered, but is being produced instead.

In the case of Inside - Out, the relation between the “wood” – wilderness, and “cultivation” – settlement, is being reversed to a certain extent, since the “clearing" here is addressed towards an already constructed built interior.  However, this act of making room is not destructive, as it is accomplished through forming a system within the already cultivated space. Consisting of digital sensors, ventilators, solenoid valves, and artificial lighting, the system defies the existing protective infrastructure and creates a productive tension, establishing a new space inside. Its’ spatiality is being defined by the existing internal space, as well as the presence of mechanical installation and recreated external conditions indoors.

As the weather elements permeate through the architecture, they influence the way one experiences time inside, bringing the temporality of both the outdoors and the weather to the fore. Steven Connor writes in The Matter of Air – Science and Art of the Ethereal (2010): "The weather has temporality - we say it is all tempestuous temporality - but no history. The time of the weather is a time without retention. It is pure fluctuation, without pattern, memory or history, movement without direction or progression. Human affairs are historical in the sense that they are bound in protention and retention: the past is actively involved in the present, and the future is an active production of the present. One may chronicle the weather to be sure; but weather has no history in this sense."

The “tempestuous temporality of the weather" brought about by the spatial intervention disrupts the controlled temporality of the constructed interior - "the temporality of the human affairs". The outdoor cycles of light and darkness, unpredictable airflows and rain replace the controllable and organized durations of electric lighting and air-conditioning. This suggesting that built environment does not only define and shape space, but temporality as well.

In entering such a setting established by the present installation the visitor might find oneself in a disorienting situation. One’s perception of the outdoors is no longer shaped by the usual framed gaze out of the window, where the surroundings possess a timeless pictorial quality; the distance of the gaze is gone and the visitor finds oneself immersed in (generated) outdoors conditions, even though being sheltered by the architecture. The space, which the installation creates, enables an experience that overcomes the duality of the interior and exterior and their temporalities, implying that one contains the other without a clear boundary.

Inside - Out materializes this disembodied space within the exhibition into a form that is habitable and thus creates a setting where it can be experienced physically. Working with weather flows, digital information, and palpable materializations of external elements within a closed environment, this spatial intervention alters the most fundamental human condition of inhabiting interior.  By re-creating that which is already there and which, because of its excessive nearness and continuous omnipresence, escapes our attention (we are too affected by it, too immersed in it to see it, to realize it), the installation brings into presence this invisible, yet omnipresent ephemeral surrounding atmosphere. It invites our attention towards something that, due to its excessive nearness resists representation and conceptualisation. Bringing it to the fore and yet making it strange, the installation accentuates its immediacy, its presence, and yet it distances it through artificiality of its mechanical embodiment. Not aiming to interpret, recognize and understand it, the installation leaves the visitor in an empty space devoid of meaning.

By doing so, the work Inside - Out articulates primarily as a relation. A relation between the inside and the outside that is initiating an attitude of particular sensibility towards the immediate immaterial surroundings. Not only in the exhibition space but also beyond it.

Tao G. Vrhovec Sambolec