SARGASSO: LUMINATO FESTIVAL

Commissoned by the Luminato festival, Sargasso refers to the vast, tangled floating masses of living matter and cast-off material that drifts at the centre of the Atlantic. The environment within the sweeping atrium of the Santiago Caltrava's Allen Lambert Galleria makes a canopy that slowly shifts and floats above the city. The canopy is a forest-like hovering field, kin to primitive life-forms within dense jungles and ocean reefs.

The outer canopy layer is formed from a hexagonal meshwork of acrylic and mylar fronds that stretches east and west into the heights of the public hall. This surface meets the ground at the centre of the installation. The sloping and curving membrane frames a pool of space that functions as an open room for public gathering. An inner canopy layer is suspended over this central area, containing an aerial grotto of kinetic bladders and glasswork.

In this expanded aerial soil, embedded machine intelligence triggers breathing and swallowing motions, accompanied by waves of overlapping faint recorded voices housed within an array of embedded miniature speakers. Empathic motions ripple out from hives of kinetic valves and pores, creating a diffuse pumping that pulls moist air and stray organic matter through the filtering membranes. Glands containing synthetic digestive liquids and salts are clustered throughout the system. Engineered protocells, which are liquid-supported artificial cells that share some of the characteristics of natural living cells, are arranged in a series of embedded flasks.