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Rain Room

Rain Room is an interactive installation piece created by rAndom International, a multimedia artistic team based in London. This artwork seeks to emulate the experience of rain in an indoor setting; within a large room, drops of water fall from the ceiling, creating a constant, thunderous downpour. When a person is introduced to this space, they are monitored by 3D depth cameras that inform Rain Room’s software system of the person’s exact location, causing the rain directly above the individual to cease. As a result of this technology, a person remains dry as they move throughout the space.

The following statement taken from Charlie Gere’s Digital Culture is particularly relevant to Rain Room and the topic of charged environments: “it is now recognized that all works of art require participation from the audience to be completed” [1]. Gere describes these types of artworks as “open works,” meaning that the involvement of both the artist and the audience are required for a work to be fully realized. Rain Room fits this idea of an open work; without human interaction, the piece can be simply described as an oversized shower, but with the participation of an audience, Rain Room is transformed into a paradoxically fascinating tool of art that pays attention to its audience and assigns them with the role of both artist and performer.  This characteristic of Rain Room is consistent with the typical works produced by rAndom International. As described by rAndom International artist Florian Ortkrass, “all the things we do, they’re kind of nonsense without someone being there” [2].

Aside from its requirement of audience interactivity, another interesting aspects of Rain Room is that its artists did not specifically endow it with intrinsic meaning or an explicit message. Instead of trying to contribute any significant cultural commentary, as so many new media artworks so often do, Rain Room simply extends further the responsibilities of the audience and asks them to decide what the piece means to them. In this way, Rain Room can be quite accurately described as an experiment, a study of human behavior interested in the various reactions that different individuals have to the piece. As Ortkrass explains, “we put these things out and then see what people do with it rather than us kind of forcing a certain way of people—how they have to behave” [3]. Without a concrete message conveyed through the artwork, participants of Rain Room are free to have their own unique interactions with the piece. Some describe their experiences with Rain Room as pleasant sensory experience. Some were intrigued by the idea that they could control the weather. Others even challenged the capabilities of the piece, testing the limits of Rain Room by attempting to run through the space. Overall, the significance of Rain Room is left for the audience to determine, resulting in varied array of reactions and ideas.

A compelling comparison can be made between Rain Room and a similar work of art, Virtual Mirror – Rain, which involves a room in which rain falls upwards inside the room according to the rainfall outside, as detected by outdoor sensors [4]. Similarly to Rain Room, Virtual Mirror – Rain, by Tao Sambolec, also has an interactive component in which an individual can control the flow of upwards rain by dripping droplets of water onto a sensor located in the middle of the room. Both pieces give their audience the ability to control the weather. However, they differ with regard to the immersion of the audience in the work and the attention given to them. In Rain Room, the artwork is defined by the participation of the audience and makes its audience its focal point; the piece literally arranges itself around its participants and obeys their every move. In contrast, Virtual Mirror – Rain simply allows its audience a low stakes opportunity to impact the movement of the piece, while the upwards-falling rain remains as the key focal element of the artwork; unlike Rain Room, Virtual Mirror – Rain can still change and be manipulated without human stimluation.

[1] Charlie Gere, Digital Culture, 2nd edition (Reaktion, 2008) Pg. 84

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkvazIZx-F0

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOARXy-f_GY#t=48

[4] http://www.artelectronicmedia.com/artwork/virtual-mirror-rain

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