Recreate Voices of the Past This December at Memorial Hall

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Carolina Performing Arts welcomes the public back for interactive art installation ‘Atmospheric Memory’

By Marie Muir / Photography by Mariana Yanez

Imagine standing in an enclosed sound tunnel beneath a ceiling of 3,000 custom-made speakers attached to LED lights. Now picture those lights flickering on and off based on what sound emanates – wind, water, insects and birds – each recording triggering a unique light show. Visitors will get to experience that and 19 other interactive works at Memorial Hall during Atmospheric Memory” running Dec. 2-17.

Co-presented by Carolina Performing Arts and co-commissioned with the Manchester International Festival, the exhibit premiered two years ago at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum. It was a brainchild of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a Mexico City-born and Canada-based artist who is known for using robotics, lights, water and phantasmagoria to create interactive artwork. Rafael’s “Atmospheric Memory” is inspired by 19th century “father of computing” Charles Babbage and his idea that the atmosphere records everything we say and a computer could potentially rewind the motion of molecules to recreate voices.

To some people, the concept of recreating voices is romantic; to others, it’s a frightening infringement of privacy. Rafael lets his audience decide for themselves through interactive artworks. One piece converts your voice into clouds while another converts spoken language into ripples of water. “Atmospheric Memory” aligns with CPA’s dedication to building spaces for co-creative experiences in which the audience has agency. The installation will take up the entirety of Memorial Hall, from the lobby to the seats to the stage.

“What people end up saying is not something I control,” Rafael explains. “I really like that because it means people take an opportunity to express themselves through the artwork … You see everything from marriage proposals to shoutouts to political messages.”

Rafael hopes to highlight that the atmosphere is a limited resource filled with our histories and that the air inside of our lungs is private, but becomes public as it goes out while we speak. “It’s humbling to be connected in this way to everybody else,” he says.

“Atmospheric Memory” is a campuswide effort with partners ranging from Ackland Art Museum and North Carolina Botanical Garden to the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. Visitors will be able to purchase tickets online for a timed entry. Amy Russell, CPA director of programming, looks forward to reuniting in-person again with the community through art. “There’s so much value in encountering new things and having that sense of wonder. I’m really excited to give that back to people,” Amy says. “I think the space between art and technology is really special. It’s a way to present really serious, important, critical conversations but kind of invite people to play at the same time and really engage in a space where they feel comfortable and curious.”

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Marie Muir

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