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Virtual Mirror – Rain

Artist Tao Sambolec’s expanded conception of art emphasizes tactility, embodied experience, affect and perception in space, often involving displacements that heighten our sensory awareness. In this respect, his work finds good company with pioneering contemporary artists from Marcel Duchamp to Olafur Eliasson.

A case in point is one of his remarkable installation Virtual Mirror – Rain, which received Honorable Mention in 2010 at Prix Ars Electronica, the most important international competition for media art.  When he told me the concept for this project – that rain falling from the skies outside the gallery would be measured in real-time and trigger an equivalent amount of rain falling up inside the gallery – I didn’t believe he would be able to do it.  I enjoyed receiving updates from him during the many months of development, and was amazed, and deeply impressed, by the work’s premier at the Museum of Modern art in Llubjiana.  Virtual Mirror – Rain makes weather into the subject of art.  It offers the viewer an embodied, situated experience that conflates interior and exterior spaces.  It transforms the liquid and tactile quality of rain into an artistic medium.  In doing so, it poetically challenges one’s preconceptions about fundamental phenomena, enabling the viewer to contemplate a parallel universe that operates under different physical laws than our own.  Virtual Mirror – Rain takes the further step of permitting the viewer to actively participate in this parallel universe:  through the work’s interactive affordances, the upward flow of rain can be modulated by the viewer/participator.  Historically, this work finds precursors in J.M.W. Turner’s painterly studies of weather, the fluidity of interior and exterior space in Le Corbusier’s architecture, the heightened perception of space provoked by Alvin Lucier and Olafur Eliasson, Robert Mallary’s cybernetic theories of “transductive art,” and the tradition of interactive and participatory art.  That is to say, the work is deeply embedded in the history of art and is engaged in several key discourses simultaneously.  It also demonstrates the progressive development of conceptual continuities in Sambolec’s oeuvre, as it is related to but significantly expands on earlier works such as Virtual Hole – Wind (below).

As Sambolec writes, “The installation Virtual Mirror – Rain is a part of a series of installations, entitled Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors. The series investigates the relationship between weather conditions and the built architecture in urban environment. By letting the outside weather phenomena indoors, or by mirroring them inside, Virtual Holes and Virtual Mirrors annihilate the protective function of architecture. They are undoing architecture in order to heighten our sensibility of the immediate surrounding, transforming the ephemeral and evanescent weather phenomena outside into significant and poetic events inside.”[1]

Rain was also the theme of the remarkable Rain Room, 2012 created by rAndom International.


[1] Tao Sambolec, Virtual Mirror – Rain (artist’s website)