Kinetic Rain

Artist: ART+COM
Location: Changi Airport, Singapore
Year of completion: 2012
Researcher: Kelly Carmichael

Created by German design collective Art+Com, Kinetic Rain is an installation formed in two elements from over one thousand rising and falling copper covered lightweight aluminium droplets. Suspended by steel wires, the gleaming raindrop-like shapes are computer-controlled by a hidden motor to move up and down in choreographed patterns. The two elements move in dialogue through a fifteen-minute choreographed piece, evolving from abstract to figurative, three-dimensional forms. Kinetic Rain can be viewed from above, below, and all sides. Visual experiences of the complex computer-designed movement are different depending on the viewer’s position. Kinetic Rain was commissioned to add a contemplative element to the lively transit space of the Terminal One departure hall in Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of the major airport hubs in Asia. The installation spans an area of more than 75 square meters and is over 7.3 meters in height. Its creators claim it is the world’s largest kinetic sculpture.

The work makes many references to natural phenomena, most obviously Singapore’s tropical weather patterns in the shape of its 1,216 droplets and title. The wave-like motion patterns generated evoke the ocean, while the manner in which Kinetic Rain flows and morphs into various shapes brings to mind the motion of a school of fish or the elegant ballet of a flock of birds in flight. Suspended above two opposing escalators the kinetic artwork both reinforces and is reflective of the state of flux within which a busy airport terminal like Changi exists. Its creators, Art+Com, have commented that the work is about “the dream of flying” and flight is an important visual motif in the installation, connecting the work strongly to its airport setting. Some of the more recognizable shapes include an airplane, hot air balloon, and kite. Other shapes in the sixteen differently choreographed segments include a dragon and a flock of birds. The motion and changes in form are hypnotic, fluid, and refined.

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Installed as part of a major refurbishment, Kinetic Rain is a commissioned, site-specific project. A much loved artwork at the airport known as the Mylar Cord fountain was decommissioned during Changi’s upgrade. This work is commemorated in Kinetic Rain, located in the same place and fulfilling an expressed desire early in the refurbishment plans to incorporate a water feature reminiscent of the Mylar Cord work. The new work, however, takes the idea of water and carries it forward, incorporating the concept of water via its droplets but combining this with advanced computer technology and engineering.

As somewhat placeless places—they are never one’s final desitnation—airports may be an undesirable location, but one with a rapidly emerging and evolving design specialty. Populated with boutiques, bars, cafes, hotels, and other attractions, airports are rapidly becoming a classic example of postmodern third-space and an increasingly common part of life for an emerging global community. Design led airports such as the Changi redevelopment are creating small cities, targeted to make your time there more comfortable and more conducive to social interaction—major components of placemaking. While the departure terminal can ring with emotion ranging from sadness at leaving loved ones to candid frustration and boredom, Kinetic Rain offers an alternative—an elegant sixteen minutes of mesmerising fluidity to transport and soothe travellers along their journey.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency