Art installation by Ursula Damm and Felix Bonowski, 2021

Curator: Yvonne Volkart

Commissioned for the Flux building by Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Technique: Two channel projection; one based on live camera footage and neural network learning rules; simulation based on Perlin noise, Navier Stokes-Solver, reaction diffusion kinetics parameterized with live measurements of Oxygen content, temperature, turbidity.

Kontinuum auf der Website der EAWAG

Felix Bonowski controling the “bachcam” screen, EAWAG Flux Building, Zürich
View of the projection – simulation and generative video

Kontinuum is a generative 2 channel projection based on live data of the Chriesbach, a rivulet flowing alongside the Institute of Water Research. The two projections represent a certain mode of “reality” of the Chriesbach and its flux throughout the year. Both translate data of seasonal variations, color patterns and physical principles of the stream into sensual images that associate impressionist and Japanese painting. By bringing the outside into the inside, the water into the Flux building, the object of observation to the site of its investigation, the installation reflects the Kontinuum of the stream and the function of the house in an aesthetic way.

The colored projection collects images of the Chriesbach stream and its inhabitants. Real time images of three cameras are passed through a graphics shader which is based on classical neural network learning rules that “remember” colors in areas of high activity. The resulting video is a collage of combined aspects of the streams’ visual appearance from different times and viewing angles. With their daily changes they serve as a kind of aesthetic weather report.

The black and white projection is a live simulation of a fluid meandering through a rock-strewn valley. Based on an ecosystem of nutrients, primary producers, and grazing microorganisms of the stream, it manifests digitally “how the world would look like, if nature followed these rules”. The formulas that govern the shape of the landscape, the dynamics of flow, and the evolution of life in the simulation are parameterized with values derived from actual real-time measurements of physical water properties. The measurements are performed by a station operated by the research institute just a few meters from where the cameras look onto the stream. Correspondences between measurements and model parameters are chosen so that seasonal changes (in temperature), daily rhythms (in oxygen saturation from photosynthesis) and occasional events (turbidity caused by thunderstorms and construction work) leave their traces in the graphics. Transforming from a valley with a few large boulders to a (virtual) riverbed with many small pebbles, from one emergent biological pattern into another, from a slowly meandering flow into a violent gusher, the simulation reveals itself as a being in permanent flux.

At the right border of each projection, the image logic of the other projection intervenes, so that the color-data of the live stream and the patterns of the black and white simulation intersect: contrasty movements in the colored projection (e.g. reflections of light or swimming leaves) become lines, scratches and holes in the black and white one. They appear as forces, which wipe out organic life and destroy the image. Thus, it becomes clear, that no image and no “reality” stand for themselves, rather they can be questioned, disrupted, or interpreted by manifold approaches.

Video documentation of the installation
Real time play-out of the so-called ‘bachcam’
Cameras observing the Chriesbach stream
Positioning of the cameras
Real time data from Chriesbach for the simulation screen
Felix Bonowski installing the cameras
Video auf der Website der Eawag
Schematic drawing of data flow
This is the concept video with samples of different interesting moments