Liquid films and water-signs:
landscape in an age of information design

[Image: Julius Popp's Bitfall].

Bitfall, pictured above, is a kind of liquid computer monitor. As Ruairi Glynn, of Interactive Architecture dot Org, describes it, Bitfall uses carefully-timed drops of falling water "to project images taken from the internet. A computer observes various news websites and chooses thereafter the images to be displayed. 128 nozzles are controlled by synchronised magnetic valves, and the water drops falling to the ground shape the images. The visual information is only tangible for a second before the drops merge to become water again."
The sheet of falling water, then, becomes a screen – a liquid cinema – a monitor on which to surf the web.

All of which would be amazing enough were it not for some unbelievable landscape design possibilities.
You're in Rome, and you decide to visit the Trevi Fountain – but you're confused. Is that an image you see in the cascading water...? You look closer and realize a television show is being played using the water itself. The whole city, in fact, is full of fountains, and they're all playing films, news shows, stationary images of art. It begins raining later that evening, and you swear you see films in the falling water...
Then fountains are installed in red light districts around the world, showing porn...
The next summer huge gates are attached to the top of Niagara Falls, and every August a film fest begins: you sit down on the Canadian side of the border and watch Hitchcock, Truffaut, Roberto Succo, an almost-subliminal cinema roaring downward into mist with the water.

A computer-controlled showerhead is installed in your home bathroom, and you watch the news, or put on a film and... do whatever while you watch it. Headlines falling on your shoulders from above.
Hotel lobbies with fake waterfalls are transformed into newsrooms, with financial information trickling down the corporate surface of the falls. From different angles you receive different information; from further away you see different films.
The New York Stock Exchange replaces its news tickers with fountains: the Dow, the FTSE, the price of mined tungsten. Mineral futures. All cascading inside smooth surfaces of water.

[Image: Asymptote's re-design of the NYSE].

Soon trees can be genetically altered to form images in their bark: tree-screens. You accidentally stumble into a test-forest, after a car accident in rural Bavaria, and all the trees around you seem covered in pictures, and certain angles make them all add up into a 3D film...
Filmstills from award-winning directors of the past are put into genetically modified flowers; you look closely and it's Hollywood Ninja, frame by frame, growing in your bestfriend's garden. When breezes come, short scenes go animated, looped. Hypnotic. The film garden.
Then flowers replace DVDs, and we go from libraries to planting special trees.
Landscapes everywhere bear encoded information.

A huge dome is built over New York City. As rain falls the water is filtered, bit by bit through the dome to form texts: images, signs and financial information.
You pay the city and your logo is displayed, coming down in curtains on the city, liquid. The weather-advertising complex.
The rain industry.

[Image: Buckminster Fuller, glass dome for Manhattan].

Endless information, printed three-dimensionally in space.

(Via Interactive Architecture dot Org, via Information Aesthetics).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

How seductively you describe this perfect hell. There will be no arty films shown with this technology, and more than there are films shown with billboard technology in Times Square. Only advertisements everywhere--wrecking trees, fountains, and even rainfall. God help us all.

April 04, 2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

What about ads for little stuffed animals...?

April 04, 2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Damn, I love your site.

The Bitfall looks like Bizarrro World version of Pipedream, which places bubbles in vertical tubes.

Not as dense as bitfall, but still.

As for a world of atmospheric advertising, when 3-D imaging gets going, marketers are going to be praying for rain to project their ads on.

Or maybe their client's pollution will be a perfect screen for their product placement.

The dirtier the company = more places for ads = more product awareness = more sale = more production = more pollution!

JG Ballard would approve.

April 04, 2006 5:40 PM  
Anonymous mason said...

nice find, geoff!!
actually, this was almost installed - at a smaller scale than bucky, of course - with J Mayer H's Stadthaus Scharnhauser Park (2002) until the budget nixed it. He proposed a rainscreen called which would ambiently display time, an image, or a very challenging (and wet) way to enter the building.

April 04, 2006 8:53 PM  
Blogger Timo Tolonen said...

Fantastic find, Geoff.

I can't help but think of the Zen-like implications of technology like this.
'The visual information is only tangible for a second before the drops merge to become water again.' The transient nature of all of existence represented in a single image made out of water. Truly beautiful.

They've taken the videos offline, which is a shame... Will have to revisit when they go back up.

April 05, 2006 5:21 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

"Mason," is that thing a shower of water or a cloud of mist? A rainscreen or a fog?

And Timo, they could have helicopter-borne Zen waterfall displays: decommissioned gunships hover over Paris, on a cloudless sunny day, letting loose several-minute displays of moving images, falling from the helicopters to earth, films in the sky, perhaps coloring the water with dye, short avant-garde masterpieces displayed in mid-air. In fact, if you can't find a distributor for your films - you could always buy a helicopter. Didn't the Aphex Twin once buy a tank?

Speaking of which: do you know the urban myth that the Aphex Twin owns that big silvery box thing in the middle of Elephant & Castle...?

April 05, 2006 12:57 PM  
Anonymous mason said...

"the bearer of my child" tells me its a rain-screen of water drops, but my "buddy" thinks its a purple haze of fog, and my "cohort" calls it a force of liquid. so your guess is as good as mine.

April 05, 2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger Widarchitect said...

They started printing on flowers
here sometime last year. The idea never really took off though. Although, seeing as Singapore exports flowers and plants around the world, perhaps you might start to see 'Grown in Singapore' stamps on those orchids you just got your mum from Sainsburys..?

April 06, 2006 1:55 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Widarchitect - Now they just need to start planting flowers so that they act like living LED screens or news tickers, blooming with messages once a year.

It's like the plot of a Hitchcock film: a man moves into a small house and the weird old woman who owns it thinks he's someone else, someone she was expecting, and she keeps telling him to watch the garden - only he thinks she means tend the garden. Turns out, once winter is over, for one day when the flowers bloom (or whatever), a message appears, in the layout of the flower beds...

Mason, them's some famous friends you got.

The future of cinema is three-dimensional objects, moving in space, with light cast on them. Yet still representational.

April 07, 2006 11:47 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

This is a wonderful blog, stuff of a zillion dreams and fantasies. Now I've only got to write them down!

April 08, 2006 1:49 PM  
Anonymous bruce shapiro said...

I noted a few visits to my site coming from here. Thought you might like to see my most recent bubble raster: Pipedream III
Although I was blown away by the Bitfall image at first, it is unfortunately only a "visualization."

April 29, 2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Hey Bruce - Great; thanks for the link, and glad you found the site. Is Pipedream III still a prototype?

April 29, 2006 12:29 PM  
Anonymous bruce shapiro said...

The pictures show the prototype that I put together in my studio. The final version, destined for a major science museum (I'm not supposed to give the name until after their official event in June)will be very similar, but twice as tall.

April 30, 2006 11:44 AM  

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