"What do you do with a rain room?" That simple yet intriguing question motivated London-based artists rAndom International—founded by Stuart Wood, Florian Ortkrass, and Hannes Koch—as they conceived and created their immersive spectacle, Rain Room.
Initially installed at the Barbican in London, Rain Room became the most successful installation in the museum's history, offering visitors the chance to stand in the middle of a rain storm without getting wet. The crowd-pleasing exhibition is now on view in New York at MoMA as part of MoMA PS1's EXPO 1: New York.
Using sensors to detect and track visitors in the room, the piece lets you enter a downpour. As you timidly move forward, the rain around you ceases to fall overhead, allowing a glimpse into what it might be like to control the rain. People have reacted to the experience in a variety of different ways--snapping friends and strangers on their smartphones is a common one, others choose to huddle together or stand alone, wander around as if in a dream or giggle excitedly.
The unusual nature of Rain Room fosters a variety of reactions and forms of engagement from the audience that seem to move it beyond being just an installation into a performative piece, an element rAndom International often capitalizes on by introducing dance performances where dancers move through the space alongside visitors.
Each iteration has been built as a site-specific piece. For instance, the Barbican version made use of the curved wall of the exhibition space, while the MoMA iteration is in a much larger area, housed in a structure that was built specifically to house the installation in an empty lot beside the museum. This gave the studio a chance to experiment with how it to present the project and play around with how it's approached by visitors, giving the piece another dimension as it evolves to fit different environments.
In the video above, the group discuss the genesis of the installation, along with how the creation of the piece was, for them, a journey into the unknown driven by curiosity.
Rain Room is on view at MoMA, as part of MoMA PS1's EXPO 1: New York through 28th July 2013.
Photos courtesy of Dylan DeRose