A Mechanical Ceiling That Moves With The Flow Of Ocean Waves

Using a Kinect sensor to motion-capture a swath of gently choppy water, an artist creates a somewhat disorienting installation. Hope you’re not seasick.

A few months back I tried scuba diving. After reading all the books and buying all the equipment, I strapped on the gear and jumped in the pool for my first class. Instantly, I hated the feeling of being encased in this suit that was itself encased in water. Several hundred dollars and a considerable amount of pride later, I learned that my response was fairly common–that even experienced scuba divers will sometimes panic under the surface.


I wonder if something like David Bowen’s installation, Underwater, would have helped acclimate me to the underwater world? It’s a motorized grid that hangs from the ceiling at INTERIEUR 2012, undulating with the precise fluidity of water. The effect simulates what it feels like to be sitting below the surface of water, but of course, you could simply be watching television from the couch.

Underwater is an impressive piece. Even in a YouTube clip, its low fidelity wire grid looks like water, similar to how basic polygonal graphics made early video games like Battlezone or Starfox feel immersive despite a lack of texture. This is no accident, of course. Bowen actually took a Kinect to Lake Superior, where he captured the real ebb and flow of water through the sensor’s infrared camera. (Looking through the rest of Bowen’s portfolio, you’ll see he’s a bit obsessed with the idea of telecommunicating water.) So what you’re looking at is a true motion-captured view from underwater, rendered via a mechanical chandelier.

Now imagine Underwater hanging from the ceiling of every room in your house. Would you get seasick? Would you get claustrophobic? Would you even notice after a week? I don’t know. But if Bowen ever wants to burn away a few months pro bono, I’ve got just the place to test it out.

See more of Bowen’s work here.

[Hat tip: The Creators Project]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.