As I approach the entrance to A.A. Murakami’s Silent Fall, I am handed a single black woolen glove. Once I slip my hand inside, it is just a few steps along a pitch-black corridor before I enter the immersive environment created by the artist duo for Superblue’s temporary London space on Burlington Gardens (on view through May 8, 2022). I am expecting a multisensory experience, one that blurs the boundaries between nature and technology while highlighting imminent environmental collapse and the transient nature of existence.
Entering, I adjust to changes in light and sound. Ambient music fills the space, inducing a calm, meditative state. The low lighting periodically switches from white to glowing red, perhaps indicating the rising and setting of the sun. The walls are clad in mirrors, and the floor is occupied by stylized trees—a technological forest extended by mirrored reflections. Silent Fall is the sort of installation that engulfs and dislodges the sense of self, which is appropriate considering that it draws on Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, offering a contemporary take on the Fall as we teeter on the brink of environmental catastrophe.
The tree structures generate palm-size bubbles that visitors can catch in their gloved hands. There is a feeling of delight at holding one for as long as possible. Other bubbles fall to the floor and gather in biomorphic clusters. As they burst, a hint of scented vapor enters the air and then quickly disperses.
Wandering slowly and aimlessly around the space—catching bubbles and hanging on to them, watching them amass and dissolve before out eyes—is a hypnotic experience. Yet a bubble landing on a gloved hand cannot be felt, so the sense of touch is absent; and if you catch one in your bare hand, you feel only an unpleasant, slimy mess. The puffs of vapor from the burst bubbles release only the slightest of scents, barely recognizable as anything at all. This is certainly not the library of scents we were promised, nor is there any hint of the moss, rain, and pine we would smell if walking through a natural forest. In fact, the regularity of the artificial trees and their mirrored reflections do not conjure a natural forest at all; instead, they recall sacred manmade spaces such as cathedrals, with arcades, porticos, and cloisters regressing into the distance.
This is not the first time that mirrors have been used to create immersive installations. Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirror Rooms” are well known, as is Lucas Samaras’s Mirrored Room (1966). Bubbles in art are not new either. In the 1960s, David Medalla’s kinetic bubble machines, including Cloud Canyons No.3 (1961), frothed and foamed in gallery spaces. With Paul Keeler, Medalla founded the Signals Gallery in London in 1964, a place where art and science came together to create something new, and here we are once again.
A.A. Murakami, based in London and Tokyo, conduct a similar merger of art and technology, which results in essentially the same sort of auto-creative art that was emerging in the 1960s. They use what they call “ephemeral tech” to evoke both primordial origins and possible future worlds. Though Silent Fall may not break new ground as an immersive installation, it is an enjoyable experience, one that tries to extend and heighten awareness by evoking sight, sound, smell, and touch. It is a dream scene of sorts, but only partly successful in its aim. By all means visit and enjoy the experience, but don’t expect anything profound.