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Atmospheric Memory

Is the atmosphere a vast library holding every word ever spoken?

Atmospheric Memory is a major co-commission with Manchester International Festival, Science and Industry Museum, FutureEverything, ELEKTRA/Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal, and Carolina Performing Arts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At once a daring artwork and sensory performance, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s breathtaking immersive installation scours the atmosphere for voices, transforming them into something we can see and touch.

12 August – 5 November 2023

2-17 December 2021
Carolina Performing Arts

6-21 July 2019
Science and Industry Museum

Artist: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Images by Antimodular Research

We live in an age obsessed with ‘absolute recollection’, where technology captures every moment, every act, every impression. But is the atmosphere an archive itself? A vast library holding every word ever spoken? And what if we could ‘rewind’ the movement of air molecules to recover those long lost voices?

Inspired by computing pioneer Charles Babbage’s 180-year-old proposal that the air is a  ‘vast library’ holding every word ever spoken, Atmospheric Memory asks: was Babbage right? Can we rewind the movement of the air to recreate long lost voices? And if so, whose would we want to hear?

And what of the future? Years from now, whose voices and histories will be preserved? And if our actions and voices are forever impressed in the air, will we ever be able to ‘escape’, be forgotten or be set free?

Book your tickets

Date: 12 August – 5 November 2023

Venue: Powerhouse

Suitable for all ages; recommended 8+

Atmospheric Memory uses bright lights, strobe, low light, loud noise, haze and smoke.

In booking a ticket, you give consent to being recorded at the event and for this data to become an integral part of the live artwork. All data is destroyed at the end of the installation.

“Atmospheric Memory is a project 5 years in the making and possibly the most ambitious I have ever undertaken. It is the result of research on disparate fields from robotics to fluid dynamics. Babbage’s obsession is now my own, if we could hear any voice from the past, whose would we want to hear? Loved ones long gone? Languages and songs now extinct? Oral histories never written?

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Harnessing both state-of-the-art technology and classic phantasmagorical effects, Lozano-Hemmer’s ‘Atmospheric Machines’ mine for air turbulence caused by speech, then transform it into something we can see, hear and even touch: trails of vapour, ripples on water, epic 360-degree projections. Works include a polyphonic tunnel featuring thousands of separate sound channels, a weathervane table controlled by computerised fans, an endoscopic film, a voice-controlled light beacon and the world’s first 3D printed speech bubble.

Lozano-Hemmer’s interactive installations sit at the intersection of architecture and performance art. Working with a team of programmers, designers, scientists and architects, Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks create critical and poetic platforms for public participation, by adopting, developing and misusing technologies of control such as computerised surveillance, biometrics or automation.

More from Atmospheric Memory

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Science and Industry Museum, FutureEverything, ELEKTRA / Arsenal Contemporary Art, Montreal and Carolina Performing Arts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Produced by Manchester International Festival and curated with FutureEverything and Science and Industry Museum.
Supported by Wellcome.  
Accompanied by an education programme supported by The Granada Foundation.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer dedicates Atmospheric Memory to Jóhann Jóhannson.