Artificial Arcadia – Measured and adjustable landscapes

Created by Fragmentin in collaboration with KOSMOS architects, ‘Artificial Arcadia’ is an interactive installation that creates a performative scenographic landscape for visitors to explore and calls them to consider how contemporary landscape entangles natural, artificial and digital realms.

The design of the space is inspired by the aesthetic of Swiss man-made infrastructure such as tunnels through mountains, dams through rivers, irrigation systems, snow cannons, ski resort installations, avalanche protection and electrical networks. Visitors are invited into a naturalistic landscape mapped with ‘bauprofile’ markers: metal sticks or construction poles. In Switzerland, these political devices show the intended location of a future building. By mapping the construction site in advance, they announce a new piece of architecture and initiate any debates regarding this man-made addition to an area. In ‘Artificial Arcadia’, the poles are topped with a textile roof which makes the installation reminiscent of a Swiss mountain range. More specifically, this part of the construction references the huge white blankets placed over the Rhône Glacier to help prevent or more realistically slow down its melting due to rising temperature levels. They are just one example of how technology is utilised throughout Switzerland to help maintain its famed and heavily romanticised alpine landscape.

Through the grid of 5×5 motorized “bauprofile”  that can move and position themselves at different heights, the installation is able to represent a large variety of snow level terrain. Every few minutes a new 1km2 area of the Alps snow level map (taken from Swiss Topo data) is randomly selected and translated into the 4m2 kinetic area of the artwork to create new icy-looking landscapes. As people enter and move through the space, the poles slowly start to fall, informing them of the melting levels of ice and snow. Simultaneously, a real-time projection of the full digitalisation of the scene – The map of snow level, the thermal map of the visitors’ movement, the millimeters of snow displayed on small LCD screens –is used as a metaphorical way to raise awareness of the – sometimes unnoticed – impact and modifications people and infrastructure may cause in natural environments.

For the duration of PQ19, ‘Artificial Arcadia’ was home to constantly evolving specific performances by Camille Alena, created in collaboration with sound artist Stan Iorganov and young people from the Prague area.

Created using powercoated steel, aluminium, wood, white lycra textile, rubber, 3D printed parts. Electronic components include 25 linear motors, motor drivers, LED screen, computer, LCD screens, capacitive sensor, 7 Arduino mega, custom PCB’s. Software includes Processing and Arduino.

Project Page | Fragmentin | KOSMOS architects

Commissioned by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia as the headline exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2019 (PQ19), as part of the Exhibition of Countries and Regions.

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