Cloud Chambers

Synthesis Residency on Atmospheres

In this Synthesis Atmospheres Residency (LRR), researchers and students from University of Potsdam, the Topological Media Lab in Montreal and the Schools of Arts, Media + Engineering, Geography, and Architecture at ASU, come together in the Matthews Center iStage @ ASU (Tempe USA campus) to create environmental conditionings of ensemble experience via varying fields of media and material.

Wind, temperature, clouds, mist – these phenomena have in common that they can hardly be objectified. They have no identifiable parts or clear dimensions, no form and are partly or completely invisible. But we do experience their dynamic presence through our bodies: the body’s sensitivity on cellular, organic, and organismic levels, allows for engagement with phenomena that go beyond subject/object dichotomies.

In this interdisciplinary workshop that encompasses readings and discussion of relevant and uncommon texts, as well as experiments with synthetic cloud formations and atmospheric scenography, the aim is to develop a long-term investigation of atmospheric media and their potential meaning for the development of new ways of life.


The Experimental Platform

The aim is first to design an infrastructure to relate to the diffusive components of the space, that react among themselves, and are in constant exchange.

“Caustic Scenography + Responsive Cloud Formations”, created by Nima Navab in collaboration with Thierry Dumont (Topological Media Lab), is an atmospheric milieu that explores ephemeral fields of light, water, air, and temperature as a trigger of pre-reflective, embodied ways of relating to environments. At the center of the exploratory platform are responsive cloud formations: A bed of ultrasonic atomizers submersed in a pool of water, converting variable ultrasonic power to high frequencies driving piezoelectric transducers. Through distributed continuous modulation of frequencies, atomizers vibrate particles at rapid pace, in effect, allowing for creation of low to high density cloud structures, while spreading water droplets around its periphery. For humidification purposes the droplets are considered a nuisance, but in the installation, they become instrumentalized, orchestrating subtle to dramatic undulations within the bounds of this reflective pool. Multi-directional embedded light design, projects these wave patterns through reflection and refraction; creating a caustic scenography around the installation.

The exploratory platform serves as an example for multi-layered and correlated conditions that create a temporally driven textural pallet. In working with transformative states of matter amplified through caustics experimentations and fused with respiration, airflow and bending of scales of interactions around, atmospheric conditions can be experienced. In upcoming workshops, the affordances and performances will be explored, using the potential of dynamic behavior of the clouds, ranging from stand-still to undulating waves and its complete diffusion and magnification of processes onto surrounding environment providing a rhythmic pallet made more palpable through shadow play and embedded structu​red light.

It is a first step to further explore:

  1. How can the perception of intermediate states be extended in time and re-patterned through movement?
  2. How does this affect a sense of self in transcending the individuated “egoic” self, towards a situated, embedded coupling with the surrounding?
  3. Can the experience of the blurring threshold between the mediating element and the experience itself allow for new meanings and appreciation for the atmospheric dimension of our environment to develop?



Nima Navab: Lead Researcher | Topological Media Lab

Thierry Dumont: Lead Researcher | Topological Media Lab

Desiree Foerster: Writer & Researcher | Topological Media Lab

Connor Rawls: Synthesis Researcher | Synthesis

Peter Weisman: Technical Director | AME & Synthesis

Assegid Kidane: Electronics | AME

Sha Xin Wei: Director | Synthesis

Brandon Mechtley: Faculty Researcher | Synthesis

Shahab Sagheb: Technical Team | AME

Luke Kautz: Technical Team | AME