Visual Arts

New installation uses water balloons to make a 'Splash'

It's easy to find ordinary suggestions on how to transform a space, from simple ideas printed in magazines to televised overhauls. But at the Land of Tomorrow gallery, Erick Cárcamo and Nefeli Chatzimina are taking a more outside-the-box approach.

Inside Land of Tomorrow, black balloons heavy with water swirl around the room from ceiling to floor, seeming to both block and carve a series of paths.

Cárcamo and Chatzimina are the founders of X | Atelier, a design and architecture firm based in New York, and their specialty is working with 3-D modeling software that allows them to create prototypes that one would never dream possible.

Splash is an installation that incorporates a variety of architecture-based design work by the team, created through impressive technological methods.

"It's part of a series of what we call 'galaxies' of water balloons," said Cárcamo, who also is an instructor of architecture at the University of Kentucky. "The different lines of balloons were created by looking at the space and having the balloons map out pockets of space."

Inside those pockets of space are some of the prototypes by X | Atelier, including a sink and a cutting board, all created in 3-D, then carved out of Styrofoam by machine.

Dmitry Strakovsky, a UK assistant art professor who founded LOT with two other professors, said the technology the two designers use allows them to be adventurous with their designs. The software has certain limitations, but it generally lets them "work without real-world constraints," allowing them to create prototypes that previously would have taken much more time or might even have been impossible.

Nestled in another pocket are smaller prototypes, created from starch. These are much smaller pieces. They are hung from the ceiling, like the encircling balloons, alongside a suspended magnifying glass that allows viewers to see the minute details of the objects.

The show was hung with the help of student volunteers from UK's College of Design, and Cárcamo found both them and the professors who started Land of Tomorrow "awesome to work with."

It took several days for the group to finish the installation, which involved following a track on the ceiling to hang the balloons one by one. The balloons, rather than being tied, are placed in a loop of the string.

Bursting water balloons aren't a worry — these balloons are so heavy-duty, they resist breaking, even when intentionally dropped. The balloons will, however, eventually start to leak.

Once they do, the water pattern that is created will be "mapped on the ground." This enforces the idea of Splash.

The show's opening last Friday gave the creators an opportunity to see one of their goals brought to life: making the space smaller and more personal by controlling the flow of the room and eliminating the corners, forcing people to meet.

Land of Tomorrow doesn't have regular hours, because of the schedules of the professors, but it's open to visitors by appointment. Seeing the space in small groups will give viewers a chance to take in the whole spectacle of otherworldly patterns and forms, accented by video projection of the 3-D models and past X | Atelier installations.

"We could be very invasive and carve out or make suggestions of different flows and different environments," Strakovsky said. "This is an example of how to create an architectural space with a minimum amount of change in the environment."