Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern – Texas (United States)

Buffalo Bayou Partnership is pleased to announce a major commission by pioneering artist Rachel Rossin in the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Rossin (American, b. 1987) is a painter, new media artist, and programmer whose multidisciplinary practice has established her as a leading innovator in the field of virtual reality. Her work blends painting, sculpture, technically advanced media, gaming, and video to create digital landscapes that focus on the ubiquity of technology and its effect on our psychology.

The original, site-specific installation by Rossin, titled Haha Real, transforms the Cistern into a three-act theater piece, drawing on both traditional art-making techniques and innovative technologies. Taking key inspiration from a diverse pool of influences, including Rossin’s favorite childhood story, The Velveteen Rabbit; the historic Marcel Duchamp lecture, “The Creative Act,” originally delivered in Houston; and the history and structure of the Cistern itself.

In The Velveteen Rabbit, the question “What is REAL?” is central. After the child who loved the Rabbit into being grows up and moves on, the Rabbit learns that “Realness” is both liberating and painful and is attained gradually over time through being loved (and ultimately lost) by another.

Haha Real is a journey that unfolds over the course of a 30-minute visit around the quarter-mile diameter of the Cistern. As viewers circumnavigate the quarter mile Cistern, they stop at periodic “stations” where characters and symbols appear on LED holographic screens, while kinetic features and lighting augment the architecture of the space and the reflective surface of its water.

A high-fidelity score written by Rossin and performed by musician and sound artist, Frewuhn, accompanies the visuals, accentuating the Cistern’s 17-second reverberation. The end point of this journey is a cascade of uncanny sunsets within the darkness, hovering just above the reflective surface of the water inside the Cistern.

Rossin is especially known for her use of technology, not only as a tool or medium, but as subject matter that helps us examine our relationship with our attention and autonomy. Rossin’s childhood voice, trained from recovered home videos using AI techniques, is heard throughout the installation. AI is also utilized in the visual elements of the work which are mixed with hand-drawn animation. The use of AI and virtual reality tools in the creation of the work furthers the artist’s inquiry into reality versus simulation. As a programmer and engineer, Rossin designs these systems herself, enabling her to embed meaning within the core components of the work.

The installation’s name, inspired by the first use of “haha” at the turn of the 18th century, refers to an awe-inspiring feature of European gardens that prompts viewers to exclaim “Ah ah!”. The perceptual vastness provoked by the Cistern, a contemporary “Haha,” is both reflective of, and respite from, the persistent chaos of today’s technological quickening.

This project is organized by Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Project management and curatorial collaboration provided by Weingarten Art Group. Produced by Julia Simpson with technical production and lighting design by Robert Ruth. Exhibition installation by Fenris. Rachel Rossin is represented by Magenta Plains, New York, NY.

Link: www.buffalobayou.org