Public Listening to Umbrellas hanging from Trees+ Raindance+ Umrella.net

When I was in Helsinki recently, I spent my last few hours in the city at the Night of the Arts. The piece ‘Kolme kirjettä (Three letters)’ Liisa Tervinen and Saana Uosukainen.

The simplicity of the installation was really beautiful. Transparent umbrellas equipped with small speakers were broadcasting the recordings of three love letters read out. These umbrellas were hanging off the branches of old trees next to a lake in the centre of Helsinki.

All sorts of different people were attracted by this piece and gathered in small groups under the umbrellas to listen. The audience ranged form young kids and teenagers to families and elderly ladies – all listening patiently. Some picture are here.

More information (mainly in Finnish) and some very nice pictures are at http://kolmekirjetta.com/

This piece reminded me of two other umbrella pieces: ‘RainDance’  by Paul de Marinis that I experienced at ars electronica in 2001, and ‘UMBRELLA.net’ by Katherine Moriwaki and Jonah Brucker-Cohen.
RainDance by Paul de Marinis (1998) is an installation where the audience uses an umbrella as a resonator to listen to the music and sound that the artist has modulated onto the water.


De Marinis website explains: “Twenty falling streams of water, modulated with audio signals, create music and sound when intercepted by visitors’ umbrellas.”

UMBRELLA.net is not a sound piece but uses umbrellas to share data in an ad-hoc network formed by the umbrellas, an interesting concept by Katherine Moriwaki and Jonah Brucker-Cohen:

“UMBRELLA.net is a project exploring transitory or ad-hoc networks and their potential for causing sudden, striking, and unexpected connections between people in public and urban space. The project focuses on the theme of “networks of coincidence”, or how shared, yet disconnected activities can be harnessed into collective experiences. UMBRELLA.net examines how the haphazard and unpredictable patterns of weather and crowd formation can act as an impetus to examine coincidence of need networks. In particular, when umbrellas are opened and closed in public space. The project will attempt to highlight these informal relationships by creating a system of ad-hoc network nodes that can spontaneously form and dissipate based on weather conditions.”

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