I’ve been stalling writing this book review. Hylozoic Ground was an interesting read and a bit of a surprise, somehow I missed the memo that it was a collection of essays about Beesley’s exhibits and therefore a bit tricky to summarize easily in a short review. For those of you unfamiliar with Beesley’s work, he is the architect and artist behind the Hylozoic Ground exhibits, which explore our relationship with our environment and other organisms. The Simons Aurora, the permanent installation hanging in the front foyer of the Simons store in West Edmonton Mall, is the most recent installation in the series.
Each installations in the series is a collaborative work, combining artistry, architecture, chemistry, robotics, and much more to develop an interactive environment that responds to it’s surroundings. Built from digitally fabricated pieces like acrylic links, mechanical imitations of fronds, leaves, filters and whiskers, mixed with kinetic valves, pumping systems, microprocessors and sensors, the system acts like a coral reef or forest, replicating the behaviors of a natural biological ecosystem.
Beyond exploring the exciting ways the Hylozoic Ground structures imitate and replicate the processes of natural environments, such as filtering, breathing, caressing and other empathic motions, some of the essayists take up the idea of man and the environment. From Deleuze and Guattari-esque explorations of the relationships between the environment vs the individual or having and body vs being a body, to discussions of creation and the alchemic building blocks of matter, each essay uses Beesley’s systems of liminal responsive architecture to reflect on the reality of being while existing within a living environment.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about liminal responsive architecture and Philip Beesley’s installations and the art/science behind their creation or you’re interested in approaching a discourse of embodiment and the environment from a new angle, this is a really interesting read! Give it a shot and then visit Simons for a peek at the Simons Aurora- take the time to admire its small details and how it reacts to movement in its environment, most noticeably with gentle flickering of lights.