Fragile Future

DRIFT is the creation of Lonneke Gordijn (b.1980) and Ralph Nauta (b.1978). Since its inception, the artist collective has been interested in using light and technology to refresh audiences’ perceptions of natural environments and climate issues. The Fragile Future project began in 2006 with a series of dense webs and nests of LED lights. Each illuminated structure had flower seeds affixed to it; the result was a form of sculpture that seemed to have grown or blossomed organically. Versions of the piece have been shown across the world, from the Netherlands to Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Now, the collective has transformed New York’s Shed gallery with a new version of the same project – playing with contrasts of texture, scale and matter to offer a transportive, hallucinatory experience. Created in collaboration with Superblue, an organisation that helps artists to develop “experiental” art projects, the Dutch duo’s sequence of kinetic and light-based sculptures has strong ecological overtones.

Audiences are invited through a series of interconnected installations, beginning with Coded Coincidence, a multitude of shimmering lights whose movements mirror the flight patterns of elm seeds in the wind. This piece is envisaged as an homage to the creative power of coincidence: its role in shaping human and natural histories and environments. Close by is Ego, a block of hair-thin illuminated threads suspended in mid-air. Altering our perceptions of density and transparency, the form morphs over time as it moves in space: from a solid rectangle to a distorted plane.

Elsewhere, the show’s title piece fuses nature and technology; its seed-pod light show offers what the Shed calls: “a critical yet utopian vision of the future of our planet.” The final part of the exhibition, Drifters, consists of multi-channel films representing a portal into an alternative world. Projections show a set of concrete blocks floating through real and imagined environments in New York City, traversing natural and urban, utopian and dystopian spaces – as if they were living beings searching for a new home. This speculative imagery is counterposed with the massive presence of a real concrete block, seemingly levitating in mid-air. Again, our sensory perceptions are brought into question: is this object heavy or light, alive or dead, suspended or flying?

On select dates during September-December 2021, Drifters becomes a surreal, immersive performance – spanning all four storeys of Shed’s McCourt space. Viewers are invited to consider how our world is constructed and whether alternatives are possible, with the concrete block joined by a series of floating, dancing cousins, against a soundtrack provided by musician Anohni.

Fragile Future runs at The Shed, New York until 19 December. Find out more here.

Words: Greg Thomas

Image Credits:
1. DRIFT, ​​Fragile Future, 2007 – 21. Dandelions, LED lights, phosphor bronze, printed circuit board. Dimensions variable. Photo: Dario Lasagni.
2. DRIFT, Ego, 2020 – 21. Nylon fiber; Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber monofilaments, polyester, and polyvinyl fluoride (Dyneema®); motors; aluminum; software. 236.22 x 118.11 x 118.11 inches. Photo: Dario Lasagni.
3. DRIFT, Drifter, 2017 – 21. Photo: Dario Lasagni.