Airborne Landscapes

investigates the dynamics of air particles. The audiovisual site-specific installation takes the visitor through different altitudes of the atmosphere in a digital world, created in a game engine. It resembles the flight of a weather balloon that is used as a scientific instrument to map air properties of the global atmosphere.

The journey takes us from air that is stored in the soil deep down beneath our feet up to the height where all air disappears and forms  a vacuum, eventually traveling through the invisible membrane that protects our earth and crucial to our existence.

The installation was made for the Goffertpark in Nijmegen during Schemerlicht festival 2022. It consists of an angulated led sculpture with multichannel audio through which the virtual journey is experienced. Airborne Landscapes symbolizes an air layer mediating between the virtual and physical, material and immaterial, and timescales which are stretched in multiple directions.

The work refers to the atmosphere as an ecosystem that is always in becoming, where elements such as temperature and air are in constant interaction with the habitat of each atmospheric layer. These air particles can be formed by biological processes and caused by man-made interventions like methane and carbon monoxide.

Within the context of the Goffertpark and the area of Nijmegen this includes a  soil composition that consists of different layers of sand and clay, which enables the development of methane bubbles. Above the surface, methane usually relates to air pollution coming from the fossil fuel and waste industry.

Also, urban landmarks like the S100 route for car traffic influence the morphology of the city’s airflow. And while recording the sonic properties of the Goffertpark it was possible to catch refracting radio waves in the ionosphere by using the tree as an antenna with an electromagnetic microphone.

Commissioned by Schemerlicht 2023

The work is inspired by the expertise of scientists Bram Maasakkers (SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research), Nils van Rooijen (Ecologist at Wageningen University Research) and Linda Carton (Radboud University).

Concept, programming, composition: Gabey Tjon a Tham

Unity 3D technical support: Rob Bothof

Thanks to: Zeno van den Broek, Jacqueline Heerema, Bert van der Valk

Videography: Tanja Busking

Photos: Maurice Tjon a Tham

Video registration supported by Stroom Den Haag