It’s not often that you see a waterfall in the middle of Chicago, or even in Illinois, unless you look hard enough. “Digital Fountain”, the new installation at Comfort Station (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) by Jarad Solomon, comprises videos of over 100 waterfalls, many filmed in Illinois, to create one continuous loop of soothing water footage.
Originally from San Francisco, Solomon has always been drawn to water. When he was a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, he lived in an apartment overlooking Buckingham fountain. He would watch passersby interact with it in interesting ways. They gravitated towards it, yet didn’t pay attention to the fountain itself. This paradox got him thinking about the relationship between water, art, public art and monuments. Whereas art is meant to be stood in front of and viewed, fountains and monuments are meant to be walked past as steadfast symbols of their surrounding community.
“Digital Fountain” will be rear-projected from within Comfort Station starting at dusk until dawn running Jan. 13 through Feb. 18. It will be a continuous loop of fountains, each about five to 10 minutes long, which will make the transition of waterfalls unlikely for commuters to experience mid stroll.
“Locals can live around the digital fountain for months and still find something fresh and new in its experience,” Solomon says.
Mary Wells, program director at Comfort Station, is particularly excited for this installation.
“We haven’t had anything like this in the space before,” Wells says. “I really think people will fall in love with it. If you live or spend a good chunk of time in the neighborhood, we hope you’ll visit the piece and the space will become a little gleam of happiness in your routine.”
“Digital Fountain” is not the first fountain-themed installation to come out of SAIC. “Crown Fountain,” the famous Millennium Park fountain that depicts two faces spitting water towards each other, was also a project that came out of Solomon’s department of Art and Technology. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, “Crown Fountain” is a piece of public art that is meant to be interacted with along with as opposed to only walking by it.
The idea of making the “Digital Fountain” installation something to be walked past was a conscious decision by Solomon and by Comfort Station, Wells says. Typically the building goes into hibernation in the winter months, so this type of ‘commuters’ art’ is perfect for Comfort Station, adding that they wanted something that said, “Hey—we know it’s too cold to be in this old building but don’t forget us!”
If people do choose to stay and observe the installation for an extended period of time, he asks them to ponder, “What’s the Robocop version of waterfalls?”
Since his days pondering our relationship with water while watching Buckingham Fountain, Solomon has spent a lot of time thinking about the future of water on the planet. As we continue to evolve, how is water going to evolve with us?
“Now we’re looking at the next era, which is inherently going to be digital in one way or another,” he says.
For now, however, he encourages people to go out and find these waterfalls in Illinois. This collection of waterfalls will hopefully bring some peace and tranquility to people’s morning and evening commutes.
“[It is] like a new type of fountain that is meant to connect the evolution of fountains to waterfalls to a digital future,” Solomon says.