Fluid Distorsion (01 Jun)

It is difficult to speak of the winds in Venice without speaking of water. This is certainly true if we consider Venice in its geopolitical situation throughout history. The perception of those winds with which I am concerned is shaped by their capacity as trade winds. The economy and empire once relied upon the movement of the winds as a planetary phenomenon set into motion by the Coriolis effect or God himself, the latter of which was favored for lending his motive force to the kinetic force of the wind to move man and ships. 

As we established in earlier posts, the Sirocco winds play a key role in the Aqua Alta and Aqua Grande phenomena by pushing water through the three sea basins leading to the lagoon of Venice. Encountering Alvise Benetazzo’s work on stereoscopic imaging of wind waves on the Aqua Alta platform has been a great inspiration. While this project is not about the water persay, maintaining the separation of the elements upon which the residency is premised—with the perennial exclusion of fire. 

Rather, it is about the fluid medium of the air and how to read its movements through the substrates it affects. The largest one that can register the largest movements of the wind, being the seas and lagoons that surround Venice itself. Water when affected by winds on its surface has effects of its own. 

Recently in the Azores I had a few varied encounters with water that led me to consider it. The thermal pools in the volcanic crater of Furnas emitted steam and sulfuric vapor. Some have never stopped bubbling. The island’s location on the Gulf Stream places it on a migration path for many whales, dolphins, and other sea life. Diving with wild dolphins I had to ask, how close are they to me? How many can there be when they appear from below a horizon of blue where I can perceive no more light? It was at the eco resort’s infinity pool that appeared continuous with the sea that I could fathom the optical qualities of water. 

Water acts as a lens and distorts reality, especially in terms of shape and proximity. It bends light and eventually diminishes it. When static, the domed meniscus forms a convex lens that, like our own eyes, inverts reality. If water distorts vision and water is distorted by wind then perhaps this confluence can lend another form of perception of our reality. We live in the fluid medium of the air. It conditions all of our thoughts and is inscribed in our built environment, yet we are oblivious to it as the most fundamental aspect of our existence. 

Perhaps this is already legible in our own physiology. Our inner-ears regulate our sense of orientation and balance. A fluid passes the spiral form of the cochlea to regulate our entire vestibular system—one of the many senses beyond the five we typically consider. Is it any coincidence that the inner ear shares its spiral form with the vortices that all fluid movement inevitably forms? Our bodies are a condition of fluid. The work I’d like to make for Venice should speak first to this sense and create a sensitivity for our fluid reality.

All vortices move in clockwise or counter clockwise directions. Onto these two other dualities can be superimposed.

Contributed by: Haseeb Ahmed