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ART: Nils Volker’s ‘One Hundred and Eight’

At first glance at Nils Volker’s One Hundred and Eight appears elusive. Literally, one hundred and eight plastic bags appear to breath in and out as viewers pass from one end of Volker’s installation to the other. Huh?
The first thing that comes to mind when watching One Hundred and Eight is Sam Mendes satirical suburban drama, American Beauty. Specifically, the scene where Ricky shows Jane the video he took of a plastic bag in the wind, explaining to her that he has discovered there is “an entire life behind things”. There is indeed an entire life behind One Hundred and Eight because it is interactive with its viewers, operating beyond what the eyes can see.

OneHundredandEight Volker2010 ART: Nils Volker’s One Hundred and Eight

Through skillful engineering and experimental artistry Nils Volker’s plastic bags inhale and exhale as a result of an Arduino, which controls CPU cooling fans by expelling air into the bags or sucking it out. This way the wall of plastic bags seems always to breath creating mesmerizing patterns. And the buck doesn’t stop there! Additionally, a sensor communicates with the installation to detect if someone is standing within a given distance of the piece in order to then coordinate the inflating and deflating of the bags in sync with the movement of the body.
While all of this may sound high tech, One Hundred and Eight is really just an elegant exhibit of today’s available technology. But there is also something hauntingly human about watching a wall of inanimate objects respond to your movement– poetic, no doubt, in its delicate complexity.

When asked why One Hundred and Eight? Volker responded, “[T]here is this nice aspect that this number has a few more meanings. I basically like it when art (and it’s title) is somehow easy accessible but when it offers a second, deeper level in which the viewer may interpret whatever he likes.” One Hundred and Eight suspends the viewers curiosity insofar as, the more you watch it the more fascinating the experience becomes.

By: Mary Smith

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