The Powerhouse Ultimo has announced its Australian premiere of Atmospheric Memory, which is due to run from 12 August to 5 November. Conceived by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, this exhibition takes centre stage at this year’s Sydney Science Festival, setting the tone for nine days of wonder and discovery.

Atmospheric Memory brings to life the uncharted spaces where art, science and technology coalesce. It draws upon the Blockbuster Funding Initiative’s robust support from the NSW Government, guaranteeing a significant highlight in the NSW cultural calendar.

Powerhouse Ultimo - Atmospheric Memory

Charles Babbage is Lozano-Hemmer’s muse for ‘Atmospheric Memory’ – a XIX Century computer pioneer who conjectured that the air around us is a library, storing every sound, motion and uttered word. This concept, radical in Babbage’s era, has found relevance in our contemporary digital life, where we obsess over documenting, remembering and accessing the past.

Lozano-Hemmer brings this abstract notion to life in a uniquely tangible way. Visitors are drawn into an immersive universe where atmospheric vibrations translate into a symphony of sights, sounds, and touch. Voice-activated fountains shape words into ephemeral wisps of water vapour, and a corridor filled with over 3000 natural and unnatural sounds offers a unique sonic tapestry.

Related: A Line, A Web, A World at Powerhouse

‘Atmospheric Memory’: A stunning sensory work by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Powerhouse Ultimo

As the host, Powerhouse Ultimo does not merely provide a backdrop for the exhibition, but lends a crucial dimension to it. A carefully curated selection of 50 objects from the museum’s collection nestles alongside Lozano-Hemmer’s installations, providing historical context and highlighting the connection between past and future. Highlights include Babbage’s Difference Engine No 1, a mechanical marvel that anticipated the modern computer, and Thomas Edison’s tinfoil phonograph, one of the earliest sound recording and playback devices.

The jewel in the exhibition’s crown is the world’s first 3D-printed speech bubble. This feature epitomises the spirit of Atmospheric Memory – a daring union of history and future, tradition and innovation, encased within a compelling narrative structure.

‘Atmospheric Memory’: A stunning sensory work by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Powerhouse Ultimo

“The development of Atmospheric Memory at the Powerhouse is a collaborative process between the artist and museum, and we are excited to share this incredible experience with our visitors,” says Powerhouse’s chief executive, Lisa Havilah.

The exhibition challenges us to ponder the traces we leave behind and the ripple effects they will generate in our world. Visiting this exhibition is not merely about viewing, but full participation and exploration.

Running 12 August – 5November 2023, Atmospheric Memory is an evocative reflection on our shared histories and futures. Supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW Blockbusters Funding Initiative, it was originally produced by Manchester International Festival and commissioned alongside the Science and Industry Museum (UK), FutureEverything, ELEKTRA / Arsenal Contemporary Art, Montreal and Carolina Performing Arts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project is also funded in part by the Government of Canada.

Powerhouse Museum

Jason Lock, Mariana Yåñez, Olivier Groulx

‘Atmospheric Memory’: A stunning sensory work by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at Powerhouse Ultimo
Powerhouse Ultimo - Atmospheric Memory
Powerhouse Ultimo - Atmospheric Memory

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