The digital age of Aquaria

WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo

An installation inspired by data, water and other environmental information, by architect Amir Gazit, will be on display at the Bookmarks Awards on Thursday 14 November at Artscape in Cape Town.

For the sixth time, the annual awards will celebrate the prowess of South Africa’s digital media industry, with their primary focus being “measurable performance” – results if you will – rather than creativity for creativity’s sake. It’s worth mentioning this data that drives digital acrobatics since they also form the basis of Amir’s work.

Amir was born in Israel, studied in Barcelona, and immigrated to South Africa in 2007 when he became involved in the infrastructure development for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The floating architectural installation on display at the awards is titled Aquaria.

“Aquaria is the physical manifestation of data captured from environmental variables,” says Amir. “I started questioning the role technology plays in our day-to-day lives. We are all connected digitally – many of us have more Facebook friends than the average person met in a lifetime a few hundred years ago. There is no denying that the interaction between people has changed. What was the material that caused this increased connection – and in some cases – increased disconnection? The answer was ‘data’.” 

Amir then pulled various data from environmental elements in South Africa – wind speed, wind direction, humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide emissions – and wrote a programing script for a “living” geometry that would change its form depending on the various elements, for example if the wind blew harder the shape would decrease in volume.

After a year’s worth of collecting, Amir froze the data so that a fixed shape could be captured. The shape was rendered into a physical structure made up of over 2 000 pieces of lightweight plastic. “Like a snowflake, no two pieces are the same,” he explains, “and like water, data is in a constant state of flux – ever changing and flowing. I wanted a name that captured the similarities between the two, and thus named the installation Aquaria.”

Visit to book tickets and to find out more about the awards.