You've Never Seen An Igloo Quite Like This

Ian Brill's 'Plume' turns the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts into a vibrant dome-shaped audio-visual installation.

Artist Ian Brill meant for Plume, his vibrant new igloo-shaped audio-visual installation seen above, to premiere at a Brooklyn Warehouse party called The Wander 2014. But when the cops crushed those dreams by raiding his party on New Year’s Eve, Brill packed up and went south, ending up back home in Pittsburgh--the same city where he received his MFA. Here Brill was given an Investing in Professional Artist grant that allowed him to develop and produce Plume inside the mansion-gallery that houses the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

An extension of his earlier work, TransmissionBrill is excited about Plume’s gallery setting and has scaled the piece up to fill the room.

Immersive and spectacular, Plume is illuminated by programmable lights inside of interlocking slats that come together as white bricks that Brill used to build the form. Designed, programmed, and built by Brill, walking through the installation is almost like being abducted into the technicolor walls of the gallery.

The space appears to shrink and swell as fluctuating patterns of light make up and then deform its boundaries by cycling through a vast collection of generative lighting arrangements. A specially programmed distribution of sound exaggerates the disorienting sensory combinations.

Lying down inside, which Brill encourages by scattering pillows throughout the space, makes the igloo feel as wondrous as a trip to the planetarium. 

When I asked Brill on the phone about the environmental component of the piece mentioned in the show’s description, he said, “at the same time that we are experiencing and detecting all sorts of alarming patterns and developments with weather, we are also increasingly succumbing to a dependency on and are overwhelming influenced by technology. We are ricocheting around in our minds, from one sensationalist statement to another statistical rebuttal.” Without needing to go to a Red Wood forest or damaged coral reef, Plume reproduces the hectic conversation that defines many of our environmental politics, intervening in them by turning them into a visualization and giving the audience a space for contemplation.

Plume opened in early February and will be up till April 20th at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

All images courtesy of Ian Brill.