During this season’s New York Fashion Week, Refinery29 hosted its third-annual funhouse of style, culture and technology, filled with interactive art installations where guests go from room to room as they’re immersed in a variety of sensory experiences. The event, 29Rooms, draws social media hype weeks before its doors officially open and lines comparable to that of new sneaker releases.
This year, singing sisters Chloe x Halle collaborated with artist-designer Benjamin Shine to produce a room in which a moving sculpture accompanied a composed song of theirs via headphones, creating a hypnotic visual and auditory presentation for its visitors. We caught up with the artists to get details on their collaboration process and how the exhibition came to fruition.
CHLOE X HALLE:
What was the creative process behind the composed piece played in your installation for 29Rooms?
The original plan was to have a full original song of ours to play in the headphones. But then we all decided that we wanted something more and outside of the box. The music that was going to be played under had to be just as spectacular and artful as the sculpture.
Was the piece specially composed for the purpose of being used in this space?
Yes, it was! We looked at photos of the piece Benjamin shared with us and pulled inspiration from our bond as sisters. We wanted to musically show that synergy and love. Harmonies and backgrounds are our favorite part to arrange, so it only took about 20 minutes to complete. First we laid down vocals, and once we got the vibe we wanted [we] added some subtle synths and FX to build suspense. Then it was complete!
How do you think the composed piece paired with the sculpture in the room?
It was in perfect timing with the sculpture. The sculpture rotates, and every time the song begins again, it’s a new cycle of the rotation. The feeling of the musical piece also goes hand-in-hand with the sculpture.
What vibe did you want visitors to have in your space at 29Rooms?
We definitely wanted the visitors to get lost in the music! We wanted the piece to feel very spacey, inspirational and ethereal. I think that was executed! We were happy people responded so well to it.
What was the creative process like creating this piece for the 29Rooms installation?
It was new territory to me in every sense, from the new construction technique through to the idea of combining audio and visual to create this installation experience.
How long did it take to finish the actual sculpture?
About three weeks in my studio and almost a week in the venue. In total, about 100 hours.
What material(s) is it composed of?
A very fine metal mesh that was hand-manipulated to give the appearance of smoke.
Where did the idea(s) come from to create a piece like this? What was the inspiration behind creating the piece (other than Chloe x Halle)?
The idea grew from an amalgamation of references — from the self-supporting metal construction technique I have been developing for several years to the concept of ‘Harmony,’ which seemed so intrinsic to Chloe and Halle as sisters and their music.
My work with tulle and translucent materials explores the relationship between the superficial and the spiritual. In a time of overwhelming mass distraction and high-speed information I sense a great need for opportunities to reconnect with the true self. My work aims to provide a moment of focus and reflection, where the viewer is drawn in [and] captivated to the degree that they slow down to literally make sense of what they are seeing — to hopefully elicit a form of meditation that results in a moment of clarity. In the case of this installation, the helix slowly rotates from a cloud of chaos into clarity: into harmony.
How is this piece different from other things you create (if at all)?
This piece is completely different in every way from my previous works, from its construction in metal to its kinetic element of rotating to morph from an abstract to representational piece. It is also the first time I have collaborated with musicians to create an audio-visual installation of this nature. It was particularly poignant for the viewers to wear headphones to become even more invested in immersing themselves in the experience [and] to be cut off from external distractions. In an exhibition that was designed as a fun house, it was a great test bed to see if the piece could achieve this. I have been really delighted that people have shared images and footage of the piece and described it as ‘mesmerizing’ and ‘hypnotic’ — two words that were the sole intention for this piece so I am really excited to continue developing this form of work.
What was your favorite part about collaborating with Chloe x Halle for this project?
To have the opportunity to work with true talent is a great privilege. Seeing how we both developed the concepts in our different mediums was fascinating and pushed us both to try something different, which is always a good thing!