Oxygen Flute is a breathing memorial



Noah Berger photo

30 October 2002 |

Step inside a silicone-sheathed capsule, resembling a small greenhouse, outside the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and you’ll find yourself amid 58 live bamboo stalks, tomato seedlings, sauna-like heat, and slightly dissonant background music. You have just entered “Oxygen Flute 2.0,” where, with each breath, visitors and the work’s bamboo plantings exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, while a computer monitors the cycle and generates synthesized bamboo-flute music.

The interactive artwork was installed by Greg Niemeyer, assistant professor of art, technology and culture, and Chris Chafe, director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University. One of their purposes in creating the work, they say, was to commemorate the 58 Chinese emigrants who suffocated in an unventilated shipping container en route to England in the spring of 2001.

An official opening ceremony for Oxygen Flute 2.0 is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4. It will feature a concert presentation of “Ping,” a collaboration by Niemeyer and Chafe; a jazz saxophone/Oxygen Flute 2.0 duet featuring Bay Area musician Anton Schwartz; and a talk about the project by Dana Plautz, director of research communications at Intel Corp.


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