When the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake struck the coast of Japan, it triggered energy waves so powerful that the Earth shifted on its axis, shortening the length of the day by 1.8 microseconds. Artist Janet Echelman used the incredible event as the inspiration behind 1.8 (One Point Eight), a billowing and ethereal net sculpture that soars through the air of the Washington, D.C. Renwick Gallery. The immersive aerial artwork and textile carpet, made from reclaimed fishing nets, map the energy released across the Pacific Ocean in a beautiful interpretation of the awe-inspiring wonders (and dangers) of nature.
Created as part of the Renwick Gallery’s ongoing “Wonder” exhibit, Echelman’s woven 1.8 sculpture is the largest of museum’s nine site-specific installations. The suspended artwork was created from many layers of twine—51 miles in total—knotted by hand into shapes informed by NASA’s and NOAA’s Tohoku earthquake data sets. “As individuals we may feel fragile, like a length of thread,” said Echelman, “but when knotted together we have the capacity for incredible strength and resiliency.”
The voluminous artwork stretches across the 100-foot length of the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon. Wall-mounted oscillating fans push air through the sculpture, gently bringing the amorphous shape to life as programmed color LEDs bathe the artwork in vivid hues that change from warm reds and oranges to cool blues and purples. The immersive piece even turns the four surrounding walls into canvases for dancing shadow art.
A description of 1.8 on Echelman’s website reads: “The artwork reminds us of our complex interdependencies with larger cycles of time and matter. Its physical presence is a manifestation of interconnectedness – when any one element in the sculpture moves, every other element is affected.”
In contrast to the multicolored net, the carpet, also designed by Echelman, is monochromatic. The 4,000-square-foot textile floor was made from regenerated nylon fibers repurposed from old fishing nets and mimic the shapes of aerial topography. Beanbags and chairs are strewn across the carpet, inviting viewers to lie down and soak in the hypnotic experience from below. Janet Echelman’s 1.8 will be on display at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. until May 8, 2016.
Images © Lucy Wang, non-watermarked image © Ron Blunt