Visit A New Delhi Sculptural Exhibit That Mimics A Living, Breathing Coral Reef

The sculptural installation
The sculptural installationOrProject

Even after centuries of scientific advancement and rapid technological innovations, coupled with modernization of thought and action, the beauty of the natural world continues to mystify us.

Starting from the top of the highest peaks to the depths of the deep blue oceans, there is so much nature has to offer that still eludes mankind’s knowledge. We are at that stage of history where nature and man are in a constant ecological war —a war that we have no chance of winning. Man is the only species that claim to be the most evolved and yet continues to damage the very home that sustains them. We are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, there was one good thing that emerged out of the imposed global lockdowns. In the absence of human interference, the world’s flora and fauna thrived, restoring some semblance of balance to the ecosystem.

Man’s relationship with nature is not symbiotic. Nature does not require man but humans definitely require the natural world to survive. The Earth had been doing just fine, rather thriving, for aeons before the dawn of human beings. Our relationship with nature is like a one-sided love affair from which we've has already taken too much.

A sculptural installation art exhibit by Orproject is aiming to address man’s current relationship with nature, primarily marine life. The exhibit, Khoral, inspects the autogenic behavior of corals and how they change their environment by changing themselves —a lesson that humans can learn from them in the context of adapting in the face of the imminent ecological threat from climate change.

Name of the exhibition: Khoral

Date: April 14, 2023 (Friday)

Time: 6 – 9 pm (Opening preview)

Venue:  Pulp Society, B-247, Pocket B, Okhla Phase I, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi

On view till: May 13, 2023 (Saturday)

Coral reefs are known as the 'rainforest of the sea'. They are the largest structure on earth of biological origin and home to 25% of all known marine species. They have been around for at least 230 million years, and maintain oceanic ecological harmony despite constituting only 0.1 % of the entire ocean floor. However, over the last four decades, we have witnessed devastating impacts on this diverse ecosystem, owing largely to human intervention. It is predicted that by 2030, 90% of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed by increased ocean pollution, acidification, and global warming. As they die, they lose their vibrant colours and become white or bleached. The loss of this fragile and slow-building ecosystem is unsalvageable.

To raise awareness about this collective loss, Orproject decided to create Khoral. A project weaved together by Rajat Sodhi and Christoph Klemmt, Khoral, is a breathing sculptural installation life that interacts with the visitors to draw their attention to the impending catastrophe awaiting our coral reefs. The anatomy of the installation constitutes three paper sculptures, collectively assembled from flat laser-cut strips which bend to shape as they are serially connected together through adhesive flap joints. Equipped with a customized lighting system, the three forms breathe through their colors, blooming and fading in closely syncopated rhythms; emulating actual coral reefs.

A close-up shot of the sculptural installation
A close-up shot of the sculptural installationSuryan and Dang

"Khôra is a philosophical term described by Plato in Timaeus as a receptacle, space, or an interval. It is neither being nor nonbeing but an interval between in which the forms were originally held."

Rajat Sodhi on the etymology of the project's title.

Thus the idea behind Khoral is to create an in-between space where the humans and nature are aware of each other’s presence, yet the former remains a step away from encroaching a territory that does not belong to it. Sodhi and Klemmt have used computational design to invent architectural structures and immersive installations, as part of their Orproject practice. They encode the chaos and seemingly random behaviors of the natural world into algorithms to computationally bio-mimic and grow similar forms, structures, and spaces.

Khoral’s form generated from a differential line algorithm
Khoral’s form generated from a differential line algorithmOrProject

Visitors are welcome to move around the space of this installation but if they come too close, the color of the installation starts to bleach and turn white. They can peek into the interstitial spaces and feel the reef breathing but also become aware of the consequences of coming too close to the structure. The exhibit is a lesson on human intervention in the natural world and the dangerous repercussions of coming “too close to nature”. Man, with his forever inquisitive mind, should explore and understand the natural world but not harm it in the quest for scientific advancement. That is the essence of Orproject’s exhibit.

The interstitial spaces of the sculptural installation
The interstitial spaces of the sculptural installationOrProject
Khoral loses colour if the viewers are in close proximity to it
Khoral loses colour if the viewers are in close proximity to itOrProject

Orproject is an architecture and design practice set up in 2006, with offices in London, Beijing, and New Delhi. Long before the pandemic hit, Orproject has made a consistent emphasis on the green environment through their work.

"In our installations, we invent ways of building organic forms and doing so by using as little material as possible. We aim to make architecture that is inherently sustainable, earth-regenerative, and earth-restorative instead of an architecture that is earth-exploitative and earth-extractive."

Rajat Sodhi (on their creative process)

You can find out more about Orproject here.

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