04/28/2014 09:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

These Fake Styrofoam 'Waves' Are Meant To Illuminate The Ways Of The Universe

The Swiss artist Zimoun wants to confuse you. A "sound artist," he takes cues from frenzied natural systems like beehives and anthills, bringing their essence indoors, where viewers wouldn't expect it. His latest installation spans the length of a building on the grounds of the Museo d'Arte in Switzerland. It's an elegant representative of his oeuvre: a hidden system of ventilators combined with hundreds of styrofoam peanuts -- the kind used in packing boxes -- creates the illusion of a great line of waves.

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As you move closer, the illusion falls away. The sound of the polystyrene hitting the windows -- a gentle tick-ticking the exhibit brochure compares to "a thin but insistent rain" -- is no longer primary. (You can hear the ticking in the video below.)

Now there is also the buzzing of the ventilators. And there's a visual twist: the "waves" do not actually extend the length of the hall. They are a series of small eruptions the width of each window, each mini tempest powered by four ventilators apiece.

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The brochure describes the installation in scientific terms: it "recalls experiments on blizzards, waves breaking in glass tubes, the swarming of insects in glass cases."



This is a deliberate link. By showing his installation to be "mechanical rather than natural" at close quarters, Zimoun hopes to reveal something about the universe, according to the text: "the absolute precision of the mechanisms lying behind the unpredictability of all phenomena."



Plus, it's gorgeous.