akA / CloudFarm
The quality of groundwater is heavily affected by modern life: industrial discharges, urban activities, waste disposal and other human activities contaminate drinking and irrigation water with undesirable pollutants. Looking for innovative ways to supply agricultural fields with clean water, artist Rihards Vitols is currently experimenting with a new type of agronomy that relies on “cloud-farming”. In his scenario, farmers will raise thousands of helium balloons above their land to collect water from the cloud.
“akA” originated as an artwork centered around the theme of clouds. My initial fascination revolved around the collection and preservation of data from the clouds above my great-grandparents’ land. To accomplish this, I began gathering data by launching weather balloons equipped with moisture and temperature sensors, filled with helium.
However, a peculiar development occurred when I noticed that these balloons were gradually losing altitude over time. Intrigued, I retrieved one of the balloons to inspect it, suspecting a possible leak. To my surprise, I discovered small water droplets accumulating on the balloon’s surface. Coincidentally, during that autumn, discussions about the future of water resources and the impact of pollution on groundwater were prevalent among the people around me. It was at this juncture that the idea to collect water from clouds was born.
I coined this work “akA,” a palindrome that translates to “a well” in English. The choice of a palindrome emphasized that the water source was from the sky rather than the depths of the Earth. As this project unfolded on a farm, it led to the concept of creating a “CloudFarm.” To bring this vision to life, I enlisted the expertise of architect Ivars Veinbergs to help design the concept for the farm. The CloudFarm project is an ongoing endeavor, with a focus on developing more efficient methods for water collection, purification, and storage.
The journey began with the concept of collecting data from clouds, intending to create an installation that would replicate uniform clouds within 70-liter glass wine jars both offline and in real-time. However, as I discovered the possibility of collecting water from clouds, the significance of this data took on a new dimension. It now serves the purpose of informing prospective land buyers about the cultivable potential of the sky over the land.
Data was collected in four places on the property. Having lots of numbers is not an easy task to show them in a readable manner. Therefore I created two different data visualizations. The first is graphical images which show the difference between temperature and humidity. The second one is 3D objects which show humidity in the clouds, more abstract shape means more humidity.
I, along with Ivars Veinbergs, have been intermittently working on this aspect of the project. We are still in the process of devising a seamless approach to address various challenges, including launching balloons without issues, collecting water without necessitating their retrieval, purifying the collected water, and maintaining the gas within the balloons without the need for bringing them down for refueling. In the interim, I’d like to share some of the sketches that we’ve been collaborating on.
– 2018 23 February – 20 May, “The Future State”, Arsenals Exhibition Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art, LV
– 2018 6 – 10 February, “Experimenta”, Arts Science Biennale, Grenoble, FR
– 2016 30 September, “Researchers’Night”, Liepaja University, Liepaja, LV
– 2016 1 July – 25 September, “Weather or Not”, MU gallery, Eindhoven, NL
– 2016 9 – 11 May, “Balance Unbalance”, Manizales, CO
– 2015 7 October – 7 November, “North. Transformative Ecologies”, RIXC gallery, Riga, LV
– 2015 19 – 30 August, “Transformative Ecologies”, Maison du Design, Monsa, BE
– 2015 20 – 24 May, “Virtuosi”, KIBLA Multimedia Center, Maribor, SI
– 2015 17 April – 17 May, “Virtuosi”, RIXC gallery, Riga, LV