MoMA's Rain Room

MoMA’s Rain Room

The rainy weather today reminded me of the Rain Room exhibit that was featured by MoMA this summer. This installation was immediately popular and attracted large crowds of tourists and New Yorkers alike! After hearing about this unique installation, my friend and I went to see what all the fuss was about.

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The rain room opened its doors on May 12th, 2013, and closed its doors on July 28th, but don’t let this short amount of time fool you! From its opening day to its closing, the Rain Room’s line had grown exponentially. The Rain Room was housed in a vacant lot on 54th Street, next to MoMA, and was open during regular museum hours. MoMA had actually extended the closing hour of the exhibit to midnight on the last day, due to extremely high demand!

MoMA members and corporate cardholders were given preferential entry over the general public, but even they had to wait in long lines, sometimes reaching four hours. They were able to enter the installation before it opened to the public, but even this wasn’t enough. This line alone was more than halfway down the block. Some members of the general public purchased a membership just to be put on a shorter, but not faster, line. The general public lines sometimes stretched to eight hours. Due to of the large volume of anxious visitors, a visiting-only queue was introduced. This allowed viewers to walk alongside the exhibit, but not under it. This line was shorter, but did not make a dent in the line for the actual installation.

Only ten people were allowed in at a time, since the space needed to fully experience the installation was limited. MoMA provided a suggested time of ten minutes, but after waiting in line for much longer, staying over their suggested time seemed justifiable! Pictures and video were highly encouraged, as MoMA actually provided a link where visitors could upload their pictures and view others on a constant online stream.

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The installation was created by Random International. It features one hundred square meters of rain, but feel free to walk through it – I promise you won’t need an umbrella! Random International used special technology, including sensors and cameras that can detect your movement. Once your movement has been recognized, the rain around you will stop, almost as if a floating umbrella was protecting you from the moisture. Water is cycled continuously through the floor, treated, and then sent back to the upper grid to fall again. It was fascinating and dreamlike. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of rain, but this was a different experience. To be standing in the midst of a downpour and not get drenched was a little weird at first, but it quickly grew on me.

The exhibit is not only visual, but also encompasses your auditory and olfactory senses as well. As you walk through the room, surrounded – but not touched by rain – the sound overwhelms you. It becomes both a white noise in the background yet the focus of your hearing. It’s hard to really ‘hear’ rain when standing under an umbrella or in your house or through a window of your car. The sensation of this familiar yet new sound is overwhelming. The smell, however, is all too familiar – it is your typical wet rainy day smell.

Random International hoped that the very interactive exhibit would give visitors the illusion of controlling rain, and it did not disappoint! I found myself in complete awe as I walked throughout the area. The walls were not distracting, but complimented the overall atmosphere. Similarly, the lights were placed in strategic locations that highlighted the constant stream of rain falling from the ‘ceiling’.

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This is not the first time Random International had installed this famous Rain Room. It was also housed in London from April 4th, 2012 until March 3rd, 2013 at The Curve gallery. There, it also received an overwhelming number of guests and press.

This exhibit was astounding. I wish it didn’t close so soon, because I would have definitely liked to revisit it. The concept and execution of the idea was flawless, and I applaud Random International for their work. The Rain Room was an experience that you just won’t get standing outside on a day like today!