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philippechollet.net / humans were water

"humans were water" is an interactive water installation blending real water with digital water.

It questions how our digital world, made of cognitive layers, keeps us away from the essence of things... or not... It is a journey between cognition and sensation, a journey between knowing and feeling...

/ Description /

Aerial videos of water locations, recolored according to Google Maps color codes, are projected onto a 1.5 x 1.5m basin filled with real water. A text-to-speech reader gives the Wikipedia definition of water.

The installation is equipped with sensors that detect water vibrations produced by visitors. When vibrations are generated, the digital mapping the "activated" zone is removed and the real water is revealed. Simultaneously, the text-to-speech reading gets quieter and the real sound of water can be heard...


/ Sketches /


/ Statement /

Nowadays we are peceiving our environment through the prism of cognitive layers. This, to a certain extend, keeps us away from its real nature.


/ Concept /

The various elements that compose "humans were water "converge to question our relation to the environment in time. This, by allowing a journey between a representation of it and the real.

"human were water", asserts the impermanent state of things. Indeed we come from the water, cells produced in the water, then warms, fishes, tetrapods, long lines of bipeds up to humans as we know them today. But what kind of humans are we becoming in these times?

Is this process breaking our ties to the environment? Or should the question be: what is our current environment, what defines it? What will it be?

Installation Setting :

In its relation to the installation, the audience is excluded from the water element (it actually dominates it just like modern man has tried to dominate nature)... at the same time, the audience can truly penetrates it by simply putting the hands in the water.

The installation acts like a magic well where we mirror ourselves. It is a gate we go through to experience, re-experience past and present relation type we share with our environment...

Videos, Animations and Narrative :
The projected videos of the planet are pixilated and interferences effects occur. They are also colorized with on google earth color code basis. This comes with a sound track in which a robotic voice reads the wikipedia water page.

By moving your hands in the water you trigger vibrations that generate the animations. Slow vibrations generate white stains while fast vibrations generate black stains.

You have been translated.

Medium :

("The medium is the massage")

Water is the medium.



/ Photos /



/ Tech /

The project involved the overcoming of several technical challenges.



/ Team /

The project was created and developed by Philippe Chollet.



/ Exhibitions /

The project was exhibited in Siem Reap / Angkor City at the Centre Culturel Francais (CCF) from March 6 to April 20 2008.



/ Support /

Thanks to Interface-z who provided the sensors.

Thanks for their help to Ronan Durand, Sophal Hak, Samuel Bartolin, Chris Lane, Gauthaman Ravindran and Pascale Hancart Petitet.