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This breathtaking interactive art environment gave visitors the chance to see, hear and even touch the sounds that travel through the atmosphere.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's Atmospheric Memory scoured the sky for the voices of our past. Inspired by computing pioneer Charles Babbage's 180-year-old proposal that the air is a 'vast library' holding every word ever spoken, Atmospheric Memory asked: was Babbage right? Can we rewind the air to recreate long-lost voices? And if so, whose would we want to hear? 

An array of 'Atmospheric Machines' mined the air for turbulence caused by speech, then transformed it into trails of vapour, ripples on water, epic 360-degree projections. These artworks were presented alongside a section of Babbage's Analytical Engine, constructed by his youngest son. This calculating engine is a rare object in the prehistory of computing and a highlight of the Science Museum Group's collection.

Staged in a custom-built chamber, Atmospheric Memory explored the beautiful tumult of the air we breathe—and ultimately celebrated the transience of the sounds that fleetingly live within it.


Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Science and Industry Museum, FutureEverything, ELEKTRA / Arsenal Contemporary Art, Montreal and Carolina Performing Arts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Produced by Manchester International Festival and curated with FutureEverything and Science and Industry Museum. 

Supported by Wellcome. 

Accompanied by an education programme supported by The Granada Foundation.

FutureEverything presents Future Sessions: Atmospheric Memory 

A programme of talks, walking tours and conversations exploring the themes and technologies of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s breathtaking new work, Atmospheric Memory.

Photo: Miguel Legault/Antimodular