Infrastructural Membranes

Exhibited in April 2022 at Ferst Arts Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, US. Video: Cassidy Whittle. Video editing: Noura Howell. Music: Noura Howell.

View from the inside of a large inflatable. Sheets of white and silver make up the side of a curvy tunnel. Light from the outside shines in.

A feeling, breathing, sensing, sensory space of light, sound, textures, and shifting walls. Photo credit: Cassidy Whittle: Photo editing: Noura Howell.

View from the outside of a large inflatable, a big tube about 8 feet in diameter. It makes a right angle bend and the viewer is in the inside of the 'elbow' angle. There are some smaller tubes twisting around the outside. The inflatable is white plastic with some stripes of silver foil

Infrastructural Membranes is an inflatable sculpture that explores taken-for-granted infrastructures of data, air, and feeling. It's about celebrating those infrastructures and bringing them into plain view, and also speculatively reimagining some of those infrastructures from a critical feminist perspective. Larger than a small studio apartment, this pop-up sculpture takes up space and calls attention to the tubes, systems, and structures weaving through and under and around daily life - whether HVAC systems that monitor and optimize air in modern buildings, gargantuan bundles of cables spanning the globe for the internet, or emergent surveillance structures that measure and distort emotions.

It contrasts and reimagines much of what we take for granted about infrastructure. The form of the sculpture is inspired by HVAC tubes and data pipes - but an unexpected bend, an imperfect twist - not only channeling, but distorting and transforming its contents in unpredictable ways. The looming white and silver surfaces refuse to mimic the smoothness and cleanliness so often expected of new technology; its surface is wrinkled, crinkled, and dirty, collecting traces of what and who came through before. Its pipes are soft, and visitors can can touch and poke and pat and hug. Visitors can go inside the big pipe and experience its sensory transformations: a space of swaying translucent walls and ceiling, stretched shadows, and a soundscape of humming fans, crinkling foil, and distorted buzzing.

Infrastructural Membranes was exhibited in April 2022 at Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech.

A woman inside the inflatable reaches her hand up to touch the side inner curving surface.

Visitors could touch and poke and pat the shifting curving surfaces of the inflatable as they swayed in the breeze. Photo credit: Cassidy Whittle. Photo editing: Noura Howell.

A woman inside the inflatable presses her hand against the surface of the inflatable, matching the hand press from someone outside the inflatable.

People played across the translucency of the membrane, pressing their hands together from inside and outside. Photo credit: Cassidy Whittle. Photo editing: Noura Howell.

A person is seen from behind entering the inflatable through an unzipped vertical slit at the end of the tube.

Passers-through could enter and exit through zippered openings at either end. Photo credit: Cassidy Whittle. Photo editing: Noura Howell.

A black large speaker sits on the ground on the inside of the inflatable. On either side, black small air ducts enter the inflatable through holes cut in the side of the inflatable. The ducts reach down to the floor. Out of ducts come silver streamers. There is some black tape on the floor.
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The natural sounds of the humming fan and swaying, crinkling surfaces were complemented by a soundtrack composed from field recordings of infrastructural machinery. Photo credit: Cassidy Whittle. Photo editing: Noura Howell. Music: Noura Howell.

Press Coverage

Video credit: Cassidy Whittle. Whittle, C.C. 2022. Howell Exhibits Inflatable Sculpture Exploring Data, Air, and Feeling. School of Literature, Media, and Communication News and Events.


I inherited the base tube of this inflatable and reshaped it. It was originally a 50 foot long tube. I bent the tube into an L shape, added the smaller tubes on the outside, and changed the locations of the silver foil stripes. I also composed the soundtrack and am currently working on integrating sensors and actuators into the inflatable for more computational interactivity.

The original 50 foot long inflatable tube was designed and built by architecture assistant professor Shawn Protz and the students of his fall 2021 project studio: Jasmyn Byrd, Miguel Castellanos, Alexis Elkins, Jessica Hall, Micah Holdsworth, Lalith Mallikeshwaran Rajagopal Sambasivan, Chris Noel, Oluwarotimi Osiberu, Rushabh Patel, Dylan Scallan, and Abigail Uhrich. I collaborated with them in fall 2021.

These collaborators also put together a video showcasing the sensory qualities of the variety of inflatables they created.