Salt Room Rocks | Leonardo/ISAST

Salt Room Rocks

By Vidhu Aggarwal
Daiane Lopes Da Silva in Red Hot Salt Room, Djerassi
Daiane Lopes Da Silva in Red Hot Salt Room, Djerassi

I’ve come to Djerassi Science Delirium after a trip to The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) to work on poems that play with, if not completely pervert and mangle, physics concepts. I'm also writing poems on A.I. So I was completely geeked out to meet Daiane Lopes Da Silva, dancer/choreographer and Weidong Yang, choreographer/physicist, who are collaborating on “Mapping the Neuron of Artificial Subconsciousness,” a project that translates A.I. and social networking into dance! 

Separately and together, Daiane and I both gushed on and on about this little hut on stilts—one wall a plexiglass window—on the top of a hill along the hiking trail.  I called it a “sauna.” She called it “a little house.”  We were talking about the Red Hot Salt Room, an interactive sculpture by Annie Albagli. You climb into it and sweat. We were both equally obsessed. On my first visit, I sat inside and baked, while drawing a strange insect that had settled on the window. Volcanic rocks lay on the floor in a line. 

I found out that Wei had trained a telescope on the Salt Room from the barn, creating a circular image on a camera he attached to the telescope’s viewfinder. This telescopic view gave the Red Hot Salt Room the feel of a watchtower under surveillance. With my talent for infinite ridiculousness, I joked with Daiane that she and Wei could do a proton Flavor Flav quark dance: they could stuff three dancers (quarks flavors) in the Salt Room and record them via the telescope, to represent the impossible desire to see and capture the operations of fundamental particles.  Daiane had already danced around the space with a large white cloth, and with another dancer, but it turned out the telescope could only “see” the windowless side of the Salt Room, so any movements inside the small cabin were obscured.

So Daiane said, “Come with me to the little house” and let’s see what will happen. We sat inside and chatted and looked out on the hills.  She had already brought erasable crayons on a previous trip.  There were colorful drawings on the window. The room didn’t feel like the heart of a proton.  It felt like a treehouse, private and peaceable, and a bit domestic, even though we knew a telescope was out there tracking us. I stepped outside and Daiane improvised a dance, while I recorded on my phone. She wrote pink words all over the window.  My only input was: Draw a mask, draw a mask, a face on the window!” (I have been writing about masks).  She did!  Then mopped the pink mask and all the pink words with her loose hair. The domestic grew feral.