The 3D Waterfall

Julius Popp’s is a German-based digital artist renown for his work Bit.fall –(2005).

bit.fall is a machine that displays words selected from the Internet via drops of falling water in a precise configuration, each word visible momentarily. The original bit.fall is now installed at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania. (See

‘Digital Waterfalls’ – as they are generally called – are now a commodity item that can be bought over the Internet –

Increasingly they feature in shopping malls and other public spaces as decorative elements. The London Olympics used several for instance, see They are however very expensive to buy.

The work we propose is both conceptual and materially aesthetic. Using the mechanics of the bit.fall as an elemental component of an artwork with the preliminary title 3DW.

3DW is an incremental work – to see if suitable technology can be developed Maker style – to a much more ambitious work that will follow involving neural networks and pattern recognition using the same platform.

This proposal is reminiscent of work by the Danish artist Jepp Hein – called “Appearing Rooms” see and bears some passing similarity to the Barbican’s “Rain Room” (see but only in so much as an array of falling water is involved.

The 3DW artwork is conceptual on two levels:

Concept 1: The Maker process.

The work’s realization depends to a large extent on the organization and expertise of Copenhagen’s maker community to design and build the basic bit.fall components that will be re-used in 3DW. The process is particularly important in this artwork, it tests whether a community can self-organize and build a complex piece of machinery, at minimal cost, is an enabling factor in its realization. This phenomena is not without precedence as evident by the Maker 3D printer movement, where hobby scientists from the Maker Culture take great pleasure in building their own 3D printers at a fraction of the cost of commercial models.

To elaborate, the maker community or cultureis a contemporary subculture representing a technology-based extension of the DIY culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker community include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools. The maker culture in Copenhagen is represented by the Labitat “club” (forening) in Frederiksberg (see ).

For a work to be conceptual, it must be repeatable, and as a result documenting the process for the work’s creation is an integral element involving – not just the design actors – but also those engaged in recording these processes. This may involve developing documentation for the engineering, software, sequencing and construction.

The entire maker team is therefore – by definition – part of the creative team effort.

Concept 2: Digital Nature

Popp’s original idea is that the speed that data is exchanged in the information age can be abstracted into an experience for the senses: the feed for the waterfall coming from current news RSS feeds from the Internet.

Bit.fall combined two circulations systems – circulation in nature and circulation in culture. The ephemeral nature of the waterfall emphasizes the temporal importance of the qualities of our culture, exemplified by the newsfeeds.

3DW goes beyond these ideas and is conceptually more complex – even in its material aesthetic form.

Water does not fall in regular patterns – that can usually be indicative of text or images – and it is not the natural medium for displaying digital content: hence the fundamental novelty of Popps bit.fall work.

3DW is partly an attempt to use nature (and water) for an obviously unnatural purpose – as the analogue to a 3D printer – but in so doing it reinforces the notion that familiar electronic display devices – such as LED displays or Retina screens – and less familiar by 3D printers and 3D LED arrays – are entirely artificial electronic artifacts for the rendering of an approximation of images in the natural world.

3DW is therefore the natural world mocking the digital, so original and more convincing as to aesthetically transcend anything in the digital world.

In so doing, 3DW begs us to watch and compels us to rethink the relevance of the digital world to the human notion of aesthetic.

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