Rain-activated art to brighten your day
November 27, 2017 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Tiffany Quon, a third-year engineering student at the University of British Columbia, has used a hydrophobic spray to create a public art installation on the UBC campus that only appears when it rains. (UBC is in Vancouver, one of the rainiest cities in Canada.) Quon also designed the images and hand-lettering in the piece, which was part of Thrive Week, promoting mental health for the UBC community.

and Instagram, which feature more of her designs
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The world needs more designer / developer / engineers.
posted by signal at 7:53 AM on November 27 [3 favorites]


The linked story says that she is "working with a type of hydrophobic spray." Not that she "designed" the spray. In the video the bottle she uses is labeled Rainworks Invisible Spray. You can get your very own.
posted by beagle at 8:00 AM on November 27 [11 favorites]


Thanks for the correction, beagle--I'll ask the mods to change my post.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:07 AM on November 27


From the Rainworks website:

Please note that Rainworks Invisible Spray will not make you invisible.

posted by signal at 8:07 AM on November 27 [51 favorites]


[Tweaked the post language, carry on.]
posted by cortex at 8:13 AM on November 27 [4 favorites]


Please note that Rainworks Invisible Spray will not make you invisible.

But will the hydrophobic properties give you rabies?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:26 AM on November 27 [12 favorites]


I've seen demos of hydrophobic coatings before and thought they would be perfect for this sort of thing. I'm eagerly waiting for graffiti artists to start incorporating the stuff into their wall art.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on November 27 [4 favorites]


I will pay this woman to come treat my driveway. I would love for my house to have secret happy messages to be revealed only on rainy days.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:39 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


This is very cool.
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on November 27


Wonderful effect with such a simple technique. Very nice.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:05 AM on November 27


I'd love to know more about the durability of the spray, what kinds of surfaces it can be used on, how it degrades, and its effect on the environment as it breaks down.. because I've got a lot of creative friends and we live with a climate that gives us three to four times as much rain as Vancouver apparently receives.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:07 AM on November 27 [3 favorites]


Mass Poetry and the city of Boston have been spraying only-after-it-rains poetry in local spaces for a couple years now.
posted by adamg at 9:08 AM on November 27 [6 favorites]


Have hydrophobic coatings finally reached the point where that won't just wear off in a week? Last I'd heard that was the big complaint with all the "look, we just dunked these Keds into chocolate sauce and they came out clean!" videos - neat in concept, not very useful in practice if you have to reapply the sealant every couple of weeks.

Might've been better off with something like a silane-based concrete sealer which still probably would provide the right effect (it sheets water beautifully for a few years), but stands up to wear better.
posted by Kyol at 9:13 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The fact that the hopscotch one is dry only on the outlines of the squares will make for good videos of students busting their tailbones for her other, more sinister, project.
posted by hoborg at 9:18 AM on November 27 [5 favorites]


having spent way too much of my life on the UBC campus in the f***ing rain, let me say the only problem with this art work is that it comes way too late
posted by philip-random at 9:23 AM on November 27 [6 favorites]




Have hydrophobic coatings finally reached the point where that won't just wear off in a week?

Like with chalk, I strongly suspect that impermanence is a feature rather than a bug for Quon. Otherwise people would be getting just as pissed as if she'd spray-painted the sidewalk.

To answer you question, there's been a lot of exciting research on durably hydrophoic coatings recently.
posted by bonehead at 9:25 AM on November 27 [2 favorites]


Neat!
posted by kyrademon at 9:26 AM on November 27




I can't imagine it lasting even 2 months on a surface that's being walked over. Every hydrophobic coating I've ever worked with wore off way faster than expected, and that was on smooth glass not flakable concrete.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:40 AM on November 27


Her music notes look backwards unless its supposed to be read upside down...
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


(But i like this idea)
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on November 27


I imagine the toughest part would be finding a day when it wasn't raining to apply it.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:58 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Every hydrophobic coating I've ever worked with wore off way faster than expected, and that was on smooth glass not flakable concrete.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd expect things to flake off of smooth glass *faster* than a surface with "grip" like concrete. Like, I know window clings like nice clean glass, but when it comes to actually spraying something to adhere, I'd figure things might flake off of glass more easily.
posted by explosion at 10:28 AM on November 27 [2 favorites]


The video is well worth watching to see them dumping the buckets of water to reveal the art.
posted by gracenote at 10:38 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


The world needs more designer / developer / engineers.

Yes we do, but stories like this from ten years ago explain, at least in the US, why you have so few. Because police in America are trigger happy and ready to label anything that has a circuitboard and wiring as a "bomb."

Also, don't forget when promotional material for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie also resulted in "bomb scares." More formally known as the 2007 Boston Mooninite Panic.

Americans are still quite likely to jump to conclusions about what any kind of electronic device is. As a Sanders supporter, to this day I still groan when thinking about how so many were convinced a CISCO WiFi Router was a "white noise generator" to drown out Sanders supporters.

People just see stuff with wires coming out of it and start making up what it does in their own mind.

My only guess as to why we don't see more in the USA is due to stuff like this is that, at least in this country, people are far, far too ready to jump to conclusions about electronics in general, not just artistic installations.

(I know this project doesn't actually involve electronics, I'm just pointing out my personal memories involving art/engineering projects where public reception/perception went very badly.)

Anyway, otherwise, I totally agree. This project is amazing and we need more engineer artists.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:30 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Very cool.

Also nice that she did this here in Vancouver where it will be basically visible all the damn time.
posted by bowline at 12:49 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Her music notes look backwards unless its supposed to be read upside down...

The whole thing is backwards, you can compare it with this.
posted by signal at 1:31 PM on November 27


Re: the hopscotch orientation, did they flip the photo and not realize, or did she apply her stencil backwards? It doesn't seem like it's meant to be read upside down, because if it were the house would also have been upside down (and ostensibly they would've taken the photo the other direction).
posted by limeonaire at 2:16 PM on November 27


having spent way too much of my life on the UBC campus in the f***ing rain, let me say the only problem with this art work is that it comes way too late

Aaaaaaaamen. I attended in the wide-legged jeans era and spent a lot of my life with jeans soaked up to my knees after walking from Totem Park to Buchanan. That walk would have taken me right by this and today's youth get to wear slim fit pants, the lucky ducks.

(even with the rain, easily among the most beautiful university campuses in Canada and I still miss it)
posted by urbanlenny at 2:18 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


When I was ten my younger brother let a frienemy named Andy sleep over. Back then we thought he was a strange child, but putting ketchup on his pancakes is the only offence I can still recall. The next morning Andy forgot his toothpaste in our bathroom. Us being goofy kids, we decided to use the toothpaste to write "Andy is dumb" on the pavement in our courtyard. Our parents were not impressed, so we had to scrape it off with a plastic shovel. That summer afternoon while we were playing outside it started to rain, and the graffiti came back to life with a foamy vengeance. We couldn't get rid of it. Fortunately it (sorta) faded away once the pavement dried, but for the rest of that summer every time it rained the toothpaste graffiti would let everyone know what we thought of Andy.
posted by furtive at 4:19 PM on November 27 [7 favorites]


The Rainworks guy is actually pretty interesting too. Here is a talk he gave at the UW TedX I attended.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:55 PM on November 27


I kept expecting dickbutt to appear.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:06 PM on November 27


UBC alumni represent!

It is a gorgeous campus, even when wet. I miss it. But I sure would have liked it even more with Tiffany Quon's rain art!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:21 PM on November 27


Can one of you UBCers explain to me where this is? I'm on campus through Wednesday, but I don't have any idea where anything is (except the rain, it is in the sky, possibly always), so I can't figure out how to find this.
posted by nat at 6:04 PM on November 27


Yup, Rainworks is a product of Seattlites, yet another rainy city, by people not too much older than Quon herself.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:04 PM on November 27


UBC has changed a bit since I went there, but in the article it says the installations are on Main Mall (main walkway, you can't miss it). I thought I saw the Engineering Cairn in the video but it was very quick. Start at Angus (Business Building) or Scarfe (Education Building) and walk towards the cairn/engineering buildings--that looked like the most likely spot to me. I'm sure it'll be raining at least one of the days you're there...
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:48 PM on November 27


This makes me wonder if UBC has gotten any better at actually supporting students with mental health issues in the years since I graduated.

I mean, I'd like to think fewer students now are struggling through finals with counselors that at most have a solid 15 minutes of time to offer, academic advisors who ignore obvious ways to help and seemingly come and go at random, and university-referred psychiatrists who do shit like go on vacation unannounced and let Effexor prescriptions lapse right before a week of exams...but somehow I'm not that optimistic.
posted by wakannai at 12:30 AM on November 28


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