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Preservation Is Life

Bryan McCormack's Parisian installation uses colorful condoms to raise AIDS awareness

by Isabelle Doal in Culture on 28 November 2011

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Starting at the facade of Paris' Centre Pompidou and continuing up the six-floor escalator, Bryan McCormack's installation creates a monumental tunnel of colored light bulbs for a mesmerizing effect. The hue changes on every floor to create a dynamic rainbow of cylindrical bulbs, which are covered in glass-like plastic condoms. A grand total of 80,000 bulbs comprise the condom tapestry of the Pompidou's moving staircase, taking the rubbers from typically intimate settings to a public neo-pop display. Their multiplication on such a massive scale changes the way we see them, and the installation, called "Preservation Is Life," provides a beautifully thoughtful message as part of the arts center's annual AIDS fundraising campaign.

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Accompanying the visual showcase is the stunning audio of a human heartbeat to illustrate the concept of preservation as both safety and the act of staying alive. The pulsing changes along with the colors, starting as the cardiac rhythm of a fetus in the womb at the ground floor and progressing to a newborn baby's beating heart and so on, until the sixth and final floor, where riders hear the regular ticking of the 39-year-old artist's own heart. The French title "les sons de la vie" or "the sounds of life" refers to this aspect of the installation.

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The ephemeral installation runs just through 5 December 2011, but the condom-wrapped plastic light bulbs are also available for purchase at the design boutique for around $23 each.

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