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Exploratorium announces new Black Box exhibition: Water Rhythms by Susie Ibarra and Michele Koppes

Exploratorium announces new Black Box exhibition: Water Rhythms by Susie Ibarra and Michele Koppes

A story of climate change as told by ice and water 

Michele Koppes records inside the Bridge Glacier ice cave in British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Flavien Beaud.

SAN FRANCISCO (July 27, 2022) — Starting Friday, August 12, 2022, the Exploratorium invites visitors to listen to climate change through Water Rhythms, a new installation in its Black Box space. An immersive, multichannel spatial soundscape by Susie Ibarra and Michele Koppes, Water Rhythms is a story of our changing landscape, as told by ice and water. A special preview will take place at After Dark (Ages 18+) on August 11, when visitors can meet Ibarra. Water Rhythms will remain on view through October 23, and is included with museum admission. 

Ibarra, a composer, percussionist, and sound artist, and Koppes, a glaciologist, geographer, and climate scientist, have been sonically mapping changes in glacier runoff in some of the world’s most important water towers, including the Coast Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and the Indian Himalaya. 

As glaciers worldwide shrink and disappear in response to a warming world, the availability and quality of freshwater is being threatened. As the ice disappears, these water rhythms are also shifting and fading away. Ibarra and Koppes’ recordings, taken from above and below the ice and water, also include the sounds and music of the people who live along their respective shores to create a fuller embodiment of how we are connected to the Earth’s freshwater.


Susie Ibarra records at Easton Glacier on Mount Baker in Washington. Photo by Michele Koppes. 


Water Rhythms is an inspiring merging of artistic and scientific expertise to create an experience that transports listeners to watersheds around the world,” said Kirstin Bach, the Exploratorium’s Interim Director of Arts. “This immersive experience invites reflection on our relationship to the precious resource of water and our ever-changing landscape.” 

This version incorporates field recordings of the San Francisco Bay with recordings from five global watersheds, and has been spatially mixed and composed for the Exploratorium’s Black Box. Water Rhythms is on loan from Fridman Gallery in New York.

About the collaborators

Susie Ibarra is a Pilipinx composer, drummer/percussionist, and sound artist who focuses on creating and supporting work that preserves ecosystems of biodiverse habitats and traditional and Indigenous cultures. She creates immersive experiences through sound to invite people to connect to their natural and built environments. Ibarra is a 2020 National Geographic Explorer Storyteller, a 2019 Doris Duke Fellow in Music, a Senior TED Fellow, and a 2019 Asian Cultural Council Research Fellow. Recent commissions include Talking Gong on New Focus Recordings, Pulsation for Kronos Quartet’s 50 for the Future, and Fragility Etudes for her DreamTime Ensemble for the 2021 Asia Society Triennial. Ibarra currently lives and works in New Paltz, New York. 

Michele Koppes is a Canada Research Chair in Landscapes of Climate Change, Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, Director of the Climate and Cryosphere Lab, and Senior TED Fellow. Her passion is understanding how glaciers and landscapes respond to climate change, and their impacts on waterscapes and people. She spends much of her time exploring and collecting the stories of changing ice and water in remote, icy places all over the world, from the mountains of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to Patagonia, the Himalayas, the Tien Shan, Greenland, and Antarctica. Koppes is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

About the Black Box 

A place for presenting artwork that inspires and astounds in mysterious and wondrous ways, the Black Box is a darkened 800-square-foot space that provides an ideal environment for media art installations. A commonly used metaphor in science and engineering, a black box describes something that has observable inputs and outputs and unseen inner workings. Something goes in and something comes out, but the process by which transformation occurs is “black” or unknown to the observer. At the Exploratorium, the black box concept has been combined with our focus on art as a way of knowing through exploration, inquiry, and discovery.

Drawing on the Exploratorium’s unique province as a hybrid museum presenting and developing artworks at the juncture of art, science, and technology, the Black Box features dynamic, innovative multimedia exhibitions to prompt curiosity and transformation.

Calendar Editors Please Note:

Water Rhythms

By Susie Ibarra and Michele Koppes

Friday, August 12–Sunday, October 23, 2022

Preview on Thursday, August 11, 2022 • 6:00–10:00 p.m. (Ages 18+)

Meet Susie Ibarra for conversation and questions • 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Osher Gallery 1, Black Box

Included with museum admission.

Tuesday–Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

After Dark Thursday Nights: 6:00–10:00 p.m. (Ages 18+)

Sunday: 12:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Water Rhythms invites viewers to listen to the stories that the ice and water tell us about our changing landscapes. As glaciers worldwide shrink and disappear in response to a warming world, the availability and quality of freshwater is being threatened. As the ice disappears, these water rhythms are shifting and fading.

About the Exploratorium

Exploratorium logo

The Exploratorium is a portal to the astonishing scientific phenomena that animate our world and shape our actions. We create extraordinary learning experiences that ignite curiosity, upend perceptions, and inspire brave leaps forward. Since 1969, the Exploratorium’s museum in San Francisco has been home to a renowned collection of exhibits that draw together science, art, and human perception, and that have changed the way science is taught. Our award-winning programs provide a forum for the public to engage with artists, scientists, policymakers, educators, and tinkerers to explore the world around them. We celebrate diversity of thought, inspired investigation, and collaboration across all boundaries.

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