Infinity Room 2: EPFL's 50 years in eight installations

The interactive Infinity Room 2 follows the Infinity Room I photographic exhibition © 2019 Alain Herzog

The interactive Infinity Room 2 follows the Infinity Room I photographic exhibition © 2019 Alain Herzog

Infinity Room 2 is the second chapter of a two-part exhibition at ArtLab in honor of EPFL’s 50th anniversary this year. Eight installations, ranging from the photographic to the augmented, provide an interactive experience of the school’s academic, cultural, and architectural evolution, and bring a new dimension to institutional archives.

As ArtLab Director Sarah Kenderdine, head of the Lab for Experimental Museology (EM+) in the College of Humanities explains, Infinity Room 2 is about “the archive and aesthetic transcription”.

“It’s about how an object’s aesthetic changes as it moves from one expressive medium to the next; for example, from a jazz concert, to a video of a concert, to an interactive system,” says Kenderdine.

The exhibition follows Infinity Room I, which ran from April 12th to July 28th, and was structured around the works of three professional photographers, who captured the campus from three different artistic perspectives.

A new approach to archives

Both Infinity Room I and 2 revolve around the theme of “ideas without bounds”, as exemplified by the diversity of research at EPFL. In Infinity Room 2, the dynamic and interactive nature of the eight installations (see box) challenges traditional approaches to institutional archives, especially when it comes to how they are accessed.

“You can think of it as a performative archive: it’s not a dormant repository, but one that unfolds through your actions,” Kenderdine says. And indeed, each of the installations involves the visitor in some way, inviting him or her to choose the timescale, image, or virtual object they wish to explore.

This “performative” aspect also allows visitors to view images at different scales – as a pulsating swarm of thousands of photographs that can be selected and enlarged (The Alain Herzog Archive), or as an actual-size digital page from a 1970s magazine (Campus Chronicles).

“It’s about modes of access as much as it is about representation. Everything we look at on the internet is miniaturized, so it’s interesting to see the real-world scales of these documents. There are so many interesting things to play with in terms of people’s physical access to archives,” Kenderdine says.

Eight installations

The Alain Herzog Archive
comprises over 500,000 images taken by campus photographer Alain Herzog over the past 25 years in an interactive, machine learning-driven installation. Using a tablet, users can select and enlarge images from different scientific, social, and architectural categories in the archive.

Campus Chronicles showcases the official EPFL publications Polyrama (1970–2006), Flash (1973–2016), and EPFL Magazine (2016–2018). Some 29,000 pages of research highlights, news, and art and design presented in an interactive “page-turning” display: users can literally leaf through history with the help of a wall-mounted digital viewer that moves back and forth over a timeline.

Super-vision brings to life some 8,000 PhD theses defended at EPFL over its 50 years using another interactive browser. Visitors can search through the theses and their authors by year, viewing the results on a wall-mounted, spherical projection.

Balélec Nights: the beloved student festival Balélec has its own history, having been organized annually since 1981. With a larger-than-life photographic display, visitors can “attend” Balélec through 10,000 images across the festival’s 39 editions, or search for familiar faces in the crowds.

Archival Constellations invites visitors to experience an audio-enhanced, fulldome presentation of the historic Montreux Jazz archive. The Jazz Luminaries display is based on the social network “constellation” of jazz performers from the archive, which is being digitized at EPFL as part of the Montreux Jazz Digital Project. At the end of November, a second display showcasing the research of the Blue Brain Project will be added to the dome, allowing visitors to view the neural pathways of the human brain.

Shadows of Drones assembles swarms of drones, from foldable delivery devices and collision-resilient winged drones to bioinspired quadcopters, representing the breadth of 30 years of drone engineering at EPFL. The shadow of each device, suspended behind a backlit panel, gives the illusion of flight.

The Archive of Modern Construction installation is dedicated to EPFL architecture and interactive presentations of the campus’s construction, starting with the ground-breaking in 1973.

Finally, the Open Science installation gives visitors a chance to discover EPFL for themselves. A hand-held tablet helps reveal, hidden inside virtual storage lockers, a collection of 50 augmented scientific objects from EPFL – one for each year of its history – from perovskite to robots.

Practical information

Infinity Room 2
EPFL ArtLab, Pavilion B
View map
Tuesday → Sunday, 11am – 6pm, until January 26, 2020
Free entry