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Preservation Is Life

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

by Isabelle Doal
on 28 November 2011

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.


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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