Raindrop Alistair McClymont (UK)

Raindrop is a machine built to allow a drop of water to hover in mid air, based on an experiment at the University of Manchester in the early 1970s performed by physicists C.P.R. Saunders and B.S. Wong. After the artist saw the original machine at Manchester University’s meteorology department, he contacted Clive Saunders and was sent a copy of their original paper. The machine was built based on a sketch of this original machine with the permission of Clive Saunders.

In a sense a continuation of this original experiment, the machine is now being presented as an artwork and the context has changed to a different kind of institution. The experimenter is now a member of Science Gallery staff rather than a scientist, and the public observes the experiment instead of instruments recording the results.

The machine allows a single drop of water to free fall in an open wind tunnel. The viewer is watching a drop remain almost stationary, and yet, from its perspective it is constantly falling at terminal velocity.

The work allows visitors to closely observe something simultaneously extraordinary and everyday. If the drop is in free fall and the viewer is next to it watching it fall, then perhaps the viewer is falling alongside it. The combination of wind tunnel physics being something familiar but behaving in a way not observed before is beautiful but catches the viewer off guard.

About the artist: 

Alistair McClymont produces work that is a continuing process of discovery and experimentation, ranging across a variety of materials and practices. Each piece follows the last in a continual journey of investigation into cultural and physical phenomena. Recent work is underlined by a search for what it is to be human.