Uncanny Buffalo Bayou Cistern dazzles with Velveteen Rabbit VR holograms
The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is one of the most unique spaces in the world, and the light and sound art installations that it hosts match its singular grandiosity. For the next ten months, the Cistern will be the home of Haha Real, a meshing of sound and holograms inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit.
The piece is the brainchild of Rachel Rossin, a New York City-based multimedia master that has been featured all over the world. Created specifically for the Cistern, Haha Real will use holograms to create a world of illusion where the human eye can’t be trusted. The Cistern is the perfect venue for the installation thanks to its standing water and more than a hundred concrete columns. In the right light, the space looks like it stretches into infinity and is hundreds of feet deeper than it actually is.
Rossin was inspired by the timeless tale of The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams and first published in 1921. In it, a beloved stuffed rabbit toy dreams of being real, achieving the goal through the love of its child owner. Often regarded as one of the greatest children’s story of all time, its potent mixture of wonder and loss has enchanted children for more than a century.
This isn’t Rossin’s first production of light and sound. In 2022 she produced The Maw for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In it, Rossin used graphs of human nervous systems and military-grade infrared technology to present a woman moving through various digital landscapes. Meshing the human experience with the digital one is a recurring theme in Rossin’s work, and it works well with a children’s tale about an inanimate object coming to life.
The visual imagery will be accompanied by a sound bath from Houston’s Frewuhn. A multidisciplinary in her own right, she has performed at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Moore’s Opera House. Like Rossin, she takes inspiration from literature and the movements of the human brain, crafting soundscapes that dance the line between therapy and music.
The Buffalo Bayou Cistern is regularly regarded as one of Houston’s hidden gems. Built in 1926 to house drinking water for the city, it was patterned off the famous Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. Slated to be demolished for parking, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership realized that there was something incredibly beautiful about its cavernous space and slender columns. Upon being fully restored, it now serves as a museum and art gallery that draws in visitors from around the world.
Haha Real runs Friday, February 2 through November 10 at the Buffalo Bayou Cistern in the Buffalo Bayou Park Water Works (105-B Sabine St.). For tickets and information, visit the Buffalo Bayou Partnership online