It's impossible to remain uptight while surrounded by bubbles. The graceful bubble tree at The Temple House in Miami Beach is the perfect antidote to the traditionally stress-filled bustle of Art Basel. There's an urge to bat the grapefruit-sized bubbles like a beachball, or to stand still and let them land on your clothes like a butterfly. The bubbles burst in a cloud of fragrance when they touch skin but last a bit when they encounter cloth.
The ingenious display of 24-foot tubular tree made from recycled materials, up through Sunday, is titled "New Spring." A satellite of Design Miami/, the installation marks the U.S. debut of Studio Swine. The husband-and-wife team of artist Alexander Groves and architect Azusa Murakami call themselves Swine (as in "Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers) not so much due to a love of bacon, but because they don't want to limit themselves to one area of creativity.
In the past, the London-based designers have worked on projects ranging from an ambitious plan to capture plastic waste polluting our seas and converting it into household furnishings to repurposing rubber into lounge chairs after visiting Fordlandia, the city Henry Ford created in the Amazon rainforest in the 1920s and later abandoned. The installation at Design Miami/ is an upgraded version of what they introduced this spring at Salone del Mobile in Milan, where it won an award for Most Engaging Exhibition. COS, the Swedish minimalist clothing and design company commissioned the work and has a pop-up store in a loft overlooking the bubble tree. Visitors can watch the white and softly luminous bubbles fall as silently as snowflakes while the browsing through a collection curated to compliment the installation.
"They gave us an open brief," Groves said, explaining that he and his wife wanted to improve upon their Milan experience. "We want to make it better than before for Miami,"he said. "You have a fantastic heritage in Miami in Art Deco architecture, which really rhymes with the look of the tree. Then we created scented bubbles, and the scents are from five different places around Miami"
And what does Miami smell like? Flowers-- as in night-blooming jasmine. Fruit -- citrus and orange blossoms. Coconut -- inspired by the tropical air of Coconut Grove. Green -- reminiscent of green leaves and boardwalks by the beach. Wood -- inspired by the lingering aroma of Cuban cigars.
"The bubbles are all scented differently," Groves said "So, you can go around the installation experiencing different scents. They are not combined as one scent."
He remains coy about the compounds used to create the bubbles. "It's actually a mix that we've been working on for over a year," he said. "It's kind of soap, water and a little bit of magic."
Bubbles have a storied history in artwork, dating back hundreds of years. "It kind of represents the impermanence of things," Groves said. "A lot of 16th century Dutch painters used bubbles in their still lifes to remind us that time is fleeting." They seek to invoke that feeling of impermanence with "New Spring." "It's like being in a moment that's precious now," he said. "It's ephemeral. It's joyful, and then it disappears."
A monumental work, the installation stands 24 feet tall and is equally wide. According to Murakami, it's a bigger, more elaborate version of the Milan tree. "We've been doing quite a bit of research on Miami, and we're aware of all the beautiful Art Deco buildings. We wanted to make it feel a little more tropical. It's closer to a palm tree than a willow tree this time,"
Both designers have an avid interest in vintage film and credit Federico Fellini's "Casanova" with as proving inspiration for their current project. "We love working with film," Groves said, adding "There's something quite cinematic about this as a sculpture -- its use of time, it's use of movement, light."
IF YOU GO
Cos x Studio Swine is free and open to the public through Sunday, Dec. 10, at The Temple House, 1415 Euclid Avenue, Miami Beach, within walking distance of Lincoln Road.
Thursday: 11am – 5pm
Sunday: 11am – 6pm