As the third year of California’s historic drought comes to an end, the lack of rainfall is beginning to become the rule rather than the exception in the Golden State. California will have been an official state of emergency for a whole year in January, yet to the chagrin of many residents, there do not seem to be any rain clouds on the horizon. However, in the midst of this unprecedented lack of rainfall, artists have found a way to provide Californians with the comfort of a rain shower, while also raising questions about global warming and the social responsibility of residents in the face of a dwindling water supply.
Enter the Rain Room. Originally created by London-based rAndom International, this artificial rain shower is relocating to an area where its message is particularly salient: Southern California. The exhibit is set up as a room with grated floors and ceilings, which facilitate the recyclation of water and the creation of an essentially endless rain shower. The room uses 3D sensors that track the movements of viewers and cut off the fall of water directly over their heads, allowing viewers to feel the unique sensation of traversing through a heavy rainstorm without being drenched by water.
To Californians, the message of water conservation combined with the sensation of being so close yet so far away from water has hit home in a big way. To the surprise of the show’s curators, 17,000 people have already pre-purchased tickets to view the exhibit, which many see as a harbinger of good things to come. However, given the ascetic beauty of the show combined with its message of sustainability, it is not surprising many Californians have found the exhibit appealing. In the face of the worsening drought, the reduction of daily water usage has become an integral part of life for many Californian families. The average American family consumes 400 gallons of water in a single day, and the Rain Room uses a mere 528 total gallons that are continually recycled throughout the room to produce and essentially endless rain shower. The message is clear—in the face of environmental change, a calculated and robust effort to increase the sustainability of our resources can create conditions of abundance even in the face of a changing climate. For Californians, this model is already a part of life, but it is not yet for the rest of us. The plight of California has provided us with a possible glimpse into a world in which we continue to take from the planet more than it can give, but the message of the exhibit suggests a potential solution. However, in the mean time, we can only hope that the Rain Room brings with it an end to California’s historic drought, and that by learning from the lessons of the Golden State we won’t ever need any rain dances of our own.