ellaslist Reviews: Atmospheric Memory

  • Toddlers

What a difference five years makes! The last time I came to the Powerhouse Museum was in 2018. Miss 8 was then Miss 3. She was obsessed with the Wiggles and the Powerhouse’s Wiggles Exhibition. We visited no less than ten times to ride the big red car and make roses for Dorothy. I thought I would never survive that phase of parenting or ever get ‘Hot Potato’ out of my head.

But here we are in 2023.

Miss 8 has broadened her interests (and thank heavens her song choices) and today, we’re at the Powerhouse again for the new exhibition, Atmospheric Memory. This is an event we can truly experience and enjoy together.

What is Atmospheric Memory?

Atmospheric Memory Powerhouse
Atmospheric Memory: A coming together of science and art.

Atmospheric Memory is a coming together of science and art. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a Mexican-Canadian electronic artist, has created an installation which explores the idea of total recollection. He was inspired by Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first computer in 1837. Babbage proposed that every word ever spoken leaves a permanent trace in the air.

Almost 200 years later, that dream of perfect recollection is realised in our digital life.

Atmospheric Memory celebrates the atmosphere as a sustainer of life, filled with voices and history, transcending all national borders. It also calls for restoration of the air in response to our current climate emergency and for our digital atmosphere to be transformed into a shared public space.

Banderoles’ at Atmospheric Memory
'Banderoles’ at Atmospheric Memory.

Is the exhibition as ‘thought-provoking’ as it sounds? Will my child actually enjoy it?

Yes and yes. This exhibition has something for everyone! You and your teens will be inspired and reflective about where, as a society we’ve come, where we are now and where we want to be. Your kids will be enthralled by the many interactive experiences on offer, which brings learning to life! Your tweens will swing one way or another.

The first interactive artwork, ‘Banderoles’ is a series of cubicles, connected to Artificial Intelligence. Miss 8’s mouth was projected on a screen, and as she spoke, her words were written on the screen, as if floating, or part of the atmosphere.

One installation which really took Miss 8’s fancy is ‘Field Atmosphonia’. A dark room is filled with 3000 loudspeakers, each playing different sounds of wind, water, ice, insects and birds. That is impressive enough, but as you walk (or in the case of Miss 8, danced and ran) around the room, the ceiling lighting moves around the room with you.

Field Atmosphonia
'Field Atmosphonia'

Hands down our favourite room is called ‘Atmospheres’, a projection chamber, containing many different works by Lozano-Hemmer.

‘Clouds 1’ allowed us to tell a story, by using our voice to create words, using wisps of water vapour.

‘Voice Tank’ recorded and analysed our conversation, converting it into notes, which created ripples in the waters.

Atmospheres’ at Atmospheric Memory
'Atmospheres’ at Atmospheric Memory.

‘Airborne Projection’ uses a heat map shadow play to evaporate words printed on the wall, where Miss 8 moved, to demonstrate the permanent impression of our words and actions on the world.

The last room of the installation creates a space for visitors to reflect and record what key messages they think should be stored for the future. Miss 8 proudly chose “Be kind to the future”. 

There is so much more to see, but you'll have to book for yourself to see it all. 

The Low Down

Airborne Projection’ at Atmospheric Memory
'Airborne Projection’ at Atmospheric Memory.

The appeal of this exhibition is that you can come as a family and all experience it differently. Miss 8 felt like she’d had a fun day out, and I felt as though as though my need for adult stimulation was met.

You’ll need to book a session to see Atmospheric Memory. This was stellar move by the Powerhouse. Part of the exhibition’s appeal is the ability for the kids in particular to engage in all the interactive experiences. We wandered through the exhibition at our own pace and did not compete for access to the experiences.

The exhibition includes plenty of dark spaces and some loud noises. If you or your child has autism and sensory sensitivities, definitely take advantage of their available ‘relaxed sessions’ which provide a reduced sensory experience.

‘Make Your Voice Heard’ at Atmospheric Memory
‘Make Your Voice Heard’ at Atmospheric Memory.


Powerhouse Museum Cafe
Lunch at the Powerhouse Museum Cafe.

Again, unlike 2018, Miss 8 and I sat afterwards in the museum’s café (with the right sort of hot potatoes!), for a leisurely lunch and to watch the world go by. Oh, the atmosphere!

Atmospheric Memory will be at the Powerhouse Museum until 5 November 2023. For more information and to book, visit The Powerhouse Museum website.

Where:  Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris St, Ultimo, Sydney
When:    Now until 5 November 2023
Cost:     Prices vary based on age and membership status. Check the Powerhouse Museum website for detailed pricing.

Special Note: 'Relaxed sessions' available for those with autism and sensory sensitivities. Booking in advance is recommended to ensure a seamless experience.

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