Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Stolen Rain

BY Katrina Kufer / May 16 2017 / 19:19 PM

Shanghai’s unsanctioned appropriation of Random International’s Rain Room becomes a permanent fixture in the city

Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Stolen Rain
Photography by Marcus Yam. Image courtesy Los Angeles Times.
(From left) Random International's Tom Stacey, Hannes Koch and Dev Joshi inside the Rain Room at LACMA, Los Angeles, USA. 2015.

Originally slated to be included as a $15 million attraction at Jiajiale Dream Park – alongside copies of Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession and infinity rooms installations, as well as Van Gogh’s Starry Night – a fake Rain Room, titled Magic Rain Zone, now has permanent homes across Shanghai.

The real installation is a room with continuous rain where visitors do not get wet due to human body sensors. The act of weather control as an art work by collective Random International was shared with the Chinese public in late 2015 at the Yuz Museum (Shanghai) but sparked unanticipated excitement and, now, unwelcome admiration. Upwards of eight rip-offs have popped up since, observed Hannes Koch, co-founder of Random International, “and that’s not including the reported Rain Room rental agency, which used everything from our name to our graphics and exhibition history and even copied the architecture.”

With numerous online entities offering at-home rentals of the interactive work, retitled Yu Wu, or Yu Jing by another company, the work has also been used for promotional material by Buick. General explanation from Chinese sources indicate that while the works share an initial concept, varied execution and new titles indicate enough of a change to justify ‘appropriation’, and not outright intellectual property theft.

Random International, however, while in the midst of confirming whether the park has violated intellectual property rights or is providing falsified information, has a few additional concerns. In a statement to The Art Newspaper, Koch indicated his safety concerns of the “shockingly inferior quality” of the Chinese iterations. “We spent significant time and resources to develop a safe way of making Rain Rooms. It will be important to make the Chinese authorities aware of the health and safety risks that are involved with improperly running a Rain Zone or Magical Rain Area. Legionella [disease-causing bacteria that thrive in water systems]… are a lethal threat to the elderly and children in particular.”

A spokeswoman for the Jiajiale theme park has since declined to comment on copyright and safety concerns.