Lee Boroson creates large-scale immersive installations using inflatables, fabric, and light to create phenomenological experiences for his viewers, based on the elemental forces in nature, from air, fog, and smoke to fire and the cosmos. Boroson’s work begins with ideas of nature, which he mediates between the landscape-as-culture as opposed to notions of the outdoors as “wild” or “untamed”. Boroson’s installations are embodied and ephemeral at the same time. They transform both material and experience within the space of the museum.

For MASS MoCA’s signature football field-sized Building 5 gallery, Boroson will create an ambitious new installation consisting of four components: The Fog, The Falls, The Crypt, and The Lava Field. After moving through them sequentially, viewers will reach the mezzanine, a vantage point from which they can see the first two sections of the landscape resolve as a single image.

Setting the stage for the exhibition, The Fog wipes away structural landmarks to leave behind a sense of negative space, priming viewers for the rest of the show. Multi-layered and intricate, it consists of clear, polished vinyl sheeting sewn with colored thread and arranged to create passageways that lead into divided rooms. Every surface is mostly transparent and punctuated with pieces of reflective material and color that alter one’s perception and sense of the scale of the space. Comparable to moving through shifting fog, viewers in this segment will stumble upon the occasional clear view through the haze and then lose it to obscuring layers of vinyl, partially opaque yet still penetrated by light.

After navigating The Fog, viewers will enter The Falls, a subtle, referential ode to the tourist’s experience of visiting Niagara Falls. Complete with an overwhelming white noise much like that of the actual site, this construction will stretch from ceiling to floor and, using conveyor belts and blowers, constantly spout streams of reflective spheres. Like a fountain, the material will move cyclically up and down, building a sense of timelessness and adding movement to the exhibition. The silvery spheres mirror their surroundings and, when in motion, effectively re-create the sensation of falling water. In its man-made elements and aesthetic, The Falls relates to Niagara as a highly engineered and controlled arena designed to emulate nature.

The two mezzanine galleries represent the earth and fire components of the exhibition, both using variations of geological structures. The Crypt comprises an array of inflatable fabric forms molded into stalactites to evoke the architecture of the underworld, providing room for contemplation in a dark, primordial chamber. Directly above, on the second level of the mezzanine, The Lava Field is a “field” of hand-blown glass shapes containing lava-like fluids that recall the iconic imagery of “lava lamps.” In each of the 100+ vessels will be an oozing, burbling liquid display, similar to that of the inside of a lava lamp. Boroson has concocted his own fluids, all in variations of white, to create this virtual lava field and the accompanying illusion of lava leaking out of the mezzanine floor.