Site-Specific Kinetic Installations by Pinaffo & Pluvinage Channel Modest Materials Into Ephemeral Experiences

Site Specific Kinetic Installations by Pinaffo amp Pluvinage Channel Modest Materials | RetinaComics

Four details of “Sfumato” (2023). All images © Pinaffo & Puvinage, shared with permission

Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage, a.k.a. Pinaffo & Pluvinage, have worked together since 2015, fascinated by the physics, mechanics, and even pyrotechnics of our ever-evolving technologies. During 2023, the pair produced three major projects exploring ephemeral interactions and shifting textures. “If we were to find a common thread among the three major projects… it would be soft, blurry, and challenging-to-control materials: smoke, sand, fabric,” the duo tells Colossal. “Each time, there is a play in mastering and manipulating these materials.”

Each piece begins with lengthy experimentation in the studio, toying with different substances and allowing trial and error to guide the process. “We spend a significant amount of time—several weeks—playing with the material we are working with, trying to discover interactions that are fascinating or surprising,” the artists say. They explore ways to surprise and delight the viewer, becoming what they describe as “specialists” in the interplay of materials:

When, after dozens of unsuccessful attempts, a “surprise” finally occurs on the corner of a table in the workshop, our entire work then becomes to sublime that moment—or rather to carry what is already sublime in that moment by nature—and to put the spectator in the position of one who discovers this surprise (spared from the 50 failures that preceded it).

Pinaffo & Pluvinage construct large-scale kinetic sculptures from modest supplies like paper, cardboard, and wooden battens. The duo relies on exquisite craftsmanship, playful color relationships, and the power of motion for site-specific installations like “Sfumato,” a collection of spinning wooden contraptions that emit spirals of multicolored smoke. The title refers to an artistic technique in which fine shading gradually transitions tones and hues, and the name of the technique itself is derived from the Italian verb sfumare, to vanish or fade away.


A gif of a man standing next to a large-scale kinetic installation made form cardboard and paper, in which abstract colorful shapes spin.

“En Cascade” (2023)

“Fanions et Carillons,” which means “pennants and chimes” in French, harnesses the air to elegantly move strips of colorful fabric that are attached to a large wooden armature. Small motors control the direction and timing of each spinning dowel, creating a colorful choreography of twirling ribbons.

In “En Cascade,” a hut-like structure contains an expansive grid of animated compositions that the artists activate manually by pouring quantities of sand through devices inside of the structure. The artists pushed the idea of humble materials even further for this work, challenging the strength and capabilities of the substrates and forgoing the use of electricity, a motor, or a computer. The artists’ decision to use sand took on particular significance:

When we chose sand as the material, there was a genuine desire to explore a substance that, at first glance, seems simple but has many things to discover and unveil: very peculiar physical and chemical phenomena—it is both a fluid and solid—and even incredible economic and environmental issues. Used in construction for making concrete, sand is becoming increasingly scarce, and its extraction has terrible consequences.

The sand used in “En Cascade” came from a beach 40 meters from the gallery and was redeposited once the exhibition concluded.

“Fanions et Carillons” is currently on view through March 4 at Fontevraud Royal Abbey in Fontevraud-l’Abbaye, France. Watch videos of the pieces in action below, and find more on the artists’ website, Vimeo, and Instagram.


A person walks out of a large-scale kinetic installation made form cardboard and paper, in which abstract colorful shapes spin.

Interior view of “En Cascade”

A gif of a spinning wooden sculpture that emits colorful spirals of smoke.


Green, while, and blue smoke emits from wooden stands.


A wooden structure installed in a historic abbey is shown with fluttering fabric strips that spin.

“Fanions et Carillons” (2023)

Detail of strips of fabric on a wooden structure in an abbey.

Detail of “Fanions et Carillons”

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