Dispatches, August 1997
This month, Kahn will put the finishing touches on "Turbulent Landscapes," an exhibition embarking on a national tour this fall. His pieces are science-fair projects on a Spielbergian scale, intricate constructs of aerators and magnets, pendulums and vibrating membranes. His shifting, bubbling "Rift Zone" imitates a volcanic glurpscape. "Tectonic Sandbox" recreates the convection forces of earthquakes.
But Kahn is best known for "Tornado," a towering vortex of atomized water that spectators can shape and alter. To produce his eerily realistic funnel, which debuted in San Francisco in June 1996, Kahn spent hours studying the grainy footage of storm chasers and hobnobbing with NOAA scientists and chaos theorists. "Tornadoes," he says, "are incredibly complex. Every one is different."
As an undergrad at the University of Connecticut, Kahn studied a mëlange of architecture, botany, and ecology. He started his career building scientific props, fiddling with soap bubbles and garden hoses, before moving on to his trademark pieces. He's now working on a proposal for a permanent twister at NOAA headquarters in Colorado and soon will start a series for New York's Hayden Planetarium.
Now that Kahn's reputation as the nation's leading (and only) tornado artist has been sealed, he has just one small wish. "Someday," he says, "I'd love to see a real one."
Illustration by Adam McCauley