Artist Janet Echelman’s installation Every Beating Second transforms terminal 2 of the San Francisco International Airpot with fictional nature that subtly engages viewers with real and imagined natural forces. Her sculpture installation cuts three round skylights into the ceiling, from which descend delicate layers of translucent colored netting to create three voluptuous volumetric forms. A series of shaded outlines below are embedded into the terrazzo floor, reflecting the precise shadows that would occur on the summer solstice if the sun could penetrate through the roof. During the day, sun streams through the skylights to cast real shadows that interplay with the fictional shadows on the floor. At night, the artist’s program of colored lighting makes the sculpture glow from indigo to purple, and magenta to red orange. Computer-programmed mechanized air flow animates the fluidly moving sculpture at different intervals throughout the day, as if the wind could magically flow through solid walls.

The artist achieved the sculpture’s physical presence by braiding fibers and knotting twine into sculptural netting suspended from powder-coated steel armatures. Despite their large scale, more than 120 feet in circumference for a single form, Echelman’s sculpture is experienced as ephemeral and weightless. Visually, the sculpture evokes the contours and colors of cloud formations over the Bay and hints at the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge. Aesthetically, the sculpture looks both backward and forward, drawing its color from the heyday of psychedelic music, the Summer of Love and San Francisco’s prominence in the beat poetry movement, while also referencing the contemporary Bay Area as a hub of innovation and interconnectivity for the world of technology.

The title, Every Beating Second, refers to a line by the beat poet Allen Ginsberg that represents the artist’s interest in heightening awareness of the present moment:


in the physical world

moment to moment

I must put down

every recurring thought—

stop every beating second (11–16)