Light bulb screen

Another work developed last month at MediaLab Madrid during Interactivos?, a workshop focusing on magic and illusion (see also Augmented Sculpture v 1.0.)

Palimpsesto (video) is a sculpture screen made of “dead” light bulbs. Moving spots of light are projected on its surface and as a visitor comes closer to the screen, the light dots gather and re-create the silhouette of the person. The dead light bulbs seem to come to life again. The presence of a public metaphorically gives back their lost splendor to the bulbs.


When i visited the workshop, i didn’t get to see the installation working. Nevertheless, i found that the screen was really amazing (as was the amount of bulbs that had been broken in the process.) I recently asked Daniel Canogar, the creator of the project, to give us more details about it:

What was the biggest challenge in developing the project?

There were two basic challenges, and i can’t quite pinpoint which was bigger. The first challenge was figuring a way of constructing a screen with dead light bulbs in an immaterial way,so that they would look like they were floating. During the installation, many light bulbs were broken, a whole string would come crashing down onto the floor, everyone would stop working and look at me, it was quite dramatic. Eventually I figured out how to do this and there were no further problems.

The second biggest challenge for me was coordinating with the programmer. It was hard to be patient while Jordi, my main programmer who was terrific, typed away for hours trying to get the effects that I was after. In the end he did a terrific job, and was worth the wait.

Do you plan to develop the idea any further?

I consider the piece at the Media Lab a prototype, which is going to be made much larger in the following months. The piece will be featured in a large new media show that is opening in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid June 2008, a show called “Maquinas y Almas” (Machines and Soul) curated by Montxo Algora. I plan to develop the piece more with MediaLAb, who have being absolutely amazing to work with. They have a real interest in research projects, and want to take my piece on to develop it more.

How does the system work technically?

When first encountering the sculptural screen made of dead light bulbs, the viewer sees these free-floating white particles flying about. The video projector casts these spots of light on the light bulbs, which makes them look like they magically give light again. When the viewer gets close to the screen, a web-cam hidden amongst the light-bulbs captures his/her silhouette and this information is processed by the Open Frames software and makes the free-floating light particles cluster together. The resulting light-blob loosely has the shape of the viewer’s silhouette, and follows him/her as they move along. It is the viewer that brings new light to these dead light bulbs, brings forth the memory of these discarded artifacts.

Thanks Daniel!

Image Medialab interactivos.