The mobile phone as a digital paintbrush

LifeForce, by James Tunick, turns the mobile phone into a digital paintbrush. Waving the phone allows users to “paint” with light and sound: they control the pulsing visuals on the flatscreen and push sounds across the space.


The work is a commentary on the need in contemporary museums for more participatory art forms. Converting one’s mobile phone into a paintbrush and musical instrument, LifeForce envisions a future in which such artistic tools are commonplace and city sidewalks and sides of buildings become our canvases.

The system uses Max/Jitter and other custom software powered by Studio IMC‘s BlackBox media player. Through a video camera and a variety of computer vision techniques, the installation tracks bright light and movement, leaving painterly trails on the screens. Lifeforce has also been used in advertising for clients such as Absolut where the tip of the paint brush was an bottle that followed the light on the participants’ phones.

Currently part of the exhibition Beyond TV: New Media Art with Studio IMC at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York, until August 31, 2006. More information in NY1 TV news report video. Images courtesy of James Tunick.