Arboreal Lightning

Atmos, London, 2014

 

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A large, sculptural, site-specific interactive lighting installation, mapping video generated from sound and music to the architecture and audience positions of the Camden Roundhouse

The project was commissioned by Imogen Heap as the centrepiece for Reverb 2014 Festival - a smorgasbord of contemporary composers, with an emphasis on technological innovation.

It was designed as a means to connect the performers on stage with their audience, and to bring life to the static structures of the building.

The final project bundled 24 LED strands (mirroring the number of columns in the building) up column number eight of the Roundhouse, growing upwards like a trunk before bifurcating into a series of tendrils that wove through the arched and colonnades and balconies of the building, highlighting salient locations for audience interaction.

The base trunk was assembled from a lattice of rapid-assembly CNC-cut plywood ribs that had to fit the existing listed building’s structure, yet not penetrate or damage it.

The branches then arrayed the LED strings along semi-flexible polycarbonate extrusions that were suspended in space, printouts glued to their rear enabling exact LED pixel placement.

Each strand bore a sequence of small, bright, LED nodes, each set a bespoke distance apart in order to enable video remapping of any video grids.

The entire installation was powered by custom software (TreeJ), developed by Adam Stark, which took amplitude and frequency feeds from microphones distributed in space, and converted sound to light.

Arboreal Lightning was both an interactive art installation, and a kind of architectural refurbishment - highlighting and enlivening parts of the existing building that were otherwise inaccessible, and enabling a new kind of internal space-making where the traditional divide between stage and audience was dissolved and replaced by a kind of collaborative connectivity.

It also enabled the building to extend its life beyond the moment of crowded performances, enabling the curious visitor to enter the space during extended opening hours, and explore the building through their vocal interactions.

The Reverb Festival ran for four days, 21-24 August 2014, with a private view on 20 August. By the morning of 25 August it had been full removed and packed into a van. It is now the resident centrepiece installation at Imogen Heap’s workplace, with musicians offered brief residencies to develop works that interact with the project.

Data

  • Begun: Aug 2014
  • Completed: Aug 2014
  • Floor area: 1,100m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £51,000
  • Funding: Arts Council, Roundhouse, Imogen Heap, atmos
  • Tender date: Apr 2014
  • Procurement: bespoke
  • CO2 Emissions: 2kg/m2/year
  • Address: Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8EH, United Kingdom

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