Visual Echo, which opened January 12, 2007, at New York City's Center for Architecture, is the latest installation by London-based Jason Bruges Studio, a 12-person collective, founded in 2001, devoted to exploring light as an expressive force in art and architecture. A large, LED-studded arch, with two legs that extend out into the Center's first floor Hines Gallery, the piece writhes with an ever-changing pattern of colors, dictated by the movement and garment colors of gallery-goers.
The installation is comprised of 24 Color Kinetics RGB LED tiles, with 144 diodes per tile. A voile-like material is suspended over the tiles on a very thin undulating metal frame that forms a wave pattern, offset, so that the fabric is suspended higher above the tiles on one side than the other. Using the mesh material in such a way changes the depth of the piece and how viewers understand its X, Y, and Z axes. That, according to designer Jason Bruges, alters the impact of the LED cone, creating an aura around each diode. The result is a lattice-like effect of light, where the illumination from one LED appears to extend out from its center in four directions. "The aura created around the LED is similar to a diffraction grating used on a photographic star filter," says Bruges. "The light gets spread in the orientation of the mesh."
The interactive component of the installation is created by a two-fold software system. First, a webcam located at the end of the arch's right leg records the data--people's movement and the colors of their clothing--then, a control system interprets a scan of the colors. The video system manager connected to the LED tiles converts the video feed into DMX, telling the individual LEDs which colors to display and where, creating the pattern that plays out across the piece.
This is not the first incarnation of Visual Echo. It was originally designed for London's Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in 2006. There, the installation was by necessity flat--situated in the middle of a room, there was very little opportunity to have a vertical element without creating some sort of structural support. For Visual Echo's installation at the Center for Architecture, alterations have been made to respond to the local gallery conditions. "The installation is different in its composition in that it responds to the gallery by meandering around and taking advantage of the vertical space," says Bruges. "It is also site specific in where we decided to place the camera; it was the configuration that encouraged the most interaction with the space."
Organized by the AIA New York Chapter in partnership with the Illuminating Engineering Society, New York Section (IESNY), the International Committee AIA New York Chapter, and the Royal Society of the Arts, Visual Echo, "demonstrates exciting new potentials and questions how light, space, and color can interrelate in architectural space." The piece also marks a milestone for the AIA New York Chapter; it is the first time they have been able to bring a site-specific light artwork to the Center, and as Sophie Pache, director of exhibitions at the Center for Architecture explains, "It was a great opportunity to work with IESNY, one of the Center Partners." Visual Echo will be on display through March 10, 2007.