The interface of the devices we are using or have used—from television sets and record players to computer screens—in order to make experiences visible and tangible, should present a visual image on a set field. For her work Topografia della luce (Topography of light) the artist uses the lcd screen as her medium. By deconstructing the screen and removing the polarizing filter which is glued over the lcd element, the screen becomes a source of pure light. This gave her the opportunity to manipulate the white light issuing from the screen, by positioning a new polarizing filter in front of the lcd element on two discs rotating over the lcd screen. This experiment aims to explore the relationship between the lcd element and the polarizing filter, a device designed to aesthetically calibrate light. The pattern created by the rotating Plexiglas discs is generated by coded algorithms as well as the visualization on the screen. Apart from the polarizing filter, the adjustable parameters are:
– two dc motors (direction of rotation, one rotation per second) controlled by an Arduino;
– one lcd element controlled by a Processing sketch on a computer with a regular os.
Every user can design a disc of his own. This model should be viewed as the basic element, encouraging interaction and inviting users to play with the work, exploring it and creating new scenarios. The contemporary image is no longer like a television, used as an “altar of distraction”, but an innovative, challenging creative instrument in its own right, which calls for interaction.
Research context and references
My inspiration for this project came from the work Schemi luminosi (1962-1963) by Grazia Varisco. It reminded me of the feeling of watching television, with its continually changing images, never showing the same shot twice, with no way out. Varisco, however, warned me just how clever these feelings that rule us are. And not just watching TV, but also surfing the Internet or communicating with a smartphone arouses exactly the same feelings. The different thing about today’s images is not just to do with the way we design the images, but also how we interact with them, and the non-linear nature of the narration. Moreover we are no longer just using a finished product (as users), we are also making it in the process (as makers). This is how I see the attempt to reprogram Schema luminoso: not by hiding the algorithm in a black box, but by making it accessible. Opening up the artwork for co-creation. The current version of Topografia della luce is a modest start. It not only offers the option of opening up the interface with an image of the physical world, but also of reaching the virtual dimension. These images can be connected and networked enabling the respective participants to interact. Again the question of sovereignty arises: who owns the artwork, who created it? The artist as the creative genius? The machine as the creating system? I see the artist as a researcher, as in Gabriele Devecchi’s work Miramondo (1966): the artist constructs a device, a tool, and uses it to enhance the observer’s awareness of what is going on around him or her. Who creates the art then? The user? The machine? The engineer? The principle of interaction implemented in the work of Gruppo T has led to a shift. As a consequence the hierarchy is flattening out. We can see it also as a process of democratization. Perhaps the main thing that has changed since the 1960s is that today we no longer use these machines solely in the real world, to show things that are really happening; now we utilise “technical imaging” to observe processes brought about by these machines.
Technology and media
The project is based on a lcd screen with the polarizing filter removed. The screen is controlled by a computer with a regular os and fitted into a wooden frame. Two dc motors are mounted in this wooden frame. The dc motors run on an Arduino shield. Each motor turns three cogs that support one of the two Plexiglas discs. Polarizing foil is pasted onto the Plexiglas. The cut out pattern on the foil was generated by a Processing sketch. The idea is that by reproducing the pattern, each time the algorithm generates a slightly different pattern. The screen also displays a Processing visualization that interferes with the patterns created by the rotating discs.
H. Rörig, Die Mär vom Mehr: Strategien der Interaktivität; Begriff, Geschichte, Funktionsmuster, Lit Verlag, Berlino 2006, p. 169.
V. Flusser, Ins Universum der technischen Bilder, European Photography, Göttingen 1990.
Bill of materials
2 black mdf sheets, 500 × 500 × 8 mm
2 three-layer wood panels, spruce, 500 × 500 × 27 mm
4 screws with countersunk bolt, M4 × 40 mm
4 screws with countersunk bolt, M4 × 20 mm
4 oval-head screws, M4 × 40 mm
8 screwed inserts, M4 × 8 × 10 mm
4 pegs 6 × 30 mm
2 oval-head screws M6 × 80 mm
2 screwed inserts M6 × 10 × 10 mm
2 hinges 60 × 20 mm
6 bushings, 3D printed
4 ball bearings, 19 × 6 mm
4 studs, 6 × 35 mm
2 dc motors
Adafruit motor shield
Apple lcd monitor
usb type B standard cable
Plexiglas, transparent, 3 mm thick
Polariser Polaroid HN38 linear, adhesive,
All contents are released under the license cc by-nc-sa 4.0.
Access the source files on GitHub