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“Unnumbered Sparks” Allows Viewers to Digitally Paint on a Massive Sky-Canvas

Last month, Janet Echelman’s “Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks” sculpture floated above the city of Vancouver for TED talk’s 30th year conference.


Composed of 145 miles of fiber threaded together across 745 feet, its soft adaptive form contrasted elegantly against the rigid skyscraper forms and created a momentarily lull in people’s daily routine.

“For years I have been exploring how to let people become a part of the artwork,” Echelman reveals as her latest piece takes her previous work to a new level of public engagement. Through collaborative efforts with Aaron Koblin, data artist of Google’s Creative Labs, the duo created a piece that people could manipulate and alter using their iPhones.



In the daytime, the sunlight plays against the installation, shimmering and dissipating with the cloud cover. At night, it becomes an interactive light canvas in which people manipulate with taps or strokes on their iPhones. The audience members become “co-creators” in the piece as their movements are mirrored on the large scale floating net-work. Check out the video of the bystander-artists in action here.


The name of the installation refers to a line from Shakespeare: “The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks. They are all fire and every one doth shine.”  Building upon previous work with public space and engaging people with the invisible natural forces, the project recognizes each individual, each “spark” as they engage with the open air and sky. It gives them a chance for expression; to, as Eckleman says, “paint the skies.”



As individuals interact with the web of fibrous knots, they join a conceptual conversation–a web– about technology, urbanity, ecology, and modernity. The historical fisherman’s tool, threaded with technology, suggests a reality that is more connected and integrated than anything yet imagined.

Ellen Xie

A native of Bethel, CT, Ellen attended Vassar College for a degrees in Environmental Studies and English.

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