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Seeing through the Smoke and Mirrors: “Light Barrier” Installation Captivates with Rippling Auroral Display

During the July 4th weekend this year audiences at Nikola-Lenivets Park’s New Media Night Festival in Russia were captivated by a different sort of light show than those going on in the U.S.. Commissioned by FutureEverything, Seoul-based Kimichi and Chips’ new light installation Light Barrier used millions of crossing light beams, dozens of convex mirrors, and mist to create animated, ethereal floating light graphics in the air.

With phantom-like spiders and mysterious smoky forms set to the rhythm of soft techno music, Light Barrier takes VVVV, a graphical programming environment, to a whole new level. Elliot Woods and Mimi Son, digital artists and co-founders of Kimichi and Chips, created the installation out of a fascination with natural light and the desire to explore the barrier of light as a metaphor. They wanted to test the barrier between non-physical and physical space. According to their website, Kimichi and Chips’ “study of digital light discusses a new visual mechanic, their installation adding to the visual language of space and light.”

The open air art installation produced forms using an array of mirrors and light that were controlled by computers. Woods and Son experimented with the brightness created when lights were crossed over each other to create the projection. As they added more light beams, the brightness effect became more pronounced than the approaching light beams. As a form of projection technology, the duo used 180 concave mirrors as low resolution projectors that directed the light in different directions from each point on the mirrors. The reflected light beams traveled their own unique paths to create a Light Field Projector, which allowed the artists to manipulate the lights into floating forms. They then used calibration routines to measure each pixel’s path through space so that they can recreate the effect.

Rather than the paint and soft brush strokes impressionistic painters use to capture their fascination with natural light, Woods and Son create their impressionistic work by using the light itself as the brush strokes, manipulating it with code to create ghastly apparitions in space. The ephemeral effect of the installation creates a space of wonder with a touch of fantasy as the dancing light rays draw viewers in with their intriguing celestial appearance.

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Jamie Lowe

Recent college graduate and aspiring literary agent.

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