Posted tagged ‘sensors’

Thinking things through

March 2, 2010

All this electronics stuff is exciting but weird. I’m still not sure what I’m doing but feel I’m making tiny bits of progress in trying to find suitable solutions for my design, which btw is actually quite ambitious. But if I don’t give it a shot I’ll regret not trying so am going to anyway.

I think there are some specialised products out there that could be better for use in my installation but these are either in other countries or only used in major manufacturing industries. I’ve contacted a few people who have either made their own or who produce these products and am waiting in hope that they will be able to assist me with my work. There are a few examples of people making their own fabric sensors on YouTube which is my plan B.

The basic sensors come as switches or resistors for singular triggers. So you can imagine that  if one person was to stand on the flooring with their weight detected by the sensor then this would send a message to the computer to project light onto the sculpture creating the reflected projection that I am aiming for. However, what if more people come and start walking on the flooring? Would I only be able to send one message and therefore only have one projection of light? Would there be a way to make all sensors activate projections through a single application? So this is my current predicament. I don’t want the work to mess up because there are too many people interacting with it and I don’t want to restrict it so that only one or two people can interact with it.

I am setting myself a deadline for the end of march to make a smallish prototype. There are two main factors that I need to test:

1) electronic set-up, making the sensors work

2) communicating between input and output in order to activate projection

This will then lead to me being able to figure out the scale to which I can build the actual sculptural work and restrict the area in which the projection occurs and co-ordinate this with the area that the sensors cover. I really hope all this works out!


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

November 8, 2008

Prepare yourself – this could quite possibly be my longest post so far. I always say to myself that I’ll make them more short and snappy but they never are.

We went on a bit of a school trip last week Wednesday (29th Nov 2008). Ok, I know we’re not in school and we didn’t have to hold hands with partners but still; it just reminded me of school.

Our first stop was at Haunch of Venison near Bond Street to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s collection of work. These were spread over three floors and amounted to 7 very different projects. I won’t talk about all of these in detail so here is a brief description:

Microphone (2008) – spotlight on solitary microphone. Speak into it, your voice is recorded and then a previous message recorded maybe a couple hours ago would be played back to you in response. This cycles through so that later in a similar situation your message will be played to someone else.

Alpha Blend Shadow Box 7 (2008) – a framed plasma screen television is divided into four blocks. Each block showing a different video of the same view of yourself. An inbuilt camera enables the viewer to be captured and reflected back to them through the television. The images of previous viewers are blended and layered so that it appears that someone else may be standing next to you when there actually is no one there. As with the microphone the image of you is recorded and kept and then shown to someone else later on. Quite spooky.

Glories of Accounting (2005) – The following is taken from

“an interactive installation with a surveillance system that detects the position of the public in the exhibition room. When someone walks into the room, large hands appear on the screen automatically. The hands rotate along their forearm axis, following the visitor with the open palms always facing him or her. As more people enter the room, more hands appear and each follows a member of the public. “

Less Than Three (2008) – This took up a very large wall with the accumulation of tube lights from one side to the other. They formed a network of various paths from one end of the wall to the other. An intercom was placed at each end. It took us a few minutes to figure this one out. When you speak into one intercom your message is converted into electric form to create a flashing path through the network of tubes and then finishes at the other end where your message is repeated through the other intercom. The longer the audio the longer the path of flashes is and the longer it takes to get to the other side.

Reporters with Borders (2008) – The following is taken from the Haunch of Venison Press release

“A new installation Reporters with Borders dominates the top floor gallery. Infra-red sensors detect the presence of viewers, bringing large composite projections of Mexican and American TV news reporters to life within the viewers’ silhouettes. Arranged according to distinctions such as male/female, Mexican/US, light-skinned/dark-skinned, eyes open/eyes closed, the previously still figures begin to report the news animatedly, their voices rising to a cacophonous chorus.”

Airport Cluster Plot (2001) – Ok to be honest I really didn’t get this one. It was not interactive as the others were and didn’t seem to do anything which was a stark difference as well. This was a graphic representation of the floor plans of 35 international airports all overlaid by a computer programme. According to the leaflet we were given at the reception desk, this piece “suggests the accelerated movement and hyper-activity of the contemporary global condition“.

Pulse Tank (2008) – I was very impressed by the interactive elements of each piece but my favourite was the ‘Pulse Tank’ which uses different elements including water, light, electronically controlled pistons, sensors, and a glass tank all connected together in some form but with no visible wires.

At the head of the tank there was a metal panel with the outline to two palms. This indicated that the viewer is required to place there hands upon this . There would then come the sound of a slow heart beat like rhythm which would begin to speed up after a while. There were also small thin plastic tubes around the tank were other participants were required to place their fingers (indicated by small graphic labels).

A metal piston type thing (really not sure what it was) would then jab/tap the water in the tank at the rate of the person’s pulse as sensed through the placement of the finger into the tube. This would create a ripple effect in the water. With all tubes occupied, ripples would meet in the centre of the tank of water to create a myriad of circles, lines and diagonals from all sides. The sound of all pulses could be heard from the speakers and the light shone onto the tank would be reflected by the water onto the floor as well as the ceiling. The overall effect was quite lovely.


Our second stop was the Barbican to see Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s other installation ‘Frequency and Volume‘ in the Curve Art Gallery. Once again this was a highly interactive project using radio technology to pick up on radio signals at different frequencies.

As you enter the space you see a tower of aerials in the shape of a pylon. I almost dismissed this myself. I somehow knew it was just part of the method for obtaining the signals and so carried on till I came to the curved wall section. The spotlights on the inner wall create giant shadows of you as you move past. These shadows would then be outlined onto the outer wall onto a large black projection. As you move the channels change. You become the tuner of the radio and can choose to switch from BBC Radio 4 to some random pirate station for example. Sometimes the signals were strong and clear and you could hear a loud chart hit. At other times you would hear rushing sounds and distant murmuring.

There were a couple of kids mucking about in the middle – experimenting with the effects of their shadows and playing out a sort of drama for their unexpected audience. They were revelling in the attention they got from us few viewers. This made me laugh but I could see the fun. If I was by myself I would have run from one end to the other to see if the channels would change as fast as I was running and if the transition from one to the other would be smooth or erratic.

This was a cool project. Most of Lozano-Hemmer’s stuff is cool. I don’t use the word lightly. He has done something quite different from other electronic/digital artists and combined it with the activities of humans – engaging their interest through sound and movement and most importantly their participation. Therefore I cannot wait for his new project for Trafalgar Square!

You can read up more about Lozano-Hemmer’s history, background, past and future projects on his site:

More useful links: