994,138

Artificial Light

Quadratura were asked to create an audio/visual art installation for the Artificial Light exhibition that took place in Bournemouth on April 24th, 2010.

Based in Bournemouth Central Gardens, we were given the opportunity to apply our video mapping technology to the War Memorial, the imposing centrepiece of the garden.

For further information about the Artificial Light exhibition please go to lumenortis.co.uk

The Installation

Our main concern was that we wanted to augment the memorial, rather than take away from its meaning and importance.

During our research, we were struck by the number of UK casualties during World War 1: 994,138 military and civilian deaths.  (Source: Wikipedia)

We aimed to create a contemporary digital and generative artwork that would visually present the scale of this loss of life in an abstract way, while being respectful of the underlying architecture of the memorial.

Visuals

By using two 1024×768 projectors we could utilise each pixel to represent one of the 994,138 lives lost.

Each pixel starts off black, then gets progressively brighter.  Taking the age range of soldiers who fought in the war, 16-35, each pixel takes between 16 and 35 seconds to reach full brightness, thus each second represents a year of their life.

When each pixel reaches its assigned age it turns red to denote the persons death.  The pixel then turns black again and the cycle repeats (though each time the pixel is assigned a different age).  This cycling behaviour alludes to the act of remembrance.

We wanted the colour of the ‘live’ pixels to be green, thus the waves of red also looking somewhat like fields of poppies in the wind seen from above, but on-site we felt a much paler green worked better visually as it gave greater depth to the textural feel of the imagery.

Audio

In contrast to the slow, introspective sweeping motion of the visuals, the soundtrack for our installation features the noise of war.

We wanted to juxtapose the two: to visually represent the scale of lost life and have the reality that so many of the individuals faced presented in audio.

The ticking clocks also reinforce the idea of years passing for each pixel, and ourselves: this being our history, despite the passing of time: “lest we forget”.

The songs that have been incorporated add a final, shocking level of irony to the installation as a whole.

Technical Details

During development we originally planned to have each pixel being entirely independent and random but this resulted in a visual static that was too chaotic.  By utilising a simple Perlin noise generator we were able to group pixels together to form pleasing ripples but keeping an ever changing and evolving image.

The entire system is generated in real-time using PatchBox and a single CGFX shader.

Photo Gallery