New York, NY



Intended to mimic the deliberate yet erratic behavior of lightning,Cumulus is an interactive installation that reacts to sound using light. Lighter than the overall volume it occupies, the piece relies on redundancies and connections that cannot be achieved from a grid, giving it a soft, cloud-like shape.

The irregularity of the cell-like structure imbues the piece with a playful personality as it responds to environmental and ambient noise in unpredictable ways. Each time sound in the space reaches a certain volume, the piece activates.  A variety of behaviors were programmed, including a trail that cycles through the structure in a series of waves and pulses, each responding to the amplitude and ranges of surrounding sound. Cumulus’ most dynamic behavior is similar in spirit to our original intent –ie: lightning – which seeks a pathway through one of the next connecting segments. The duration of this path is dictated by the volume of the sound that activates it, while a simple algorithm allows for a variety of interesting visual effects—from long, lightning-like strands caused by sporadic low frequency sounds to a static-y looking burst when people are chattering beneath it.

Interactivity is achieved through a series of physical and digital systems working together. The structure comprises more than 200 acrylic segments – which are connected by 100+ unique, 3D-printed joints – bearing a complex internal network of LED strands. Overall 70 meters of individually addressable LEDs have been employed in order to activate this structure. The piece employs a custom UI designed with Processing, which analyzes the sound, activates the behaviors and communicates with three Arduino microcontrollers that have been programmed to activate specific areas of the LED network.

The piece is installed in the RAB showroom in Chelsea at 535 W 24th Street and runs through July 3rd.  The showroom is open to the public on weekdays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

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Status: Built
Location: Chelsea, NY, US
Firm Role: Designer
Additional Credits: Photos: Alan Tansey