Finishing my Final Final: Experiments in Shaping Solid light

Finishing my Final Final: Experiments in Shaping Solid light

As promised, below are some of the experiments I’ve been working on in my final class of the semester, Shaping Solid Light.

Experiment Proposal

Intent of experiments: I am interested in exploring the “solidness” of light. I want to see what illusions of solidness can be created with light, smoke, and projection.

Proposed Methods

I will conduct a number of tests using lights, projectors, a humidifier, and a fog machine. I might also try to experiment with various surfaces to explore how the surface I project onto effects the illusion of solidness (as is the case in many of James Turrell’s light pieces) . I would like to attempt to recreate something like the fog display in the following YouTube video:

YouTube Preview Image

How does this fit into my art practice?

Next semester, I will be taking the class public art with Annette Barbier. I am interested in exploring the possibility of public light displays. Light and projection might allow me to create large scale “sculptural pieces” without the expensive physical material it would need to create such a sculpture.


1. The unfocused light did not have much of an effect in creating some solid planes. It simply filled the room with light. The humidifier had a very focused stream of mist, but it was very small and very light. It might work as a display with some pico projectors or something.

2. I tried multiple unfocused lights, and they simply filled the room. The effect was not very dynamic.

3. I experimented with the effects of fog and mist with a projector. The projector provided a much more focused beam and the ability to quickly change color.

4. I experimented with the effects of fog and mist with multiple projectors and wanted to see what kind of effects were created by multiple beams of light interacting with each other. The effect was not as dynamic as the lights, perhaps because the room had white walls and because the projectors where not as bright as the lights I used.

5. I experimented with focused lights and fog/haze in the raw space and created some very interesting effects. I was able to create very focused planes of light that you could walk around and experience from multiple perspectives. I was very happy with the results.

6. I experimented with my interaction with the diffused/focused light as I walked through the space.

7. I experimented with front and rear projection to see how that might relate to building a fog display. As far as video displays go, it was necessary to view the display as a rear projection. Sometimes I couldn’t see the image until I was facing the projector.

8. I experimented with 3D mapping using the software MadMapper. MadMapper made it super easy to project onto rectangular surfaces. I’m interested, in the future, in projecting on much more complex surfaces. This allows for some tremendous possibilities.

9. I attempted to build a fog display but was unable to complete it in time.

When I first started to experiment with fog as a tool, I discovered that something else was needed if I wanted to display images on the fog. The fog would quickly rise to the ceiling and fill the room with a haze. I wanted to create a screen, so I discovered what people called fog chillers, which literally chilled the fog causing it to fall to the floor. I also discovered that, at least with the fog machine I started using, I could not keep it on for more then a few seconds without it overheating.

Relationship to Contemporary Artists

I was pleased with the light displays created in the raw space. They where very similar to the works of Anthony McCall, though I used primarily lights and not digital projectors.

Exploring the illusion of solidness from light was also inspired in part by the work of artist James Turrell, who works primarily with light and space and has heavily studied perceptual psychology and optical Illusion. James is working predominantly with lights, but data projectors can allow for the easy creation of similar projects

Other Interesting Outcomes

I began with an interest in light, but quickly became more aware of the quality of the mist and fog itself. I became aware of the particles it created and the qualities of those particles.