For the past few years I've tinkered with a Kinect and the Processing language to create trippy rainbow colored art. (See: Glitch, my most fruitful pet project.) It uses a depth-sensing camera to feed into a Processing app, which renders motion in strobing rainbow colors (actually in one color per frame, which when animated appears to your brain as multicolored).

This past June I had the pleasure of presenting it as an installation at Figment NYC on Governor's Island. Figment is an outdoor DIY art festival focusing on interactive installations. I found it mostly disorganized and messy, though a fun kind of disorganized and messy. As a first-time festival artist, I learned a few key tricks, like:

  • Nag, nag, nag for someone to answer your emails, instead of assuming someone will get around to it eventually.
  • Don't trust anyone about the number of power outlets in a room without seeing them with your own eyes.
  • Most weather reports are calibrated for surface the earth, not underground bunkers. Consider a long-sleeved shirt. (More on this later.)
  • B.Y.O.S. (signage)
  • You're not being overly worried. Buy the extra extension cord.

While most of Figment took place in the row of houses called Colonel's Row and the adjacent lawns, I was one of the few people who needed relative darkness for their projects, and was thus banished to granted a space below Fort Jay in the center of the island. Pro tip: underground dungeons grottos are constantly cold regardless of the weather. Like any good art gallery, the bunker's hard, smooth, curved walls produced such an echo that speech was impossible between people further than 12 inches apart. The first thing groups of 8-year-olds do in such a room is to scream at the tops of their lungs all at once.

My lair, erm, I mean installation. Don't let the light level fool you. When you descend from a bright June midday to an unlit underground bunker, you can't see a darn thing besides the projection.

Since I forgot to bring signage of any sort, I'm pretty sure most people thought my installation belonged to The Azerbaijan A/V Club, the only other group in Fort Jay, who put on an improv music and video performance in the larger room next to mine. To their credit, they sampled Phantom of the Paradise for their bit. In terms of mood, our projects are actually very well matched to be neighbors.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Beef!"


I noticed a few common patterns that people stuck to when confronting my project for the first time.

  1. You ignore it. The installation does not detect motion outside the room, so until you walk in all you see is a vague, unenticing flickering, like the image below. You stand outside the room, perplexed, then walk away.
  2. You flail around or dance. As soon as you figure out that your movement is producing the light show, it lures you in, and you wave your arms, dance, and jump around to make more rainbows.
  3. You take pictures. Gotta gram this shit! Surprisingly, only one person took a selfie.
  4. You are a kid (self explanatory).

Kids really loved the installation. Kids also asked me the most questions about the project's workings. Your takeaway from this article should be that kids are pretty cool.

For being so far from the rest of Figment, I get a steady stream of people at my installation. My neighbors surely helped by giving off a lightshow visible from the dungeon tunnel entrance leading to our rooms.
This girl is the coolest visitor I get all day.

View all Figment gifs
(many strobing lights)