THE GREAT HALL:
A SPATIAL PORTRAIT
LOCATION: Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
CLIENT: Liberty Science Center
TEAM: EwingCole, Ed Purver, Ron Fogel Associates
Public artist, Leni Schwendinger, and her studio won the commission from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts percent for art funds New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center’s Great Hall.
Working together with the Center’s curator and architect, Schwendinger sited A Spatial Portrait, a monumental, suspended, interactive sculpture eleven feet above the floor in the mid-space of the Hall. This pendant of 120 strands of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), each 10 feet long, creates a dazzling show of light in real time.
Reflecting upon and reinterpreting the Center’s belief that every person’s actions affect everyone else on the planet and conversely, how global changes affect each one of us— a light installation was envisioned to capture the movement of every visitor as they circulate throughout the Science Court. The composite movements of visitors create an ever-changing three-dimensional “spatial portrait” of the room.
From multiple positions in the Hall, sensors and video cameras track visitors’ movements. Through digital processing and switching, this information is then translated and displayed on a rectangular spatial field. The information displayed in the LED array consists of three different programming concepts— each offering a different interpretation of the movement in the Science Court. These concepts are defined in the following ways:
The figurative concept marks the entry of visitors. Visitors’ colors, shapes, and movements are captured by a video camera at a designated area close to the main entrance. This visual information is pixilated, reassembled, and fed into the LED array—and is viewable from multiple vantage points in the Court. Like a three-dimensional mirror of light, the interacting visitors view a low-resolution depiction of their actions displayed in real-time.
The diagrammatic concept celebrates the passing of time and movement. Cameras positioned around the LED array track visitors’ presence throughout the Court’s monitored area. As people move through the space, their progress is tracked—drawn into the spatial field above and represented in two preselected colors, orange and white. Vivid bursts of color are displayed in the LED array when people cross paths during a set period.