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This summer I got to assist on a project by artists Matthew Belanger, Sean Riley,  Ven Voisey, and producer Marianne Petit on a neat project called Lumens.  Actually, they did all the work, I just offered a little guidance to get things started.  It’s an installation of 160 networked lamps situated in two galleries in the towns of Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts, and the online arts organization  The lamps in each gallery react to visitors walking through the space, as well as responding to movements in the other space. In addition, visitors online can turn on the lamps as well.

The project came out of the artists’ interest in drawing connections between the two towns, which had originally been one community.  Marianne descibes it best: “As an individual wanders through the gallery space, clusters of lamps illuminate in response to their presence and simultaneously illuminate lamps in the counterpart spaces.  It is in this way that an individual in Adams can communicate his/her presence to an individual in North Adams, and vice versa.  Additionally, as visitors investigate the history of a particular lamp online it also illuminates in the physical gallery space.” The work is installed at Greylock Arts in Adams, MCLA Gallery 51 in North Adams, and can be seen online at

The lamps.  Image courtesy of Matts Building Lumens blog
The lamps. Image courtesy of Matt's Building Lumens blog

What impresses me about the project is the combination of ambition, community spirit, and humor that went into it. The website makes it look all so simple and elegant, but it’s easy to overlook how much work went into it.  Fortunately, Matt’s documented that, including notes on how to make your own networked lamp. His narrative of the whole project is a great read if you want a sense of what it takes to pull off a network project.  What’s apparent from his blog is something that’s often overlooked in interactive art work: it’s impossible not to collaborate. It’s clear from reading the blog that there were high points and low points, but that the project would not have happened were it not only for the artists and producer, but also for the community they have around them.

The lamps are all collected from the community, some built for the exhibit, others taken from homes.  There are some beautiful classics, some utilitarian worklights, and some that are just plain odd, like the baby head lamp that makes me so happy.  It’s a great project, and if you’re in the Adams or North Adams area before Halloween, it’s well worth the visit.

Published in art & performance interaction design networks physical computing

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