interdisciplinary research studio-lab


Project Description:

Dynamic Light is a research-creation program that asks how we can think about lighting design (the
deliberate use of light to achieve a practical or aesthetic effect) like we think about music: as a composition of dynamic patterns, rhythms, phrases and gestures that take place over time. The premise of the research stems from a famous statement by the Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis that due to new technologies “we understand that a new art of light is at our doorsteps, one that is not painting, nor frescos, nor theater, nor ballet, nor opera” because ”light occupies time, for its effect depends on rhythm and duration while music shapes space” (Xenakis 2008). We draw inspiration from musical and dance gestures that express powerful emotions and moods through qualities of dynamics: rhythm, harmony, movement, speed and intensity. We will compose such living dynamics by experimenting with machine-generated techniques such as artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial life (A-Life) to control rhythms, patterns, and actions in groups of lights in order to create strong emotional experiences of “vitality,” the manifestation of being alive, between human viewers and the medium of light. In this project light doesn’t recede in the background but becomes the performer itself.

DL is thus guided by three core research questions:
1. What new concepts, techniques and technologies can be introduced into the practice of lighting design in order to expand the discipline’s aesthetic-conceptual-technical possibilities within a temporal context?
2. How can we draw on work in computer-generated sound, machine learning/AI and work in cognitive
science/psychology to develop new forms and strategies for temporal composition with light?
3. How can ethnographic methods such as collective interviews and sensory-driven participant observation based from the anthropology of the senses be used to empirically document and evaluate the cultural/ perceptual experiences of these dynamics with viewers/audiences?

Artistic Results of Research:

the methods/techniques developed will seed the research-development of three R-C works:

Dynamic Light

(Salter, Wanderley, Ikegami, Senécal) A large-scale installation for the Barbican Centre in London which involves a networked series of lighting objects distributed across the public spaces and uses dynamic rhythms and patterns to create a different sense of lived time for over 1 million passers-by during its exhibition.

Light Instruments

(Saunier, Dalphond, Bussières) A series of small, performer scale “light instruments” which can be expressively controlled/shaped in real time by performer gestures and environmental data.

Behavioral Light Objects

(Bianchini) The production of “behavioral” light objects that explore the forms of intentionality and relationality that can be expressed using light and across multiple devices.

Documentation: (forthcoming)

Location: (TBA)




Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Sociéte et Culture, Programme d’appui aux arts et technologies médiatiques



Chris Salter
Marcelo Wanderley
Anthropologist: David Howes
Lighting designer: Nancy Bussières
A-Life: Takashi Ikegami, Physicist, U Tokyo
machine learning/AI: Jean-Sebastien Senécal, U Maine
Samuel Bianchini, ENSAD Paris
PhD researchers: Alexandre Saunier, Concordia; Hugo Dalphonde, UQAM
Undergraduate researcher: Owen Coolidge, Concordia