Conceptual collage from the proposal package for LIGHT KEEPER

Using light as a sculptural material, LIGHT KEEPER draws from lighthouse lenses and analog projection technologies to create waves of rainbow light and a moon clock beamed onto the urban porch of Aitken Place Park. Taking its name from the keepers who maintain lighthouses, the installation speaks to light as a medium for sending messages across vast dark spaces, helping vessels find their way, and signalling danger or change ahead.

LIGHT KEEPER rendering
Prism experiments

The work is comprised of three interrelating parts: a moon clock, rainbow waves, and a prism tower. While bright and colourful, the overall effect of the artwork emphasizes subtlety, reflection, and spatial awareness, intended to build relationships between park users and their space over time – especially after dark. In civic space, where the night is often lost to sky glow and artificial light, LIGHT KEEPER draws a new connection with the natural environment surrounding Aitken Place Park.

A single, bright light – the moon clock – will wax and wane on the concrete surface of the plaza, changing in relation to the moon in the sky above. Custom gobos and a mechanised mirror will transition the moon through phases of the month.

By relating this simple lightform to our closest celestial relative (a universal symbol, beyond local identity or language barriers), the artwork becomes a visual timekeeping device, charting the moon’s monthly progress in an effort to reconnect with the broader celestial environment, so often invisible in the heart of Toronto.

Early images from the concept package for LIGHT KEEPER

Just as global tides respond to the gravitational pull of the moon on large bodies of water, rainbow waves are linked to the movements of the moon clock across Aitken Place Park. Spectral bands of light, corresponding to the waves breaking against the Toronto Waterfront, will slowly and silently roll across the pavement.

Animated by a custom-made, mechanical lens machine, the motion and speed of waves will be determined by an anemometer, a device measuring the wind coming in off the lake.

Domestic tests of our custom lens

By transforming wind into waves of light, the motion of this rainbow machine will adjust in accordance with the natural environment, offering an illuminated illustration of waves passing over the nearby lake.

Perhaps the most interactive element of the artwork, rainbow waves will reflect natural space while inviting interpersonal participation. Viewers may take turns jumping over bands of light as they roll across the plaza, or chasing waves down the pavement. For some, these rainbow waves will provide opportunities for active play, for others, they will offer environmental escapism.

Rainbow wave tests during GLOW Light Festival (Feb 2019)
Modelling prisms

While the the moon clock and rainbow waves are immaterial, the prism tower is a minimalist sculpture visible both during the day and night. Practically intended to house the large lenses, mirror, and mechanisms used to animate the plaza with light, the design of the structure is equally important to concepts behind the work.

Inspired abstractly by the form of a lighthouse, the prism tower serves as a symbolic obelisk and a beacon, directing rainbow light over the park. Built from polished stainless steel, the tower is a mirrored prism – an inverted representation of the clear prisms composing our custom lens. It is a prism that reflects light instead of refracting it.

During the day, the polished steel of the prism tower will reflect the foliage in the surrounding planter garden. At night, rainbows will reflect off the inner faces of the tower, scattering around the park. A triangular cap, made from frosted glass, will protect the lens from the elements and capture rainbows (via rear-projection), enticing viewers from behind the structure. For viewers looking up, the mechanisms of LIGHT KEEPER will be revealed. The trickery will be exposed while the magic is maintained.

LIGHT KEEPER lens test

LIGHT KEEPER takes on new meaning against the bright metropolis of Toronto, referencing the disappearance of natural phenomenon from urban spaces. With rainbow waves shifting speed in accordance with the wind, and a moon clock changing phases with the moon in the sky, LIGHT KEEPER attempts to capture and keep the ephemeral light that cities threaten to overwhelm.