When it comes right down to it, we were always going to have to tune the optics of LIGHT KEEPER onsite in Toronto. The distance from the lens to the concrete, the angle of the moon as it moves, the speed the rainbows cross the concrete, the specific wiring, the final programming – all of this needed to be done onsite at night, carefully tailored to the geometries and environment of the surrounding park.
That being said, we prepared our devices as much as possible in advance at home and in our AirBnB, testing motors, soldering connections, and watching gobos spin. Wayne programmed the artwork, using real-time clock modules with microcontrollers to ensure the phases of the moon are tracked accurately for our Moon Clock – a step removed from the analog methods used by the optical elements of the sculpture.
The rainbow waves washing across the park correspond to the speed of the wind, measured with an anemometer – a wind sensor.
This little pinwheel, set on top of the structure, is used to gather real-time environmental data, which translates into motion. We’ve capped the movement of our motors at minimum and maximum speeds, so there will always be some motion (even when the wind is still) but the artwork will never be a “disco party light” in a windstorm. For viewers looking at the artwork during the day, this friendly spinning device provides the curious observer another access point to understand how the artwork functions.
Optically, removing the protective coating from the stainless steel changed the structure completely, revealing the mirror-finish surface beneath. This brought an interesting environmental dynamic to the sculpture, reflecting clouds, the nearby lake and streetscape, the surrounding park, and, most importantly, light.
The mirrored surface resculpted light from our devices, compounding and kaleidoscoping rainbows, as you will soon see.
We prepared our moon mirror using mirror film and acrylic layers, and installed it nestling beneath the prismatic lens. The mirror itself is connected to a stepper motor, which slowly rotates the projected moon across the urban porch between sunset and sunrise each day, allowing LIGHT KEEPER a presence for both nighthawks and early birds.
Turning on the rainbow lens was a moment of truth. Built from prisms wrapped around a high-intensity discharge metal halide bulb (similar to those found in old street lights), the bulb took a minute to warm up, slowly brightening to full capacity before revealing fingers of rainbow light, creeping like spider legs down the inner face of the sculpture.
We breathed a collective sigh of relief when our rainbows swam into focus. The surrounding park lighting still needed to be redirected away from our projection surface before the artwork came to life, but our commissioners at Waterfront Toronto were very accomodating in this regard.
Once the lighting was functional, there was still much finicky wiring, programming, and adjusting to do before it was aesthetically acceptable to our team. We spent a few nights in the cold with Wayne’s computer hooked into the base of the structure, programming the moon mirror to travel across the concrete and the waves to roll in harmony with the winds.
Finally, the moon arched across the concrete, and the rainbow waves slid down the stainless steel cladding of the sculpture, kaleidoscoping off the mirrored surface and into Aitken Place Park. LIGHT KEEPER was ready to share.