Arboreal Lightning
Arboreal Lightning is a large-scale interactive lighting installation that transforms sound and gesture into an immersive, fluctuating, luminous environment - specifically designed for the Camden Roundhouse. Its activity is generated by both amateurs and professionals - artist performers and a wider audience - creating a performative stage beacon that activates programmed performances, and also serves as an interactive public installation outside concert times.


Arboreal Lightning is the centrepiece and graphical icon for the 4-day Reverb Festival of Contemporary Classical Music - a smorgasbord of contemporary composers, with an emphasis on technological innovation. It was commissioned by both the Roundhouse venue and the Reverb curator, acclaimed musician Imogen Heap, who will then modify and use it on her year-long world tour.


The project mirrors the Roundhouse's clock-like plan of 24 columns by bundling 24 strands of LED light into a giant heavy-rooted trunk that grows from the stage to arc over the colonnade and arches above.
The strands soar upwards and weave through columns and rafters to follow the building's dramatic structure, seeking hidden recesses and unexplored corners, before exploding outwards above both the performers and audience.


Some branches yearn upwards, towards the light of the lantern; a few strands bow down to reach and mingle with the audience, who can then trigger their own luminous ripples and join in the spatial symphony. This light canopy of visual music creates a unifying lattice that embraces the people beneath it within a giant, pulsating, Gaian network - umbilical cords connecting people to building, sound to light.


1,500 metres of LED string have been meticulously tamed to shadow the contours of the building's skeleton - yet each of the 4,800 pixel nodes glimmer individually in response to life. They coalesce to form a sinuous elastic mesh of sculptural video; a fluid, spatial cinema, worming through the building.


Arboreal Lightning unleashes the hidden power of a place - and people. It explores inaccessible spaces and ineffable sensations - the physical manifestation of music, and the convergence of sensations. In an age of emancipated connectivity and collaboration, it seeks to reinvent and re-imagine the relationship between performer and audience, sound and light.





(perspectival plan showing installation growing across Roundhouse structure)


(perspectival frontal elevation showing installation snapping to Roundhouse structure)


(above: orthogonal side section showing installation reaching towards Roundhouse apex; below: perspectival version)


(below: worms eye views up through structure & lighting)




(above: sample lighting mode as 'arctic fissures'; below: sample lighting mode as 'volcanic flame')




(sample lighting mode as 'synthetic glade')




(above & below left: sample assembly/construction details below right: system diagram)




(above: total lengths of LED (mm); below: diagrammatic sequence of form evolution; further below: variation in LED pitch)






Project Team:

Design: atmos (Alex Haw, Alexia Michael, Alice Michael, Christian Erl, Flora Martinet, Kurtis Risi, Natalie Chelliah)
Software Design: Adam Stark
LED supplier: Architainment (Paul Rees)
CNC routing: The Cutting Room (Mark Durey, Garry)
Microphones: Sennheiser (Dave Wooster, Phil Cummings, Alan March)
Website Support: Fluency (Sinead mac Manus, Edil Samatar)
Technology Support: John Nussey
Space & Fabrication Support: Makerversity
Muse: Imogen Heap
Fabrication: Brilliant Volunteers (Alex Mayhook, Ana-Andrea Soria-Alo, Ana Maria Dumitru, Ana Tam, Anke Weber, Ben Kitchin, Clare Dallimore, Cristina Militaru, Cody Law, Daria Lanz, Ditte Blohm, Donia Chiselita, Edil Samatar, Elena Capodarca, Elinor Wood, Elle Phan, Emma Kilday, Emma Fayers, Emilia Li, Fatima Raza, Francesco Montaguti, Fungai Marima, Gary Nash, Hannah Chelliah, Harish Persad, Hemant Kumar, Imogen Wall, Ishwariya Rajmohan, Javier Lorentes, Jay Stone, Joshua Berry, Karina Hartnett, Kok Tew, Lizzie Downes, Luisa Fernanda, Marie-Claire Rodriguez, Margot Lombaert, Martina Grilli, Michal Mojduszka, Mohamed Jacobo, Myrto Tzortzi, Natalia Fludra, Nicola Agresta, Rashmir Balasubramaniam, Sidi Lemine, Sinead mac Manus, Susan Fan, Tanaka Mazivanhanga, Tina McCloskey, Valeriu Marta-Becour, Vanessa Caradonna, Yasmin Metz-Johnson)

with massive thanks to Tim Meadowcroft, Fiona Greenhill, Liz Counsell, Dave Gaydon, Marcus Davey and the fabulous team at the Roundhouse; Rachel Nelken; Imogen Heap's team; Mark Wood at Radius Music; Kelly Snook; Nick Archdale & Tim Edwards at Pharos Controls; Jak Drinnan; Sinead Mac Manus and Edil Samatar at Fluency; Stuart Knox at LEDLinear; Thomas Ermacora; and the light that is Sinead Mac Manus.


Arboreal Lightning has gratefully received generous support from the Arts Council England, Roundhouse, Imogen Heap and Radius Music; it is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England (www.artscouncil.org.uk)


Share