San Francisco, CA, USA
Paraluna is a giant, spinning disc of LEDs. Classical music plays from speakers on the ground while choreographed animated patterns are displayed on the disc above. The disc is held up by a boom lift, allowing the disc to be raised, lowered, and tilted, to dramatic effect.
Paraluna’s main component is a disc 28′ in diameter with 48 aluminum spokes, each with approx 300 LEDs. The disc spins on a vertical axis, 15′-60′ overhead. As it spins, the LEDs change color at just the right time to present a coherent image, making use of the eye’s persistence-of-vision effect. The animated display includes images from space, videos of the natural world, motifs from cultures worldwide, and dazzling computer-generated patterns.
Paraluna forms its own little community. People arrive, find a comfy place on the ground to sit, maybe lie down. Eventually, they get to know their neighbors. The music provides a narrative that keeps everyone engaged, waiting to see and hear what comes next. Many visitors have strong emotional reactions. This seems to be due to the moving LEDs making the mind more impressionable, and the passion of the music taking over.
Christopher Schardt has been creating light installations since since 2003. His current pieces have between 2,000 to 22,000 individually controllable LEDs, pixels in uniquely-shaped image displays. The animated imagery they present depends on the installation. Sometimes a slow, organic pattern is appropriate, sometimes something photorealistic, at other times abstract. Whenever possible, music is incorporated into the piece, providing a narrative that dramatically enhances its impact.
Many of Schardt’s pieces are immersive. Rather than just walking up to the piece, surveying the lights, and moving on, visitors sit down or recline, gazing up at the lights, sometimes for hours. Schardt realized when watching visitors that these pieces transcended some art-role boundary. They stopped being just things of beauty and became calming, soothing, community-building environments.
Schardt has also created groundbreaking pieces that combine the animated motion of the LEDs with physical motion: http://ledlabs.co/mesmer, http://ledlabs.co/tungsten, and http://ledlabs.co/sceptre
Schardt has exhibited pieces at Burning Man, Electric Daisy Carnival, and other events. He has created installations at The Exploratorium, The Oakland Museum of California, The Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.