By extending the body with light, we can form an experiential bridge between what we see and what we feel or know about the dynamic, moving body. This can help us to understand and think about how our physical presence might affect space and how the different parts of our bodies might interact with each other (and others) through gesture and posture. Bloomer and Moore, in Body, Memory and Architecture, suggest that what’s missing from dwellings today are the potential transactions between body, imagination and environment. Light Arrays provide a way of thinking about these transactions from an experiential, as well as visual, perspective. They allow us to enter, understand and experiment with our non-observational relationship to space. Just as Merleau-Ponty claims that the paintings of Cézanne ‘make visible how the world touches us’, the Light Arrays make visible how our gestures touch the world.

Interface Experiments

A number of different approaches were taken:

  • lasers were attached, perpendicular to the body, down the length of the spine
  • a strip of LEDs were sewn onto a garment down the length of the spine
  • modular strips of LEDs were made to attach to the limbs and other body parts
  • The modular set-up allowed us to respond to outcomes on the fly
  • both the lasers and the LEDs were used in fog and smog
  • the smog provided the clearest refraction of light
  • the LEDs were also used in clear air

Video Experiments

Each of the images below links to a short video of experimental outcomes. Please note that this work is ongoing. The videos show excerpts from our first experiments.

The performers here are: Karen Berger, Elijah Ungvary and Tim Page

01 Light Arrays LEDarms 1

02 Light Arrays LEDarms 2

03 Light Arrays LEDarms 3

04 Light Arrays LEDarms+legs

05 Light Arrays LEDarms x2

06 Light Arrays laserSpine 1

07 Light Arrays laserSpine 2

08 Light Arrays LEDspine

09 Light Arrays LEDbodies

Open Questions & Participant Feedback

As mentioned, the work shown here is experimental. It is part of a larger research project aimed at exploring how technology might be paired with the body to poeticise experience, and what this might mean (other projects include hipDisk, & the hipdiskettes, gesture≈sound, hipDrawing, vibroBod, the OWL project and shape||change). The Light Array experiments have so far proven rich and evocative, raising many questions in regard to the performers’ relationships to their bodies, as well as their relationships to the technology and how it affects their ability to generate and explore through movement. Participant comments include:

  • I became aware that I know so little about my body
  • It gave me a map of the subtlety and size of my gestures, as well as the shift between what it feels like, and what reads for an audience
  • it made me want to move my body in new ways
  • I wanted to explore shape
  • I felt I had a heightened sense of awareness
  • I became frustrated with the limits of my body
  • it made me move how I don’t normally move
  • The lights provided confirmation/verification and support for my body memory
  • It challenges what you’re used to
  • It’s like learning a new rhythm
  • The revelation of light is breathtaking
  • and they all wanted more lights


There are a number of challenges that arise when working with interactive technology in performance, not least of which is that the performers can be seduced by what the technology affords. But this is not the only challenge. The radical difference in development times of technology and dance and other forms of physical performance has enormous impact, and when the technology is body-centric, in particular wearable, performance development often can’t begin until a fully functioning garment (or at least a sufficiently robust prototype), that responds to or incorporates the performer’s particular physical and biomechanical attributes, is available. For this to happen, focused experimentation and garment/technology development must first occur – to make possible, prepare for, and lay foundations for performance development. This process is atypical for performers and can entail steep learning curves. It requires patience, commitment and disponabilité [the availability to be available].