Tundra’s “ROW” Hacks LED Blades to Striking Effect

The Russian new media collective has repurposed LED blades to explore spatial language

By Alex Czetwertynski

All LED and display technology manufacturers should have artists in residence to show how their products can be used in truly interesting ways.  In a cyclical fashion, these manufacturers comes up with a new offering that is supposed to “break the boundaries” of what was possible and offer “endless new possibilities” to wow audiences.  One of the latest of these is the holographic LED blade apparatus, which has started appearing in more and trade fairs and is being actively pushed by Chinese manufacturers.  When I saw it last year at LDI (The Live Design International conference in Las Vegas) I was not impressed.  Looking more like a gimmick than a real creative tool, I wondered what usages could be made of it.  It didn’t take long to find out.

Tundra, a Russian collective based in St Petersburg, took the LED blades and hacked them to create a holographic “Row” of light, creating abstract patterns with the array.  Rather than seeing these units as individual displays, their transparency allows for combinations to be created in depth, rather than the flat array the industry typically advertises.  The use of depth and of synced animation is what makes the piece stand out, creating a rare effect where imagery seems to layer itself through motion and distance. Rather than use representational imagery, Tundra employs minimal and ‘synaesthetic’ patterns that make the piece more of an exploration into a spatial visual language than an attempt at creating a standalone image.

Known for their audiovisual prowess, Tundra’s piece is not purely visual but evolves hand in hand with generative audio composed by the collective.  It seems to allow for various dimensions and quantities of units, potentially leading towards a very large array, something I’d love to see.

“Row” at 44kw in Shanghai (photos courtesy of the artists)
“Row” at 44kw in Shanghai (photos courtesy of the artists)
“Row” at 44kw in Shanghai (photos courtesy of the artists)
“Row” at 44kw in Shanghai (photos courtesy of the artists)


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