Company Post

Maotik's Light Bearers: 2,500 Fireflies Animate and Delight

"On a summer evening, the air is filled with the flash of fireflies calling to one another. Intrigued by their dialogue we created a poetic representation of their conversation. Our immersive environment is a multmedia interpretation of a natural ecosystem that combines thousands of original crafted objects with state-of-the-art technology such as lasers. Visitors are invited to participate in the experience by creating their own audiovisual show inspired by the frail beauty of fireflies, they themselves become light bearers."

There can be no immunity to the surprise and delight experienced when suddenly in the darkness of a hot summer night, one encounters the glimmering pulses of fireflies in the tall grass. Mathieu Le Sourd, a.k.a. Maotik, together with multidisciplinary artist Etienne Paquette have designed Light Bearers, a very magical installation that simulates this wondrous experience indoors at Montreal's Insectarium.

Furthermore this swarm of 'fireflies', which are in fact 2,500 light bulbs filled with light-diffusing tonic water, can be controlled at one's whimsy, by activating an invisible hand-guided laser. "Point at different spots across the elegant glass field and Le Sourd's clever combination of Leap Motion sensors and TouchDesigner software will set them aglow like the lightning bugs that inspired them." we learn at The Creators Project.

We managed to catch Mathieu standing still for long enough to tell us a bit more about the making of this installation - here is what he had to say:

Before starting the production of the installation, we had to decide what form the field would take and what size each elements will need to have in order to be able to see them all. I used TouchDesigner to simulate a 3D environment of the light bulbs field. I created a simple model with a tube and a sphere and use the instancing method to generate 2500 light bulbs from a 3D plane.

TouchDesigner is a really convenient tool to fast prototyping such an installation, we were able to order the height of each metal rods generatively. Once the shape of the light fields was decided, I converted the plane point numbers into a database with a SOP to DAT to get the position and size of each crafted object.

I have been controlling lasers within TouchDesigner with the Etherdream CHOP operator. By connecting 3 lasers on a network I was able to blend them together and map the whole surface of the field. Light Bearers is a collective experience where 2 users communicate with the light by using their hands. Two Leap Motion are connected individually to a server where the hand data is transmitted through WebSocket to the main computer. Each finger tracked becomes a laser point (firefly) that illuminates the light bulb field. The system also recognizes the numbers of fingers detected which allows the user to play with it.

And here too is what Beckett Mufson for The Creators Project reports:

"The biggest challenge was to build an immersive environment in order to reconstruct fireflies natural ecosystem such as a forest," Le Sourd tells The Creators Project. Working with co-director Paquette, environmental designer Irena Lesiv, and technical designer XYZ-TC he captured the organic ambiance by filling the bulbs with light-diffusing tonic water, adding plant-like metal rods to support them, and creating a soundscape of ambience and insect noises reminiscent of Robert Henke. "We wanted to combine nature and industrial environment together in order show how cities are encroaching on natural surroundings."

The installation was commissioned by Espace pour la Vie, Montreal's life science museums, since they're following UNESCO's lead and celebrating 2015 as the Year of Light. Le Sourd's work was an ideal match for this theme, as he manipulates blistering sounds and visuals with balloons, opens up illuminated wormholes, and uses light to defy physics on the reg. For Light Bearers, the artist says he wants to "give visitors the impression of being transported in a night spot filled with fireflies, and to offer them a participatory experience of communication by the light." In other words, Maotik and company have created both a stunning installation and the best reason to drink mint juleps at a museum.


Design and Direction : Mathieu Le Sourd and Etienne Paquette

Art Direction : Mathieu Le Sourd |

Environmental Design : Irena Lesiv

Sound Design : Jean-francois predno |

Technical Design and Production : XYZ Technologie Culturelle |