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Making the northern lights shine in Japan

LED installation at EXPO 2005

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The Northern Lights installation

 

Design: Peter Bysted, Philip Egebak

Client: Nordic Council of Ministers

Date: 2005

Switching on some Nordic magic

The Northern lights or aurora borealis is a natural wonder that draws people to the Nordic region from around the world, including many Japanese - perhaps encouraged by their myth that happiness and good fortune will shine upon a child conceived under its glow.

The Japanese fascination with the aurora borealis inspired Peter Bysted to create a 'living picture' of the natural phenomenon in the joint Nordic Pavilion at EXPO 2005 in Nagoya. Working with lighting company Louis Poulsen, Peter Bysted and Philip Egebak created a 12 by 5 meter installation that got Japanese visitors to lay their head back and dream of the polar night's silence and mystery.

 

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Artificial Northern light. Prototype at the workshop.

 

A curtain of light

The installation was a way to experiment and explore the potential of LED lighting which, in 2005, was still an up-and-coming technology. The installation's illusion was created by acrylic rods that were illuminated from above by powerful LEDs. Controlled by computer, the light was programmed to form the colour-changing 'curtains' that people associate with the aurora borealis.

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The natural aurora borealis.


The sound of light

For the installation, Kristian Vester (Goodiepal) was asked to create sounds to accompany the light show. This increased the impact of the experience and linked to an old idea that the aurora borealis generates sounds along with spectacular light.

The native people of the region, the Sami, call the Northern Lights the 'Gouvssahas', which means light that can be heard. And some vistors, upon seeing the aurora borealis, claim to hear a crackling sound. While this may be caused by an electromagnetic pulse, others simply believe that the sound is caused by the viewer - a sense perception caused by extremely quiet environments.

 

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