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Origami And LEDs Combine In An Interactive Jellyfish Installation

If you find yourself at the Vancouver Aquarium over the holidays, don’t be surprised if you see 94 colorful, floating jellyfish hanging from the ceiling of the Pacific Canada Pavilion gallery. Fear not, you haven’t over done it on the sherry again—they’re part of a new installation called Jelly Swarm from Tangible Intervention and origami artist Joseph Wu.

The interactive piece features folded origami jellies laser cut from a Tyvek, each one containing an LED light module. Just like their luminescent living counterparts found off the British Columbia coast, these stunning creatures change color, mimicking their natural, reactive light behavior.

The origami jellies can be controlled by visitors using a touch screen controller, changing color and patterns. When the jelly fish are left to their own devices, they interact with their neighbors, creating randomly generated patterns.

Alex Beim, Creative Director of Tangible Intervention, answers a few of our questions relating to the piece:

The Creators Project: Why is interactivity important for you in an installation?
Alex Beim:
Because an important goal for us is to bring back that lost, almost child-like sense of wonder. Pretty much all our works have an interactive component. Allowing a participant to influence a piece creates a magical moment—we often see it in the person’s face—and that’s really satisfying for us, and hopefully them too.

What was the attraction of using origami for the jellies? Was it about juxtaposing old and new techniques?
Exactly. We love the idea of hiding technology, and we think it’s best hidden in unexpected places. The disciplines of origami folding and interactive lighting design have a lot in common though—both are the result of a carefully thought out creative process, so there’s definitely synergy between the two techniques. This isn’t the first time we’ve worked with origami and Joseph Wu. Back in 2010, during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, we collaborated on an origami globes installation at the Vancouver Pavilion:

On your website you say a lot of ideas come from R&D sessions. How do these help with the creative process?
Many rudimentary ideas from our R&D Fridays sessions have developed into full installations. Sketches are great but creating prototypes to see how light reflects, how sound travels, how patterns move, for example, can catapult us forward much more quickly.

What are you guys working on next?
We’re working on a large light and kinetic sculpture made from everyday objects. It’s not strictly speaking a secret but we have to keep it under wraps for now. All will be revealed in the early part of 2012.

See the installation at the Pacific Canada Pavilion gallery at the Vancouver Aquarium until the end of February 2012.