European Mobile Lab for Interactive Artists

Artists: Bettina Schülke, Nina Czegledy, Veroniki Korakidou, Dave Lawrence

Type of project: Responsive light - sound installation, performative environment, networked real-time kinetic poetry

Dimensions: 5m (length), 5m (width), 4m (height)

Materials: plexi/pvc cylinder, inner cylinder with LED strips attached, cardboard panels covered by self adhesive foils, turntable, camera with fish-eye lens, control boxes for LED strips, mirror foil, computer.

Aureole aims to evoke a “mystic” interactive experience inspired by the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. The Auroras (Borealis in the North and Australis in the South) are enigmatic natural phenomena produced by electrically charged sub-atomic particles emitted by the sun and sent soaring into the ionosphere by solar winds. The streaming particles are captured by the earth’s magnetic field and as they cascade down into the atmosphere they collide with gas molecules to produce the emission of radiation that glows in various colors. Virtually every circumpolar myth contains references to the Auroras dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. Sámi people of Lapland believed that the Northern Lights are spirits of the dead and were afraid of them. There is a debate whether the Aurora Borealis produce sounds, and although there are about 300 documented reports of aurora sound there is still a need for scientific and practical proof. In general the sounds reported are subtle, and often have been captured via VLF (very low frequency) recordings, plus some examples by recording with special microphone systems. Still many scientists consider the sounds inaudible to the human ear.

Aureole is a real – time audio-visual installation, animated by its visitors in a “shamanistic” way. While the Aurora is a natural phenomenon outside the scope of human control, this installation is animated by its visitors’ desire to move around it and “touch the light” and thus inverts this main characteristic. The installation consists of an enclosed space, where mirrored walls surround a centrally located rotating cylinder-like column. On entering the space, nothing is visible in the dimmed light; the spectacle of the moving lights on the cylinder is initiated only through the physical movement of the viewer/visitor. Above the central sculpture a suspended infrared camera equipped with a fish eye lens tracks the audience as they move. The installation soundscape has been composed with three main conceptual thoughts in mind - to reflect the beautiful poetic and mystical nature of the aurora, to refer to real tangible sounds captured during aurora borealis happenings, and to explore sonic connections with the visual and physical experience in the installation.

Outside the installation space, on the project’s website two parallel screens: a live streaming “performance” of the lights affected by the visitor’s movements and on the second screen real-time generated poetry created by a synaesthetic code; an initial letter matching each color of the lights is “drawing” randomly from a database consisting of a selection of 300 words from scientific texts on the Aurora. After the exhibition, each time someone visits the website, he/she will see a different “experience” of Aureole as a reference to real place and virtual experience, existence and absence, remoteness of communication through time and geographical location, a hybrid environment where reality and what is perceived through the senses is questioned and becomes an object of doubt.

Contact Artist: Bettina Schülke (Bettina.schülke@aon.at)


Stephen P. McGreevy, California, USA (http://www.auroralchorus.com/vlfstory.htm) - a special thanks for the permission to use VLF recordings in the sound composition

Dr Unto K. Laine - Laboratory of Acoustics and Audio Signal Processing, Helsinki University of Technology (http://www.acoustics.hut.fi/~unski/) - inspirational input with knowledge and understanding of aurora sounds


Bence Samu and Marton Juhasz, Matti Ninnimäki, Christoph Sieghard, Aris Tsakoumis, Antonis Chalkias



Project images
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