Control an Army of Fireflies with Your Fingertips

Lasers, sensors, and black lights imitate nature in Maotik's latest interactive installation.

by Beckett Mufson
13 August 2015, 4:15pm

©Adrien Williams

Montreal's Insectarium, a museum dedicated to the creepy crawlies that keep us up at night, presents an elegant light installation that captures the beauty of fireflies without the muggy nights and mosquito bites that usually come with them. Local installation artist Mathieu Le Sourd, a.k.a. Maotik, together with multidisciplinary artist Etienne Paquette, designed Light Bearers, a swarm of 2,500 light bulbs activated by 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.

"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.

See Light Bearers in action in the images and video below.

©Adrien Williams

©Adrien W©Adrien Williamsilliams

©Adrien Williams

©Adrien Williams

©Adrien Williams

©Adrien Williams

Light Bearers will be on display at the Insectarium of Montreal through November 1, 2015. Check out more of Mathieu Le Sourd's work on his website, and in our coverage below.

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light art
leap motion
Mathieu Le Sourd
International Year of Light
Espace pour la Vie
Etienne Paquette
Irena Lesiv
insectarium of montreal
light bearers