Building IRIS: How a digital art masterpiece is made


The assembly of IRIS – a unique digital art installation, created using the latest in robotic and laser technology, took place this week at the Interactive Architecture Lab, UCL, where all the parts are finally coming together after several months of preparation.

The installation uses these technologies to create mesmerizing volumes out of light inside the theatre space and will dazzle the audience with its ever changing performance. One of Europe’s pioneers of digital art Marshmallow Laser Feast. The London based studio are the creators of this artwork, and this week we had a chance to talk to creative director Ersin Han Ersin, who told us more about IRIS and the idea behind the digital art piece: “The beauty of IRIS, a kinetic light sculpture, and our collaboration with The Lowry is that we manipulate our relationship with the stage by making the whole auditorium our canvas. The architecture and audience become part of the performance and evolves our connection with the stage from ephemeral to tangible.”

The installation consists of 40 laser modules. Each module is individually and robotically controlled and is designed to direct a laser diode about two rotational axes, as well as controlling the brightness of the laser beam. The modules are each comprised of two addressable smart servo motors, as well as a custom PCB used to control the laser. Ruairi Glynn – the director of Interactive Architecture Lab at University College London – and his team have designed these laser modules and are now assembling them, putting all separate pieces together. They consist of custom electronic hardware robotic systems that direct the laser beam and the software to manage these systems. Sean Malikides has been responsible for developing the control hardware and the students from Interactive Architecture Lab have been assisting in assembling.


The installation is made of an array of custom laser modules that allow the designers to control each module separately, thus create any kind of scenography inside the theatre with a whole range of different possible arrangements. The team have settled on a cross formation for the modules, which measures 5 by 5 meters and allows for all sorts of interesting geometrical intersections. To make complex forms out of light, the team have harnessed the mathematics of ruled surface geometries to create the sensation of curved form, out of linear laser projection. The idea about using laser lights to construct perceptions of dynamic space, is that it allows creation of architectural volumes purely made of light with no corporeal elements.

Laser shows have always held a universal appeal. The continuing evolution of laser technology gives us even more spectacular effects and offers endless possibilities for ongoing innovation at the intersection of art and science. We are looking forward to one of such happening here in The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre on 26 May!


Written by Vasilija.

To find out more info on our Week 53 commission IRIS – click here: