Five Years Out Art Challenge

Smart Art
The final idea for Sm(Art) has a heart rate sensor that activates lights in the heart which radiate outward into the brain, in synch with the viewer’s heart rate.

In February 2014, Katy Casper-Gevargis invited me to join a team of artists whose goal was to submit a winning idea to the Arrow Five Years Out Challenge sponsored by Arrow Electronics. This is “an international challenge to inspire artists to take the concept of innovation and express what five years out looks like in the art world, translating ideas into their artistic medium.” Our team ended up submitting three ideas. We were not selected to display our art this time around. Here are the winners from 2014.

Sm(Art) is a sculpture made of acrylic, LEDs, a heart rate sensor, and repurposed materials

Artist Statement for Sm(Art):

Neuroscientists have discovered that more synaptic messages are exchanged between the human brain and the heart than between the brain and the rest of the body. External messages we receive from our hearts in the form of blood pressure and EKG readings can alter the way we conduct our lives and our businesses. For now, the natural human heart is the best that we’ve got, so we have no choice but to listen to these messages.

Modern thinking has honored the brain as the most important organ in the body, yet ancient wisdom proclaims the heart as the organ from which all wisdom originates. The ancient Egyptians believed that the weight of one’s heart determined one’s place in the afterlife. Buddhist teachings highlight the significance of quieting the mind and trusting the heart’s guidance. Native American cultures emphasize the power of listening to the heart. Christians state that the human heart is the wellspring of life.

To convey this concept visually we will create a monumental representation of the human brain using laser-cut cross-sectional sculptural pieces. An illuminated heart will reside in the center of the brain between the two hemispheres.

This heart will be crafted using repurposed materials and 3D printing techniques. The LEDs in the heart will change from a soft blue glow to a bright red glow when a viewer touches the sculpture’s pulse rate monitor contact. The illuminated heart will then beat in synch with the viewer’s own heartbeat. Strips of individually addressable LEDs mounted radially will ripple outward from the heart into the rest of the brain. Visually, this will appear as new thoughts, commands, and synaptic connections originating from the heart and informing the brain.

RGB Brain Idea (skp screenshot)
In this earlier version of Sm(Art), the viewer interacts with the sculpture’s LEDs via four potentiometers (knobs) on each side of the brain. The controls are laid out so that the left knobs control the lights on the right side of the brain and vice versa. This emphasizes the fact that sensory input from one side of the body is interpreted by the brain on the opposite side.

Brain switch sketchup screenshot_1 LED light Schematic


Nature Matrix is a sculpture made of wood, mirrored acrylic, LEDs, and repurposed materials.

 Artist Statement for Nature Matrix:

Will your house be able to wake itself up when you wake up five years from now? In the future we will not just have houses, we will have houses and buildings that think. Imagine a house that can sense your body temperature. Imagine a smart house that literally draws energy from the environment.

Nature Matrix is a layered pyramidal structure utilizing ancient and contemporary architectural elements. Each cross-section is reflective on one side and covered in green moss on the opposite side. Mounted on the moss is an abundance of LED matrix units which each display a random animation of an eye, “looking” five years out. Reflective bits placed at different angles on the top surfaces will reflect the light from the animated eyes in different directions, looking five years and beyond. The LED matrix units are connected to one another in a chain, which is connected to an Arduino microcontroller. It receives power from a 5V switching power supply. Incorporating organic design informs how modern applications reshape our environment in a positive way. Eventually, environmentally harmonious technologies will become an integrated element of the urban fabric & our smart buildings.

eye matrix pyramid_trunk center_annotated_v1
Each layer of Nature Matrix has many LED 8×8 display units pointing downward, reflected by the mirrored surface of the acrylic on the layer below. They will be displaying animated “eyes” that look around in random directions.
Animated Eyes look in random directions. These two are synchronized, but in the final version each eye will look in a different direction.
Animated Eyes look in random directions. These two are synchronized, but in the final version each eye will look in a different direction.

Nature Matrix sketchup
Nature Matrix features multiple layers of acrylic arranged into a twisted pyramid shape. The top surface of each layer is mirrored acrylic, and the bottom surface is covered in artificial moss. The center support is made of wood and resembles a tree trunk.