Northern Spark lights
Festival art installation by students based on plant fungus
June 5, 2017
students from University
of Wisconsin-Stout’s School of Art and Design have collaborated to create an animated
art installation for a Twin Cities festival.
project, “Myccorhizae,” is an
abstract sculpture based on a fungus by the same name. The fungus forms a symbiotic or
pathogenic relationship on and between plant roots, improving water and
nutrient absorption and helping trees communicate.
“Myccorhizae” will be part of the Northern
Spark night festival, from sunset Saturday, June 10, to sunrise Sunday, June
11. The festival, in neighborhoods along the Metro Transit’s Green Line, explores
the effects of climate change through art projects.
installation will feature parallel tentacles of vertical light. Visitors will
be encouraged to physically engage with the modules. By pushing and pulling the
projection surfaces, or engaging simple machines with lenses that manipulate
the output of fixed lighting, the visitor will become part of the project,
according to Assistant Professor Kimberly Long Loken, design, who taught the
class that created the project.
A projection-mapped animation will anchor the sculpture. Projection-mapping shapes
a projected image to "fit" on any irregular geometry; in this
case, the student-designed structure. The
animation and modular structures will share patterns derived from tree species
on site, said industrial design student Alex Greene, of Eau Claire.
The students’ concept
statement on the project said humans “share a symbiotic relationship with every
other living plant and creature on Earth. This illuminated, polymorphic
installation visually represents the way in which plants transmit chemical
messages to one another; it charges the negative space between park trees,
acting as an extrusion of the mycorrhizal fungal network in the soil below.”
frames and fibers of the modules are constructed of up-cycled or recycled
materials; accent lighting is solar-powered.
project was created in UW-Stout’s Transmedia Studio under the direction of
Loken, a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional by the U.S. Green
from various design disciplines contributed: animation, fimmaking, game design,
illustration, industrial design and sculpture. “This advanced studio reunites
students who collaborated in foundations courses but have now developed
technical expertise and conceptual rigor in their respective fields,” Loken
- Abby Anderson, of Rosemount, Minn., entertainment design
- Greg Borman, of St. Paul, entertainment design
- Megan Daniels, of Oshkosh, game design and development
- Kelly Goedeke, of Sheboygan, entertainment design
- Alex Greene, of Eau Claire, industrial design
- Jack Haessly, of Marshfield, game design and development
- Samantha Kufahl, Eau Claire, entertainment design
- Curtis Leszczynski, of Mosinee, entertainment design
- Austin Lewer, of Marshfield, game design and development
- Laura Bernadette Meeker, of Mount Horeb, entertainment design
- William Rutter, of Zumbrota, Minn., entertainment design
- Peter Sowinski, of Milwaukee, entertainment design
- Michael Swearingen, of St. Paul, entertainment design
- Collin Stremke, of Eden Prairie, Minn., studio art
- Walter Trush, of Williams Bay, entertainment design
A blog about the
project can be found here.
Spark is produced by Northern Lights.mn, a Twin Cities arts organization that promotes art in
For more information
about “Myccorhizae,” contact Loken.
Top: “Myccorhizae” will be part of the Northern Spark
night festival June 10-11 in the Twin Cities. Seen here in a conceptual
rendering by student Alex Greene, the sculpture was created by 15 UW-Stout
Bottom: Assistant Professor Kimberly Long Loken, third from
left, and her class meet with Tom Hollenback, left, associate professor of
sculpture, while working on the “Myccorhizae” animated art installation.