Aalto ELEC joins the art scene – Aalto students created an experience for all senses

Riikka Hopiavaara

A light installation Photosynthesis invited visitors to take part in an artwork making us think about our relationship with nature.

The scents and sounds of an autumnal evening follow the visitors to the historic site of Aleksanterinpatteri in the Vallisaari island. The building is slightly run down, and its roof is covered in moss. Inside, in low light, there is a platform which functions as the charging station for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.


Three visitors at a time can take a dome-shaped interactive lamp in their hands. The lamp’s colour is determined at random when the visitor grabs it. Later, the visitor can influence the artwork with his/her own colour. In the first room, the visitor meets an interactive sun. When the visitor shakes the dome in his/her hand, the energy of the sun grows and the sun becomes brighter. Meanwhile, the plants in the room receive warmth and energy. The sculpture made of vegetation leads the visitor to the next, water themed, space.


Now the visitors can leave their marks on the artwork by painting their own colour on a water element reflected on the wall. Lines in different colours compose the artwork, which changes after each visitor.


Combining technology with the environment

The interactive lights installation designed by Aalto students came about during the summer course that explored combining open innovative concept design process with advanced electronics development. Eight students from four schools of Aalto University attended the pilot course, including students with background in technology or art. The artwork generated in the Networked Partnering and Product Innovation course (NEPPI) at Aalto ELEC showcases what the future can hold, if advanced technology is combined with embodied interaction design and artistic provocation.

‘The course produced an IoT device which communicates with the Unity3D game engine using a Bluetooth Low Energy connection. In addition to the concept and interaction, the students designed a circuit board and implemented the circuit with an embedded system’, explains Salu Ylirisku, teacher in charge of the course.

The artwork’s theme is photosynthesis, and it aims at drawing attention to the destructive effect of human activities on nature.

‘What if we turned this upside down, and human activities would provide nature with vitality?’ course students, spatial architect and artist Jennifer Lipkin and Liisi Soroush, describe the philosophical considerations leading to the theme. ‘We wanted to provide the visitors with emotions and experiences through the fragile nature in Vallisaari.’


Chance steps in

The main theme behind the artwork is that everyone leaves his/her traces in history. Each visitor affects the installation, and it is impossible to tell in advance what the artwork will look like at the end of the exhibition: how strongly the sun will shine and which lines will be visible. Through concrete lines of colour, the visitor affects the appearance of the artwork, and is not only a part of it. Moreover, each visitor’s choice of colour is coincidental.

‘The artwork reminds us that, in amongst all control and encoding, chance is an important part of life. In the end, nature cannot be controlled, either.’

Read more about the course >> (neppi.aalto.fi)

A light installation Photosynthesis was part of Flash Vallisaari Event on 21-22 September 2018.

Photos: Pasi Ylirisku, Salu Ylirisku