LED artwork by Mark C. Slee

Indirection is a grid of 100 full-color LEDs running custom algorithmic patterns. Created for display at the 2010 Burning Man Festival, Indirection has since been shown at private events in San Francisco.

Originally an untitled work, I chose the name Indirection after reflecting on commonalities amongst the patterns. What emerged were three consistent themes:

  • Structure — through repetive, shifting forms of both geometry and color, varying over time
  • Playfulness — through the dynamics of movement in light and explicit references to universal games
  • Love — through symbolic imagery and the emotions evoked by color, particularly gradual hue shift

What particularly struck me was the lack of intentionality with which these themes had been realized. Though I hold love and play to be two of the most important things in life — for their powerful ability to forge human connection — they are also things that I often find myself communicating in indirect ways.

In a sense, my work on this piece ended up being an indirect way of making an internal realization. The result is in many ways a reflection of not just my aesthetic, but my personality and communication style.

on location Footage of Indirection on display at a private underground event in San Francisco. On-site reconstruction of the piece takes 30-40 minutes.
Photo Credit: Blaise DiPersia — Video Credit: Adam Mosseri

Indirection was built using the Color Kinetics LED product line. The full materials list is as follows:

  • Color Kinetics iColor Flex MX, Translucent Dome Lens
  • Color Kinetics PDS-60ca 7.5V Power Supply
  • Korg nanoKontrol MIDI controller
  • 74"×1"×2" wooden beam coated with black exterior paint (13x)
  • 4 large metal stakes for free-standing ground-support
  • Velcro tape affixed to frame and LED strings
  • Acer Netbook running custom software

The control software was written from scratch using the Processing software framework. It is essentially an infinite render loop that generates each frame as an array of 100 RGB pixel values. These are sent to the PDS-60ca controller using the UDP-based KiNET protocol. Some patterns support real-time control via MIDI.

The continuous power consumption of the entire system is approximately 60W. It can be driven by a small solar panel array.

Source code for the underlying engine framework is available at

on line Indirection's patterns can run in the browser using ProcessingJS — use the arrow keys to cycle through programs manually.
Photo Credit: Adam Mosseri