Shannon’s Fireflies

It’s almost 24 hours since NuitBlanche 2011 began. It’s also almost 12 hours since it ended early this morning.

My body is still aching from hopscotching various art zones carrying my giant NuWe letters performing my own Independent mobile NuitBlanche Giant Outstallation Art, NuWeBlanche (@NuWeBlanche).

I did take a break somewhere in there and made a point of visiting the Toronto Public Labyrinth to experience Shannon’s Fireflies. This NuitBlanche installation by Seth Hardy (@thirdson), founder and executive director of Site 3 coLaboratory, was intentionally placed in the centre of the labyrinth…

For the past week, I had been intrigued. The concept for Shannon’s Fireflies hadn’t caught my attention, yet the location of its installation did — The Centre of the Toronto Public Labyrinth.

This would be the first time to my knowledge, this Labyrinth would be employed as anything other that what it was and is, a singular walking path in and out of the 11 lane Chartres design.

I experienced the slightest of unease witnessing people walking directly to the centre of this labyrinth where the Cube had been installed.

And here’s why.

This was no longer a labyrinth, it was now a stage. The bricked circuits making up the paths of the labyrinth were walked over without any notice, regard, nor reverence. Would-be labyrinth walkers unknowingly became performance artists. Each with their own experiences in the centre of the labyrinth.

Shannon’s Fireflies held the promise:

A grid of suspended light nodes in a cube frame containing sensors will respond to the whispers of participants by converting their words into light, sound and movement.

By using whisper stations set up in the labyrinth, two people can talk to each other and subsequently see their words create light and be distorted as they pass through the air.

Yet standing there… there were other people simply… standing there waiting for something to happen. Waiting for someone… to do… something.

The Whisper Station function didn’t seem to capture people’s imagination or perhaps notice. In the time I was there, it was enjoyable watching people experiment with it, guessing at how to use or interact with the Cube to make something happen. Make that, to make anything happen.

And then suddenly with each new batch of NuitBlanchers appearing in the middle of Trinity Square Park, someone pulls out there cell phone to snap a picture, and the Fireflies lit up.

Watching the sense of discovery, the sense of wonder in trying to figure out if there was any rhythm or rhyme in how to control the lighting of the Fireflies.

And that was the take-away from Shannon’s Fireflies, the whole point to begin with:

The installation reveals visually how meaning gets distorted when people communicate. Each node, or “firefly”, flashes a light as it passes the message along in the same direction.

However, the fireflies aren’t perfect: instead of reliably passing along a message, they may send it in another direction, to another person, split it up into multiple directions, or not relay it at all.

In a sense, it was exactly what is expected when one walks a Labyrinth and reaches the centre. One may walk into the labyrinth with a question, by the time one walks out of the labyrinth you may have an answer. …or sometimes… no answer at all.

By way of trial and error using my BlackBerry in flashlight mode, I quickly learned how to have fun with this thing. Others immediately followed my lead and for moments at a time almost the entire cube, almost every Firefly would be on fire.

Eventually the little voice inside me prodded me to continue my NuitBlanching with the words, I’m bored now. And so I was.

Moreso though, it was the same words in the same voice that echo inside me whenever I linger too long in the centre of any labyrinth, encouraging me to begin my reverse walking exit journey…

Looking back before leaving for the night, new entrants had entered the Toronto Public Labyrinth and approached its centre.

They were experiencing the Cube, Shannon’s Fireflies, and the self-discovery that comes along with it, anew.

This installation seemed to belong to an official trilogy of light-inspired NuitBlanche installations. Immediately east, in the atrium of the Eaton Centre, hung Slipstream. Immediately south-west, in Nathan Phillips Square, laser beams danced throughout as people flew through the night air above it.

Here are some sparks Shannon’s Fireflies ignited on Twitter . . .

nuit blanche is nearly here - sneak preview "shannon's fireflies" #snbTO http://t.co/kg37vJr4
@syberchic
syber beynon

RT GORGEOUS!!! @ nuit blanche is nearly here - sneak preview "shannon's fireflies" #snbTO http://t.co/MprQWd1W
@CynthiaGould
cynthiagould




@ missing the fun at #nuitblanche ... Leaving City Hall, heading for fireflies at Trinity Square http://t.co/cHMfXY2w
@gunn_al
Anna lee Sangster


Don't miss Shannon's Fireflies at the Toronto Public Labrinth in Trinity Square Park - Bay St, south of Dundas St W #snbTO
@sbnuitblancheTO
SB Nuit Blanche TO

Just left shannon's fireflies exhibit 14. They are still working out the interactive part but be sure to check it out! @ #snbTO
@joycedang
Joyce Dang

#snbTO (@ snbTO - Shannon's Fireflies @ Toronto Public Labyrinth, Trinity Square Park) http://t.co/bZkc2nqE
@imymulla
Imtiyaz Mulla



#snbTO. Come see pretty fireflies at Trinity Square beside Eaton Centre
@Heidi_L_S
Heidi Schwarzkopf


#NuitBlanche in Toronto packed w/ pple; gr8 Trimalchio, & Nigeria films; & City Hall spectacular; & Shannon's Fireflies; too pooped to go on
@naomiduguid
Naomi Duguid


"Shannon's Fireflies" in Trinity Square Park beside @ makes for a great silhouetted #photo op. #snbTO http://t.co/dEoaQcmA
@suesthegrl
Sue Holland


Shannon's Fireflies. We failed to find anything interesting about this installation. #snbTO #nuitblanche http://t.co/guflyc27


RT @: Don't miss Shannon's Fireflies at the TO Public Labrinth in Trinity Square Park - Bay St, south of Dundas St W #snbTO
@nigelwallis
Nigel Wallis

Really cool interactive light installation—Shannon's Fireflies by Seth Hardy & Site 3 coLaboratory http://t.co/mnycSXzI #snbTO #snb2011
@JackmanChiu
Jackman Chiu

Photo by Jackman Chiu (cc-by-nc-nd)

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