Art World

‘Glow: Discover the art of light’ at the Exploratorium

Sound Sculpture by Masary Studios. (Photo: Aram Boghosian)

The Exploratorium is bringing back luminous art in “Glow: Discover the Art of Light.” The show has returned to Pier 15 through Jan. 28, 2024, bringing with it a range of interactive experiences. Compose music with light, touch quantum physics, and see yourself in mechanical mirrors in this groundbreaking installation featuring the work of seven artists.


Sound Sculpture by Masary Studios is an interactive sound and light instrument created for spontaneous musical improvisation. Twenty-five location-aware blocks each representing a note in spatial dimension comprise a massive wireless midi controller. The interaction and placement of the cubes creates sound composition. 

The light installation Flux by Collectif Scale is a kinetic project in which multiple lines of dynamic light twist and turn to form a living robotic sculpture. A headset allows the viewer to immerse in original compositions synchronized with the sculpture’s movements.


Robin Baumgartner’s Quantum Jungle simulates a mathematically accurate model of quantum particle movement using Schrödinger’s Equation when attendees move any of its touch-sensitive metal springs and thousands of LEDs. The bursts of light demonstrate the movement of a quantum particle, including movements like wave-particle duality, interference, and quantum waveform collapse.

Line Wobbler is a one-dimensional dungeon crawler game. The wobble controller is made from an upside down shoe tree connected to an LED strip display. Hand-eye coordination is key to successfully battling enemies, lava, and force fields. Can you complete all nine levels?


Crystal Paintings by Maria Constanza Ferreira is a prismatic phenomenon where polarized light emanating from a lightbox passes through crystals. The artist grows synthetic crystals on glass slides then places them in aluminum lightboxes. The polarizing filter placed behind the glass slide creates a prismatic phenomenon when the lens is rotated and the crystal designs appear to dance. 

A selection of Ferreira’s short films will be shown in the Osher Gallery 1 Microcinema.


Daniel Rozin’s Self-Centered and Self-Isolating Mirrors have been in the Exploratorium for years, but Glow features three more pieces from Rozin’s Mechanical Mirror series. RGB Lights Mirror uses rotational motion to produce images using the additive color model — red, green, and blue light. Aluminum knobs are programmed to rotate toward or away from colored light, each knob operating as a pixel, and its subsequent rotation influences its reflected color. This creates a 3D illusion of highly saturated images.

CMY Shadows Mirror is a circular wall of lights producing full-color reflections. The subtractive color model — cyan, magenta, and yellow — is used to filter out light that would otherwise be reflected as white. In the interactive mode, the viewer is reflected, and a different mode displays previously programmed animations.  

This exhibition includes the debut of Rozin’s One Candle Mirror. Using a single candle as its light source, the light is manipulated through 278 motor-mounted 3D printed lenses that move independently. Like CMY Shadows Mirror, One Candle Mirror has two modes: one where the viewer is reflected and a mode when programmed animation takes over.


Chaco Kato’s Color Study is an evolving installation. A seemingly weightless artwork made of thousands of pieces of string is the backdrop for constantly changing colors and geometric patterns projected onto the object. The colors correspond to the frequency of sound waves in musical compositions that influence the visual in unexpected ways.


Luke Gerram’s Museum of the Moon returns as a Glow favorite. A spherical model of the Moon with a diameter of seven meters, it shows every cliff and crater of the Moon using 120 dpi imagery captured by NASA at an approximate scale of 1:700,000.

A preview of light interaction is available on the Make your Own Light Art page on the Exploratorium’s website where anyone may interact via touch with the adaptation of Smoke Simulator, originally created by Rachel Bhadra, Jonathan Ngan, and Kenneth Tsai at U.C. Berkeley. An amber flame appears as a result of touch and the flame-like shapes swirl into existence under the user’s direction. 

As a dazzling holiday show for friends and family, “Glow: Discover the Art of Light” illuminates the power of light to connect, reveal, and inspire. 

Glow: Discover the Art of Light: Tue.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday noon–5 p.m. through Jan. 28, $40, Exploratorium, Pier 15, 415-528-4444,

Sharon Anderson is an artist and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at

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