|The Century of Light was the world's first large interactive public sculpture
that used a microprocessor. Jim Pallas was commissioned by the Eastern
Michigan Electrical association to create a sculpture in celebration of
the centennial of Thomas Edison's development of the incandescent light
In 2015, Roger Malina, editor of Leonardo, Journal for Art, Science and Technology, asked Pallas, as a "pioneer" in electronic interactive art, to write a memoir about what it like back in the day. Pallas said, "I have two early commissions that I could recount. One, the Senate Piece, is a famous success with a happy ending. The other, Century of Light, was a ground-breaking sculpture that ended in failure."
Roger said, "Oh, write about the second one. People love to hear about failures." So I did.
The City of Detroit approved placement of the artwork in the fountain that was part of a "modernization" of Washington Boulevard downtown, a five block pedestrian mall which was ultimately demolished in 2004. The sculpture was unveiled on July 2, 1980 at which a specially choreographed dance performed by the Harbinger Dance Company. Rene Vega, one of the creators of the sculpture, is the male performer in the dance.
The Century of Light was maintained by the City of Detroit and
continuously operated since 1980 except for brief periods when, due to
careless sub-contractors its electronics were submerged. Concurrent
with the creation of the Century of Light, Pallas created a programming
facility called the PROGMOD . In 1990,the PROGMOD traveled with "Vision and Invention", a computer art show
organized by Cynthia Goodman
for the Everson Museum in New York and appears in her book "Digital
Visions: Computers and Art" (Abrams Company, New York, NY, 1988.)
Click image for excerpt
|The light grid was designed to integrate with the
pre-existing water works and red pipe lighting structure designed by
Gino Rossetti of Rossetti Associates Architects in Birmingham,
The mandala which is
the basis of the light grid's pattern appears in eleventh century
Persian tilings. It is generated from a combination of 4,5,6,7 and 8 sided
Century of Light: Six minute video
PROGMOD :Off-site programming module
Technical: Information and images of the Century of Light
Labyrinth: Futile attempt to save the artwork.
Pallas home page