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 bulb.
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.) 
Century of Light   The artwork was destroyed by the criminal administration of Kwame Kirlpatrick in 2006.

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, Michigan.. 

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 polygons.


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