Look at Conversation, a new installation by Swiss artists Drzach&Suchy, and you’ll see a huge pixely portrait of Albert Einstein. But look again a few seconds later, and you’ll see–as plain as the mole on her face–a portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Conversation is a 3-D printed “shadow casting panel” that uses subtle shifts of light to uncover images embedded in the surface. Cast light one way, and shadows align across the panel to produce a portrait of Einstein. Cast light a different way, and the shadows reveal Marilyn’s lovely little pout.
Conversation is one of three installations that Drzach&Suchy developed at the Swiss Science Center Technorama to explore light and shadow play. Each exploits the conveniences of rapid-prototyping to turn a 3-D computer model (rendered in Google SketchUp) into a mind-blowing optical illusion.
Time is a 3-D printed orb with seemingly random grid-like panels that are actually custom-designed to cast three separate shadows–a clock, an hour glass, and a sundial–as it rotates around an axis. Tik-Tak is a nearly 6-foot-wide, water-jet cut Forex disc that says “tik” then “tak” as it swings back and forth between different lighting conditions, mimicking the motion of a pendulum clock. It might seem like magic. But the artists insist otherwise. “It is really simple,” they tell Co.Design in an email. “No high-tech electronic displays or components. Just geometry, directed light, and shadows.”
[Images courtesy of Drzach&Suchy]SL