It sounds like a rush of falling dominoes, a mechanical breeze rushing by your ears. In reality, installation design firm Breakfast built this remarkable “Reactive Super-Speed Electromagnetic Dot Display.”
Sure, the sculpture was built to promote some show on TNT, but it’s still the fastest flip-disc display ever crafted–the same technology found in old bus and construction signs. Plastic dots fill a grid. One side is white, the other black, and they flip like binary pixels to draw shapes and text. What Breakfast did was take this traditional electromechanical dot matrix grid and over-juice it to 15 times its usual speed. The result is a huge analog display that can be refreshed with zero lag.
With all this velocity, precisely what can be done with a sign changes altogether. Whereas a bus’s display will stagnantly share the name of a route, Breakfast creates a mirror effect in plastic, a physical sign with all the elasticity of an LCD resonating the harmony of a thousand rattlesnakes.
I can’t imagine the build process of a device like this. One designer calls it a “500lb butterfly,” and indeed, this fragile matrix of thousands of electromagnetic actuators driving a confetti-like pigment required, not just custom hardware and software, but custom cardboard boxes to transport it safely to its destination at New York’s 32nd St. and 6th Ave. But the effect is ultimately something that none of us has seen before, a wall that doesn’t just light up on command, but reshape with our presence, with thousands of pieces pitter pattering with our every shift.
If you’d like to see the “Reactive Super-Speed Electromagnetic Dot Display” in person, it will be on display until July 29. Apologies to the execs at TNT who’ve created a show that can’t possibly live up to its own epic promotion.