Is it possible for an animation to become “physical”? The work of Toronto artist Philippe Blanchard gets pretty close. Blanchard, who also teaches and works as an animator commercially, is enjoying his second solo show this month at Montreal’s Arprim gallery. The exhibition–called The New Troglodytes–is an immersive experience that manipulates optical perception using hundreds of blinking LEDs.
Blanchard creates his environments using the lowest of materials: cardboard and plenty of glue. Without the strobe lighting, The New Troglodytes looks a bit like a low-rent cave–hence the title–populated by stalactites and other low-res polygons. But when the LEDs come on, it turns into an op-art animation, full of moving patterns and weird visual glitches.
In Blanchard’s words, the installation “straddles the line between high and hacky tech.” The optical illusion comes from a special-effects concept called chroma keying, which is probably best explained by the “green screen” effect used in movies. “Lighting a red object with red light makes it look bright and makes other colors dark,” Blanchard explained to me over email. “I alternate quickly between red, green and blue light with computer-controlled strobe lights, hiding and showing different parts of my rgb wallpaper in sequence, which creates the illusion of motion.”
According to one Montreal blog, Blanchard has only had one person faint in the installation–and that person was drunk. So if you were wondering, yes: You could create something very similar for your next house party, assuming you have a ton of LED light boards and even more time on your hands. That doesn’t dim the brilliance of The New Troglodytes–in fact, it makes it even greater that this is the kind of effect that anyone with access to a few simple materials could re-create.