an interactive LED installation
at Chemical and Forensic Sciences,
University of Rhode Island, Kingston
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Residing in the atrium of the Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, the light installation “GeNeSiS” (sub-title “A Primordial Alphabet Soup”) consists of 480 LED light panels suspended in three layers. It uses the symbols of the periodic table as building blocks for interactive poetry.

Users can submit their poetry through this web-site. The words will be vetted against a dictionary of offensive language. After this initial cross-check, an algorithm evaluates if the words can be built using the symbols of the periodic table. If the words of the poem can be created only using the symbols of the periodic table, the poem will be submitted to the curatorial committee. If a word or words cannot be created, the user is asked to change their input. The committee will review the submitted poems on a regular basis and select the poems that will be displayed in the installation.

The title “GeNeSiS” was chosen from a list of common words that can be formed from symbols of the periodic table. The symbols used represent germanium, neon, silicon and sulfur. The title embodies the intention of the installation which is to be the origin of a strong bond among the campus community and all those who share the core mission of the University of Rhode Island “Think Big, We Do”.

The display is made of custom-built 10 by 10 inch acrylic light panels with the symbols of the periodic table engraved into the surface. The panels are side-lit with RGB-LEDs embedded in the panels’ frames. The LEDs illuminate the engraved symbols. Color and brightness of each panel can be programmed individually to provide options for an unlimited amount of patterns.

The installation is conceived both as a complete aesthetic infrastructure, as well as an open interactive artwork. Several slow-motion color sequences are pre-programmed and randomly interspersed with poetry submitted by the viewers.

In the micro mode, the symbols light up sequentially in the order they are used within the word, e.g. “Ge”, “Ne”, “Si”, and “S” illuminate one after the other if the word genesis is displayed. In the macro mode, the word scrolls horizontally across the entire light panel grid of the installation.

The installation was awarded through an open competition in 2014. The artwork was commissioned by the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. The architect of the building is Wilson Architects of Boston, MA.


This extremely complex installation would not have been possible without the support of a large team of people.

Elizabeth Keithline, Percent for Art Director, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

Ralph Baccari, Network Technician at Information Technology Services, University of Rhode Island

Peter Covino, Associate Professor at Department of English, University of Rhode Island

Bill Euler, Chair of the Department of Chemistry, University of Rhode Island

Steve Gesualdo, Electronic Digital Technician, University of Rhode Island

Tom Frisbie-Fulton, Director of Campus Planning & Design, University of Rhode Island

David Porter, Director of Information Technology Services, University of Rhode Island

Tanya Roberts, Senior Technical Programmer at Information Technology Services, University of Rhode Island

Tim Wasco, Research Associate IV, University of Rhode Island

Mark Fisher, Senior Project Manager, R-Keough Construction, Inc.

Kenneth Newman, RISCA Panelist, Community Member

Ron Onorato, RISCA Panelist, Chair of the Department of Fine Arts, University of Rhode Island

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, RISCA Panelist, Professor of Art (Photography) and Director of the URI Center for the Humanities

Carol Salmanson, RISCA Panelist, Artist

Samir Srouji, RISCA Panelist, Principal, Wilson Architects

Yaohan Chen, Programmer, Agile Oasis Technologies

Aaron Maupin, Programmer, Agile Oasis Technologies

Chris Buchakjian, Lead Installer, Paramedia LLC

Jason Karas, Lead Engineer, Paramedia LLC

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts administers the state's 1% for Public Art Program. The legislative intent of the Percent for Art program, according to public law 42-75.2-2, is as follows:

The general assembly declares that the state of Rhode Island has a responsibility for expanding the public experience of art, and, it recognizes the necessity of fostering the arts and in developing artists and craftspersons. Art creates a more humane environment: one of distinction, enjoyment, and pride for all citizens. The general assembly recognizes that public art also is a resource which stimulates the vitality and the economy of the state's communities and which provides opportunities for artists and other skilled workers to practice their crafts. The general assembly declares it to be a matter of public policy that a portion of each capital construction appropriation be allocated for the acquisition of works of art to be placed in public places constructed.

About the artist

Erwin Redl’s work is informed by his combination of conceptual-structural thinking and profound craftsmanship both in electronic and traditional media. With a BA in Music Composition from the University of Vienna, Austria and an MFA in Computer Art from School of Visuals Arts in New York he is able to expand his practice beyond the traditional Fine Art context.

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