oPTIK, a new interactive sound and light installation in New York City

19 May 2023

oPTIK is an interactive installation utilizing light, sound, and movement to evoke a shared play experience in the public realm.

oPTIK, a new interactive sound and light installation in New York City

The Urban Conga proudly introduces oPTIK, an interactive installation that provides an opportunity for users to manipulate the work, the space, and the surrounding context in various ways. The installation evokes communal connection by creating shared play experiences, sparking an ever-changing playful atmosphere within a space by providing an open-ended platform for users to engage with light, sound, and movement. The work will be presented by the NYC Downtown Alliance at Three World Trade on Cortlandt Way until June 21st.

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The idea for oPTIK came from the understanding that if people can begin to even slightly manipulate the space they occupy, they will start to feel a greater sense of ownership of the place. The interactive installation serves as a way to look at how temporary public activations can begin to impact our built environment positively. It becomes a tool for evoking community interaction and social activity through its open-ended play design. The work was created as an alternative lens that transports people away from their daily routine and into a state of play, allowing them to engage with the work, the surrounding space, and others in new ways.

Photo credit: Savannah Lauren

The Urban Conga collaborated with Serge Maeheu and INIT to develop oPTIK into a touring spatial activation that would spark unique, playful experiences around the globe. Inspired by the gyroscope’s form and playability, oPTIK was created as a series of rings that can be rotated on multiple axes, allowing for an endless play experience. oPTIK was developed as two sets of ten units that can be placed in various orientations, allowing them to adapt to different sites around the world. The 6-foot gyroscope-like forms contain a dichroic film at the centre that enables the user to rotate the segments to create new, ever-changing opportunities that reflect the sun and surrounding context during the day, while refracting the internal uplighting at night, resulting in a filtered view of the surrounding context.

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As the audience rotates each unit, they create endless cascades of colours. The experience is elevated further as musical notes begin to play at every fifteen degrees of rotation. Each unit becomes its unique instrument, from pianos to drums. Through movement and reflection of light, each of these colourful units encourages the public to engage with another unit and other people within the space, sparking spontaneous conversations, dance parties, jam sessions, light shows, and more. More than just a photogenic monument within a space, the work is designed to become a communal hub for social connection. Optik showcases the value of play within our everyday spaces and how it can be utilized to create more inclusive, social, and equitable spaces and places.

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oPTIK is a series of ten illuminated interactive gyroscopes broken into two sets of ten. Each unit is 1.5 meters wide x 1.5 meters long x 2 meters high and contains three rings. The outer ring is fixed and equipped with 20 lights, while the two inner rings pivot on two separate axes. The central ring is equipped with a disc adhered with a dichroic film, reflecting a spectrum of colours during its day and evening interactions.

Each component contains a sensor at the main pivot point that is connected to a small micro-computer inside, which triggers the musical notes and lights as the work is rotated. Each unit can play up to one thousand notes from its internal speakers.

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Technical sheet

  • Project Title: oPTIK
  • Client: NYC Downtown Alliance 
  • Designer / Creator: The Urban Conga 
  • Collaborator: Serge Maheu
  • Produced by: INIT
  • Toured by: CREOS
  • Year Installed: 2023
  • Location: Cortlandt Way New York, NY 10007
  • Project Size: 10 units at 5’W x 5’L x 5’H