SOFTlab, an NYC-based studio led by Mike Szivos, has created Infinity Field, a new installation of mirrored chambers on the seventh-floor terrace of ICONSIAM, a mixed-use development on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in downtown Bangkok. The project is SOFTlab’s first permanent interactive installation, whose reflective columns respond to visitors as they pass through it.
Infinity Field consists of fifty vertical chambers clad in one-way mirrored glass and embedded with sound responsive LED lights. Each measures 6-feet tall, 2-feet wide, and 1-foot deep. Arranged in a pattern that allows visitors to weave through and around them, the columns collectively evoke trees scattered through a forest.
During the day, when natural light is brighter than the columns’ internal LEDs, the glass acts as a mirror. Visitors and the surrounding environment, including the highrise-studded Bangkok skyline, are reflected in the surfaces. Depending on a passerby’s location, reflections bounce between the field of mirrored chambers. As visitors approach the inside of the mirrored landscape, they become part of a mise en abyme (“placed into abyss”) or image within an image. Called the Droste effect, the mirrors produce an ever-changing and infinite reflection.
At night, the mirrored chambers are lit from within by LEDs that respond to sound, whether it is music piped onto the terrace or the voices and steps of visitors. The lights are activated by sound in a variety of animated behaviors including a random matrix of light to a large light pulse that extends through the environment. The ambient state of the light field resembles a subtle wave, evoking the Chao Phraya River that passes through Bangkok directly in front of the terrace. When the LEDs are activated, the one-way mirrored columns transform into infinity boxes that reflect their light patterns countless times, deep into the core of each chamber.
The diamond-shaped chambers of Infinity Field follow the tile pattern of the terrace plaza and produce an immersive environment that remixes sound and light with the movement of visitors and the backdrop of the Bangkok skyline. The light itself emits a subtle color spectrum that is sampled from a typical Bangkok sunset, which further blends the installation with the Bangkok skyline beyond. “At night, the vertical repetition of the chambers and the reflections of the skyline gives the impression that you are walking through the city at a strange scale, while surrounding sound is given a material quality through light and the oscillation of the glass surfaces between reflective and transparent,” says Szivos.
“What is exciting to us is that we aren’t simply using lights, but lights along with a dynamic material to achieve something that is more spatial,” Szivos continues.
Infinity Field builds on past temporary responsive installations designed by SOFTlab, such as Nautilus, installed on the banks of the East River in New York City, and Mirror Mirror in Alexandria, Virginia. It is the first permanent interactive installation realized by the New York-based studio. The software customization required for interactive work is a defining quality of SOFTlab’s overall creative process. “We do a lot of software customization and programming for our non-interactive work, so the transition to developing physically interactive projects came about naturally,” says Szvios. “Our interactive work has developed coincidentally because of the studio’s interest in leveraging technology in new and unexpected ways.”
For Infinity Field, SOFTlab used standard programmable LEDs which were programmed in New York, while the mirrored chambers themselves were fabricated in Bangkok. Fabrication and installation challenges involved the glass detailing and wiring the chambers individually, below the tiled surface of the plaza. “It was a big challenge making sure everything was specified for outdoor conditions,” says Szivos. “We are always exploring how our work can engage with the public, whether it is through contextual framing, spatial relationships, or material.”