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Honoring a Beloved LSC Artwork: Leni Schwendinger’s A Spatial Portrait


Title: A Spatial Portrait Artist: Leni Schwendinger Location: Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ Dates: 2007 - 2023


Future generations can continue to experience A Spatial Portrait through this dynamic video:


About the artwork: In 2006, artist Leni Schwendinger won a commission from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts to create a public sculpture for Liberty Science Center’s new wing. A Spatial Portrait debuted with the opening of LSC’s entrance hall (later renamed PSE&G Court) in 2007.


Working with LSC’s curator and architect, Schwendinger sited A Spatial Portrait, a monumental, suspended, interactive sculpture eleven feet above the floor in the mid-space of the hall. This pendant of 120 strands of LEDs, each 10 feet long, created a dazzling show of light in real time. It captured the movement of visitors as they circulated below, creating an ever-changing three-dimensional “spatial portrait” of the room.


From multiple positions in the hall, sensors and video cameras tracked visitors’ movements. Through digital processing and switching, this information was then translated and displayed on a rectangular spatial field. The information displayed in the LED array consisted of the following programming concepts— each offering a different interpretation of the movement in the hall:


The figurative concept marked the entry of visitors. Visitors’ colors, shapes, and movements were captured by a video camera at a designated area close to the main entrance. This visual information was pixilated, reassembled, and fed into the LED array—and was viewable from multiple vantage points in the room. Like a three-dimensional mirror of light, the interacting visitors viewed a low-resolution depiction of their actions displayed in real-time.


The diagrammatic concept celebrated the passing of time and movement. Cameras positioned around the LED array tracked visitors’ presence throughout the monitored area. As people moved through the space, their progress was tracked—drawn into the spatial field above and represented in two preselected colors, orange and white. Vivid bursts of color were displayed in the LED array when people crossed paths during a set period.


About the artist: Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD has a history of developing unique methods fusing technical innovations and imaginative artistry to shape luminous environments using advanced sensing and computing technologies–translated and displayed through the medium of light.

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