"My God! It's full of LED stars!"
December 17, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

All it takes is a regular mirror, a two-way mirror and some LED lights and BAM! you have yourself an Infinity Mirror. Chances are you've seen one or two before at science museums, but you can make one of your own (either large or small). Then there is Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (previously), who has done a series of "Infinity Room" art projects over the years. The latest of which can be found at the David Zwirner gallery in New York City (but hurry! The show ends this Saturday).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (30 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's something odd about "hurrying" to see infinity.
posted by yoink at 7:38 AM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, those are really cool, thanks! I especially like the star one -- the angle of the lights to each other looks particularly awesome to me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2013


(I meant from the first link, still checking out the others.)
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:47 AM on December 17, 2013


The infinity mirror cocktail table in the first link is straight out of a 1970's cocktail lounge.
posted by TedW at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Instant flashback to the Bally Xenon pinball machine, and probably others.
posted by Foosnark at 8:05 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Highest quality made infinity mirrors on the market!"

That's right, our infinity LASTS LONGER
posted by oulipian at 8:09 AM on December 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was about to say that it was sad that everyone who goes into the mirror room takes a phot of it rather than just enjoying it.
I was looking at all these people looking at phones...

then i realised I was being incredibly dumb.
It has been a long day.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:10 AM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


It looks lovely - but do note that there are one to four hour waits to get in...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:13 AM on December 17, 2013


I was about to say that it was sad that everyone who goes into the mirror room takes a phot of it rather than just enjoying it.

That's weird -- my understanding of them is that they vanished when a camera got in position to be reflected.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was in the mirrored room at the Kusama retrospective in Tokyo a few years ago. I walked in from the brightly lit galleries into the dark room, and immediately lost my balance and fell down. A museum worker had to help me walk out. I suspect this happened rather regularly since they had people positioned to help like this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Almost the same thing happened to me, charlie don't surf! I didn't fall down, but I did lose my balance and step into the pool of reflecting water on the floor and curse a lot and basically ruin the experience for everyone.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2013


Dumb question maybe, but can you actually see yourself in an infinity mirror?
posted by monospace at 8:41 AM on December 17, 2013


Possibly a silly question, but every DIY and finished photo seems to have individual dots, either the hanging LEDs in Kusama's installation or the rim lights in the homemade ones. Is there something about the dots that contributes to the effect, or would it also work with a diffuser between the point sources and the mirror box? i.e. is it possible to have a smooth gradient that falls off?
posted by a halcyon day at 8:55 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's right, our infinity LASTS LONGER

That would be a good slogan for Cantor Enterprises.

My grandparents basically had one of these in their bathroom; there was the standard vanity mirror over the sink with two maller mirrors on the wall at either end like this: [. I thought it was the coolest thing to stick my head in there and see little TedW's stretching to infinity.
posted by TedW at 9:05 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The line for the infinity room in NYC has been around the corner every single time I've gone to see it.

And it's been snowing a lot.
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2013


The line for the infinity room in NYC has been around the corner every single time I've gone to see it

I wanted to see infinity but who can wait that long?
posted by yoink at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I admit technical ignorance here, but I can't help but wonder: other than monstrous cost, is there any reason we couldn't modulate the light output in the GHz range and gain control over the image in the depth direction? (It seems that LEDs alone can't switch this fast, but I would imagine that fiber optic communication requires something kind of like this; for example, this brochure [PDF] claims binary amplitude modulation of a laser at 10GHz.) I suppose synchronization between all of the lights in the ring would become a big issue, but at least we could make some twinkling.
posted by caaaaaam at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Children's Museum around here had an "infinity box" 25-30 years ago; it was a box about 16 inches on a side, with a head-sized hole in the bottom. Inside, there was a green wire cage that surrounded your head, and all of the corners were sealed with a green caulk. There was a single small light (the size of a mini-Christmas light) at each vertex. There was something incredibly trippy about sitting there, looking at an infinite number of my own head inside an infinite number of cages contained within an infinite number of green wire cubes.

I've wanted to make one of those ever since and have never gotten around to it. Probably should before my kids get too old.
posted by Ickster at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2013


is there any reason we couldn't modulate the light output in the GHz range and gain control over the image in the depth direction

Humm. Are you suggesting flickering the lights on and off such that they'd be "on" only long enough for a specific number of roundtrips between the back and front mirrors? Thus giving you individual control over a particular reflected image of that light, "down" in the infinity well?

Back of the envelope calculations suggest you probably could ... assuming a 10 cm deep box, with the light sources at one side or the other, the time taken by light to hit the far mirror is about 330 ps, which suggests a modulation rate around 4 GHz. Although I think for it to work practically, you'd need to have the lights in the middle of the box, so the modulation rate would need to be twice that (or a deeper box).

The immediate problem I foresee would be that you'd need very bright LEDs in order for the effect to be visible, since the overall "off" time would be longer than the "on" time, at least if you wanted a strobing, lights-receding-into-infinity effect. The combination of bright visible light LEDs and a high modulation rate might not work well together, although I've never worked with ultra-bright LEDs that way. You could almost certainly do it with a pulsed laser if you really wanted to, though it'd be a pricey cocktail table.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spock had one in his quarters, presumably used to meditate with Nick Meyer.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:39 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could you, instead of a single led in between the mirrors, use 3 evenly spaced ones (I'm talking about perpendicular to the glass) and then have them flash in series, similar to the way "chasing" cheap xmas lights do, to create the effect of the entire tunnel of lights pulsating either away or toward you? Obviously you'd have three "rings" of LEDs, each on their own circuit. Hmm, you could probably even use one of those cheap controllers for xmas lights to drive it for all sort of interesting effects. They typically just have 3 individual circuits.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2013


This reminds me of the barbershop when i was growing up. Always fun to look at the barber "over there" cutting the hair on the back of my head, over there.
posted by notsnot at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2013


The line for the infinity room in NYC has been around the corner every single time I've gone to see it.

Yeah, that is the problem with these exhibits, the dense queue moves right through the room, to the exit. Infinity ought to be experienced in solitude. It is hard to feel the infinite when you're jammed in a line that's as packed as a Tokyo subway at rush hour. It was especially difficult when you're the big clumsy gaijin who has fallen to his hands and knees, looking at yourself in the mirrored floor, while trying to avoid being trampled.

I notice all the pics of these rooms have only the photographer in them. This is surely a special arrangement just for the photograph.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2013


When I went, the line was long for the room with the lights, but I was able to walk right into the one you can get her wheelchair in. It's located in the building next door.

Love Yayoi Kusama! Haven't seen a line for her stuff in Pittsburgh.
posted by armacy at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2013


I've read Gene Wolfe. I know this is how demons get through.
posted by Foosnark at 12:01 PM on December 17, 2013


every DIY and finished photo seems to have individual dots, either the hanging LEDs in Kusama's installation or the rim lights in the homemade ones. Is there something about the dots that contributes to the effect, or would it also work with a diffuser between the point sources and the mirror box? i.e. is it possible to have a smooth gradient that falls off?

Dot lights help hide the "seam" (where the mirror meets the wall) by leaving that area darker and unnoticed, so it looks more, uh, seamless... :)
You can do flat illumination, but the brightness will fall away in steps divided by seams, rather than a smooth gradient. (If you create a gradient to try to blend one step into the next, it will be reflected backwards and fourth, creating a stepped ribbed effect instead).
With materials and craftmanship, you could make the seam quite subtle (starting by using front-side mirrors instead of regular ones), but your eye will still notice the step-down in brightness, and be drawn to see whatever seam is there.
The best solutions (other than having the seam fall in the dark unnoticed area, as seen with the point lights) are probably to make the seam an intentional part of the visual design.
posted by anonymisc at 1:53 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Instant flashback to the Bally Xenon pinball machine, and probably others.

Space Invaders scared the shit out of me. I had to avert my eyes as I hurried past to play Battlezone.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:24 PM on December 17, 2013


Art critic speaks to the people waiting on line.
posted by armacy at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2013


One of my favorite Chas Addams cartoons (he was the creator of The Addams Family), has a guy in a barbershop, and there are infinite reflections of the guy getting a haircut, except somewhere around the 6th reflection is a demon.
posted by eye of newt at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2013


Yeah, that is the problem with these exhibits, the dense queue moves right through the room, to the exit. Infinity ought to be experienced in solitude. It is hard to feel the infinite when you're jammed in a line that's as packed as a Tokyo subway at rush hour. It was especially difficult when you're the big clumsy gaijin who has fallen to his hands and knees, looking at yourself in the mirrored floor, while trying to avoid being trampled.

I notice all the pics of these rooms have only the photographer in them. This is surely a special arrangement just for the photograph.


OK, I actually went to the Kusama exhibit, and here's how the infinity room with the stars ("Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away") actually works : Yes, you wait in line forever (my sister and I waited about three hours). Once you finally get to the infinity room, you go in alone (you can choose to go in with the group of people you came with - I assume up to a certain number of people, as there's not a lot of room in there - but I went in alone, and I would recommend doing so). They only let you go in for 45 seconds. I had tried to convince myself not to waste any of that time taking pictures, but I caved and took two. Even so, the time felt longer than 45 seconds. It's a beautiful experience, and I thought it was worth the wait. There are also two rooms of paintings, a second (less impressive but still fun) infinity room ("Love Is Calling"), and a video that are also part of the exhibit, all of which were uncrowded and didn't have a wait when I was there.
posted by naoko at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2013


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