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Artistic applications of LEDs

The GraffitiWriter is an example of controlling nozzles of spray paint cans in time as if they were LEDs and the spray of the spray creates text left on the street. The remote-controlled robot GraffitiWriter sprays sometimes-subversive texts on streets and public squares. Instead of activating LEDs, the artist is activating transistors that are switching solenoids on and off. Solenoids are linear motors that push a rod forward. They can be used to allow the opening and closing of the valve. Chapter 11 teaches you how to create and program a circuit that can switch the solenoids.


GraffitiWriter in action from Institute for Applied Autonomy,1998.


GraffitiWriter in action from Institute for Applied Autonomy,1998.


The Institute for Applied Autonomy created the Robotic GraffitiWriter to fulfill a need for a teleoperated and portable platform that could operate beyond the line of sight of the authorities to disseminate unsanctioned content in the urban environment and is part of a movement for the creation of contestational robotics. [4]

In this work, the messages are submitted by Internet users to the Institute for Applied Autonomy and are then applied by means of remote-controlled spray-paint cans to the surfaces that the robot rolls over.

The artist Jenny Holzer is well known for her contradictory texts with LED signs. She has conceived and implemented site-specific installations, such as her transformation of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.


Work by Jenny Holzer, from Art Basel. Photo by ImageMD Copyright owned by ImageMD


The texts function as declarations and truisms, and many are fused with architecture and sculptural form. The methods of controlling many LEDs can also be applied to devices called seven segment displays, which can allow you to create text works on square arrays of LEDs.

Another artist who has used persistence of vision in his work is Jack Dolhousen with Just To See It (year). Jim Jenkins used LEDs in multiples in his work The Little Chair, which is a school chair that is spun by a motor while an array of timed LEDs uses persistence of vision to spell out “Sit Still”.