These Scrambled LED Matrices Display Enigmatic Messages

An art installation called Rxsqtta-Stzne features scrambled LED matrices that display enigmatic messages.

Cameron Coward
2 months agoArt / 3D Printing

You can display recognizable letters and numbers on a grid of just 4x5 pixels or so. That’s no accident, as our alphanumeric symbols were developed to be readable at “low resolutions” and writable with crude tools. But that only works on LED displays because we arrange the LEDs into neat, orderly rows and columns. Artist Chris Combs wanted to find out how garbled those grids could be while still remaining readable, and created an art installation called Rxsqtta-Stzne with scrambled LED matrices that display enigmatic messages.

Rxsqtta-Stzne is made up of nine individual panels, and each one of those has dozens of pink LEDs to display a single character. That would be simple enough on a grid, but the LEDs are instead arranged seemingly at random. The panels are lit to display messages, and those messages can be quite difficult to read. That was, of course, the entire purpose of this art piece. Those messages themselves are also a statement, and are “digital junk” like marketing emails and push notifications that Combs says are meant to mimic the garbage archaeologists find when studying past civilizations.

Combs doesn’t provide much detail about the hardware that has gone into Rxsqtta-Stzne, but we can infer that each panel likely has a unique custom PCB. A Raspberry Pi is used somewhere in the project, but it isn’t clear if each panel has its own Pi. Individual boards communicate with one another through radio transmissions in order to synchronize their animations. Motion sensors are also present, most likely to trigger the animations, and the frames were 3D-printed. Rxsqtta-Stzne was on exhibit at two different galleries in Washington D.C. recently, but it’s unclear if it will be shown anywhere else.

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