1 month ago

A Whisper of Moths

An art installation filled with hand-crafted moths that move.

We always love to see art installations that make use of the Raspberry Pi, and A Whisper of Moths is a perfect example. This particular project involved several people from the Print Mill, which is part of Macclesfield Community ArtSpace, along with technical and labour support from IDST! (If Destroyed Still True!), another ArtSpace group.

This article first appeared in The MagPi 80 and was written by Rob Zwetsloot

“The moths were made by local schoolchildren using recycled A4 plastic wallets that were drawn on and/or filled with glitter, ironed between baking parchment and cut to shape,” Nick Young from the team tells us. “Some moths were also 3D-printed.”

The movement of the moths was simulated by projecting randomly positioned and sized circles onto the moths, which were hanging by fishing line from fine garden netting suspended from the church balcony.

The installation was interactive, with the sound of whispers being triggered as people walked through, along with the projected circles of light to simulate movement to some degree. How did such an idea come about, though?

The moths were made using recycled, or by recycling, materials

Lunar new year

“The Town Council approached Macclesfield Community ArtSpace wishing to celebrate in some form, Chinese New Year,” Nick explains. “Macclesfield’s link with China is through silk and therefore the suggestion was made to create an installation that incorporated silk moths and engaged the local schoolchildren in the making process. Macclesfield is also striving to draw attention to the problems of single-use plastic and so we chose to use plastic and recycle it.”

After following a Chinese dragon puppet and papier mâché pig down the high street in a parade during the Chinese New Year festivities, people walking into the church would trigger the display. “We had the added and unforeseen bonus of coloured light filtering through the moths as the sun shone through the huge stained glass windows,” Nick recalls.

A dragon dance led the visitors to the church, where they would experience A Whisper of Moths

Pi connection

“We discussed motorising some or all moths, even just with vibration motors, but discarded this as inappropriate for a sustainable art-piece,” Nick says. “We decided to have a moving pattern of light [shone] around or onto the static exhibit to create the illusion of movement. We created a prototype using metres of LEDs, but these were not bright enough and on surveying the venue, an active local church, we realised that we could use a projector to beam the light onto the art.

“We used the first Raspberry Pi for the sound because the simple movement sensor could trigger and play many sound files, reusing an existing setup, and a second Raspberry Pi Zero also programmed with Pygame to display a series of random white circles against a black background.”

The final setup was pretty simple, making use of an old Pi Model B, a Pi Zero W, and PIR motion sensor, plus the speakers and projection equipment.

Currently, the exhibition has been taken down. However, the team are looking to set it up in a local museum soon.

The crowd looks on in awe