Lab Crosses Boundaries

The Northwest Science Building came to life with curious crowds on April 30.

“Play it. Light it. Dance it,” was the theme of the night at this unconventional lab, where a silent rave had students breaking barriers in science. It was The Laboratory’s latest event, which brought iPods and LEDs together to explore the intersections between science, music, and the visual arts.

Such interdisciplinary endeavors are typical of The Lab’s events and exhibitions. The Lab is a platform for experimentation—a place to share and develop ideas, it encourages creativity among students and the community at large, holding interdisciplinary exploration and collaboration at the heart of its philosophies, says W. Hugo Van Vuuren ’07, a fellow at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and The Lab.

In collaboration with the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), The Lab hopes to bring together art and science—two often-contentious disciplines—in a synergistic way.

A dance is just the beginning. The Lab organizers say they hope that this three-year pilot that arose in November out of the syllabus of an engineering class will expand to bridge the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences with the Graduate School of Design.


“It’s all about crossing the boundaries,” says Jessica S. Lin ’09, a fellow at The Lab and a former Crimson associate photo editor.


The lower level of the Northwest Science Building was as quiet as any library reading room.

The silent ravers, with LEDs attached to the different parts of the body, moved about in their own dance styles while listening to their individual tracks.

Slow shutter speed cameras recorded the movement of the LEDs, projecting these images across the room to convert dance into light.

The objective of it all? To visualize music through light photography.

Making use of conventional artistic disciplines such as dance, music, and photography, The Lab looked to map out commonalities in the way in which people dance to certain genres of music, says Allegra E. Libonati, artistic fellow at the A.R.T. who worked with The Lab to develop and organize the experiment.

Though the event’s turnout fell short of expectations, Van Vuuren deemed the rave a success.

“Clearly Harvard has too many events and House formals in the late Spring period for us to have pulled thousands of people, but we were very happy with the untraditional nature of the event and the media that was created,” Van Vuuren says.

In order to take part in this unique experiment, The Lab asked the participants—both graduates and undergraduates—to follow a three-step instructional guide in preparation: pre-download the four playlists off The Lab’s website, bring an MP3 player, and show up to make art.