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Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 00:14:13 -0800 (PST)
Dead medium: Undead; the liquid light show
Source(s): personal experience (see text)

I once worked on a temporary revival of a dead media, its zombie afterlife.

In the 60s there was a popular form of light show at concerts. Technically, this is called the "liquid light show". The great thing about it was that it added a psychedelic atmosphere. It showed colors which moved around with each other in a semi-morphic Mandelbrot configuration. This can be viewed in film documentation from the era, like "MONTEREY POP".

In the 80s a nightclub decorator decided to revive the show, after he found out how it was made in some book on the 60s. He had room to make a giant version of it, since it had to fill up a giant warehouse space. He devised struts and stages to make an inconspicuous stand from which to project, and to hold up the projector high enough to maintain focus.

Frequenters of the RPM club near the lakeshore in Toronto sometimes got disorientated when the whole wall would seem to shrug and then come to pulsing life. Many had no idea that it was projected, seeming to think that these were special walls that somehow had the show inside them. Some even believed it was done with complex lasers.

The way it was made is childishly simple, but effective. It is just done on an overhead projector. Oil color was put together with water color. These would not mix, and the way their borders met got very detailed and convoluted. Yet they had to be in a proper receptacle, since you couldn't move them around otherwise. They had to be in slightly concave glass, which would cup them in. This was acquired from the one company in town which sold glass faces for large clocks. Two faces were put together: when squeezed and wiggled, so would the liquid light. Two colors weren't enough, so extra faceplates could be added with their own complimentary colours.

And that was the last stand for the Liquid Light Show, which thousands of clubhoppers enjoyed in the 80s. I watched it while I was doing it, because I had a prior interest in abstract painting, of which this seemed to go through many of the integers. Eventually, I got bored, and discovered that if I cut a stencil like an Expressionist woodcut, I could black out areas and show the patterns inside images of my own devising and/or borrowing.

I put up whatever I felt like and things I was thinking about. It was a precursor for a personal website.